Summer Training 2020

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Viewing 15 posts - 31 through 45 (of 50 total)
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    Mat Hudson

    Oh, no! We really need a chat. I am out of town tomorrow, but do you have a window of time Thursday evening by chance?

    I have been going over general things, not being able to see what’s happening for you personally in this matter, so I can’t quite diagnose, only throw out some ideas to check against what you’re doing. It may be likely that you’ve got some good things in place which I don’t want a misunderstanding to mess up.

    If the stroke tempo is 1.2 seconds per stroke, and we estimate the recovery action takes up about 1/3 of that time, that leaves approx. 0.4 seconds for inhale. There are 2 or 3 strokes between breaths so exhale has somewhere between 2.0 seconds and 3.2 seconds to occur, which is more than enough time. So we can usually start gentle and then intensify the exhale in that last stroke before the turn to air and finish the exhale as the mouth breaks the surface – but intensification means one has to push with the abdominal muscles, it can’t be passive. And the inhale has such a brief time so it can’t be left to negative pressure alone, the diaphragm has to empower it in order to refill in that brief moment.

    We also note that the body is lengthened and the girdle of muscles of the abdominal region are firm, so the range of motion for those breathing muscles is constrained within this girdle. The girdle resists the belly pushing out as it would if we were sitting lazily in a chair. The diaphragmatic inhale goes downward toward the pelvic floor; it can’t move outward very much to the front and sides. And because of this firm girdle, the range of motion of those breathing muscles stays in the middle zone of their range – never exhaling to the extreme point nor inhaling as far as those muscles could go when the abdominal region is relaxed. If you stand with back against the wall, tall posture, raise arms into Superman/Balance position and then stand up on tippy toes while lengthening the spine, those abdominal muscles will firm up to stabilize the upper body. That is an approximate simulation to the muscles tone in the freestyle position. Practice a breathing pattern with a half second inhale (mouth), and 3 second exhale (nose) – at moderate volume (so you don’t hyperventilate and pass out!).

    Tim Gofine

    I just wrote a long note that somehow went somewhere and vanished. In short, I’m working on the many points of independence. I’m not making music, so to speak, but every now and then a decent cycle comes in. The problems are that I can find I’ve exhaled too much, which causes me to rush to breath out of rhythm, and that’s not good at all; or that I’ lose the line, mostly on the left; or that if I turn to the left my right arm when starting recovery scoops or crosses the midline. I really have to focus on everything starting from the push off. I don’t have the whole stroke grooved in enough to withstand the challenge of breathing, and I’m over thinking the breathing which tends to destroy the hope of a smooth cycle.

    I did manage to get some video clips on Sunday.


    Tim Gofine

    It’s coming along. The left side is still more of a problem but things are headed in the right direction. The exercise of standing extended along the wall and breathing was extremely helpful: it gave me parameters for the volume of breathing and time interval. To play jazz, you first have to be accurate and then find a groove; only then will it swing; and if it doesn’t swing, forget it. So, I’m more accurate and close to a groove. The pool is feeling shorter and shorter, though.

    Mat Hudson

    You are a jazz enthusiast too??

    I listen to Ryu Fukui on Youtube sometimes…

    I am glad to hear the standing exercise helped connect you to the range of the breath. New body awareness is quite the task!

    Yeah, we want to find ways to trick the body into proper movement without having to focus on it (over-think) directly, then we are able to tap into faster, more clever subconscious mechanisms for figuring it out. Conscious deliberate action might be necessary in some or many cases, but if we can bypass that by some drill or exercise or external focus, then we may get there more easily.

    Tim Gofine

    ( this is the only reply box open, even though it’s not in sequence)


    I’m a jazz enthusiast, indeed. I play and still study at a serious level; that’s another means of learning about very subtle changes in muscle movement, feeling a shape, trying to move smoothly, and so on.

    I sent the latest movie files via We Transfer. I look a mess, as far as I’m concerned, especially my kicking. I think there is something akin to what happens at an instrument lesson: the performance anxiety takes over and what was being done in practice goes out the window in front of the teacher. But anyway, I wanted to finally send something for you to take a peak. It’s not my best work, as they say.

    I’ve had moments of feeling the flow– very brief moments– when the coordination of all the pieces seemed to work and in a flash I was across the pool with the sense of very little effort. I  have had that more than once, never sustained over more than length ( 12 metres), and only when there is no breathing. I can’t recapture that when I breeze. I think a variety of things are happening, including that I’m not really relaxed and therefore not fully independent ( which is a major necessity to jazz drumming, whereby all four limbs can operate independently of each other, allowing for polyrhythmic playing and improvisation) . The head turn is driving me nuts, in simple terms. It feels rushed and not in the pocket ( another jazz thing, referring to the sense of the rhythm section, especially the bass player and the drummer’s cymbal ride being absolutely, unshakeably, rock solid in the groove). I’m interested in what you perhaps say apropos the clips. When I don’t breathe, I know the angle of the skate is in the sweet spot; I can time the kick to the hip rotation to entry just right, and the time of the glide is right, as if my arms are moving together at the right speed. Throw in the head turn and boom, something is wrong. It feels different and not at all as effortless.

    I have to get this closer: I’m closing the pool at the end of September. This will be our last month of coaching until the next outdoor season. I’m not anticipating an indoor pool opening in Toronto this year. The pandemic is under control, but that doesn’t allow for what is necessary to swim in a public pool indoors.

    Just a few more things. I think there is a relation between the degree of downward angle of the extended hand, the amount of rotation and the length of time gliding on the extended side. If I’m too shallow, I don’t find the right rotation, and I don’t hold it enough to move smoothly forward. Also, instead of flicking my toes to kick ( ignore the video) if think of kicking from the knee I feel much more propulsion as it seems to key the hip rotation properly. Does that make sense, or am I just making stuff up?

    And: can I access a video of you swimming whole stroke?


    Tim Gofine

    That should read ” when I breathe”, not breeze.

    Mat Hudson


    I appreciate the jazz analogy, though I can only imagine how such polyrhythm is performed!

    When I see smooth, strong ski-skaters on snow, at moderate speed, that is more of the bi-lateral rhythm we might associate with our form of freestyle. One side is stable, remaining in extension, while the other side is, in a relaxed way (though it can be fast), is recovering back to the front where it will take up streamline, replacing the other.

    But yes, the head turn is like a couple little fractional beats tossed in between the main beat.



    In the video, much is going well, but when you turn to breath, I see a small but critical disruption on the streamline side. It might be that your catch arm is trying to lever the body upward rather than lever the body forward, or the lead arm is tending to press down but you restrain it. I see a braking in the velocity of the body at that moment.

    However, I sense that you haven’t completed the frame from head to toe. The proper tension in the frame has not been reached yet. I am pondering how to describe this and think of a way you can get a feel for what you need to achieve inside the body, using the pool you’ve got.

    Let me write more tomorrow…



    Mat Hudson

    There are some freestyle demos of mine on this page…

    About time for some new ones!

    Mat Hudson

    I have a little experiment for you, if you are game.

    Do you have a kick board by chance?

    If you do, I would have you lay down in the water in superman/balance position. Place this kickboard flat, with your pointed feet supported on top of the kick board. The front of your body would be supported by the water as normal, and the pointed feet would be supported by the board. That means the middle of your body must essentially create a braced frame, like doing plank on land, bridging between the two supports. With straight legs, you press down on the kickboard slightly so that the back of your torso, hamstrings, calves and heels all touch the air. Hold that position for a comfortable breath hold. Do it many times to get familiar with the body alignment and necessary internal bracing.

    This is a way to accentuate the kind of lengthened, braced frame we want to create from shoulders to toes.

    If you relax (or hinge) at the hips or knees at all you break the frame and feel the hips and upper legs loose their support. The feet are no longer unified with the frame of the upper body.

    I would be curious at your observations with this.

    Tim Gofine

    The kick board arrived today: I’ll try the exercise tomorrow. This is what I think: the kick board exercise compels a pelvic tuck, or drop. That is the key in Tai Chi, Tai Chi running, and the swimming frame. Without that, there is cannot be a proper rotation. The other day I practiced Tai Chi, went for a run where I focused for the entire run on the pelvic tuck, and swam. I was for the 90 minutes a pelvis with clothes on. In truth, I know that my posture and walking is becoming different: crown extended, pelvis tucked ( or dropped, or aligned, whatever the metaphor chosen). So, the task is to make sure with each stroke that I maintain the frame coming from the pelvis. I think I lose the focus with  that in two situations: 1) when I breathe, and 2) when I demonstrate. In the past three days, I’ve come to realize these things: a) I need to align from the pelvis, b) I need to enter the water at a sufficient downward angle, not an outward angle: I was trying too hard not to go deep, but that was wrong, c)  I need to rotate sufficiently onto my side as to free the right arm in particular; this is a question of millimetres but is critical so that d) as the arm extends I imagine pouring myself on its path as if from the deltoid my body is a liquid, so that e) with a kick, still in alignment but with enough force imagined from the knee I will f) shoot forward, and keep momentum. If I fail on any of the above, I will not shoot forward; I might move forward, but not with momentum. The extra fix is that if I am properly rotated, the annoying hitch in my right arm, the one that felt uncoordinated and asynchronous disappears, and I can achieve symmetry. BUT :All this is happening without breathing.

    One thing that occurred to me  from watching the clip of you and Terry swimming is that I think I have been struggling to snap my head back too hard: it has never felt natural trying to avoid seeing any trace of my recovering arm. I think I was trying to accelerate that process too much at the expense of the rest. I have to find what works for me within the parameter, no?

    Interested in your thoughts.

    Mat Hudson

    I am glad that you have felt the magic of the pieces of coming together even for moments… otherwise, all that detail could be overwhelming or frustrating to try to pull together merely in faith.


    Now, you are developing a map of your own body and the choreography and how you personally put it together. I will suggest some order of assembly to those pieces, but let it remain open to your own sense of how to put these together.

    Work on non-breathing choreography to prime your system for what the underlying frame and streamline are suppose to be like in the breathing stroke choreography.

    Build from the center (spine) outward.

    Set the frame of the legs, pelvis and torso.

    Then, set the rotation angle, and make it symmetrical from side to side.

    Then, work on sliding the scapula, keeping its connection with the rotating torso.

    Then, let the (entry and extending) arm be an extension or expression of the rotation and scapula slide.

    Refine the pathway of the entry and extension – like a giant ski-jump, starting steep and then leveling out at target depth and extending straight forward. When done well, the scapula stays connected to the torso nicely, maintaining the optimal tissue (force transfer) connection through the bodyline.

    Finish extension from the ‘deltoid’ or from the scapula, and imagine sliding the fingernails toward the far wall (as opposed to the fingertips) in order to keep soft fingers on the extension.

    Then work on inserting the kick to enhance the choreography of the front (upper) half of the body.


    On one side, we don’t want to be lazy about the head turn. On the other side, we don’t want to ‘whiplash’ either. The head turn needs to be independent of the torso turning but cooperative. The two big  trouble spots are 1) turning too late, too slowly which cuts down on the window of inhale opportunity too much, and 2) the return of the head triggering the recovery and the torso turn at the same time, which breaks the choreography of the stroke.

    So we may emphasize turning toward the air a bit faster than the torso turn, then be a bit less concerned about the speed of return. However, we do want to work on cutting the wires between the returning head and the recovery arm and the torso turn. The head needs to move independent of these actions (even if it moves at the same speed) so that the recovery swing can come all the way forward before the torso turns – the position and timing of the torso turn and arm switch must be preserved, regardless of whether the head is turning or not. The breathing stroke notoriously breaks the optimal choreography that was established on the non-breathing strokes.


    Tim Gofine

    I have to study this in detail a few times, but I wanted to mention before I later respond that I went for a midnight swim last night, something I have never done on a chilly September night to work on the stroke: this is becoming hard core. I really can’t see that much even with a single pool light, and I’m sure the neighbours think I’m insane, but to my satisfaction I consistently crossed the pool in 6 strokes, which is a long way done from 9 or even 7.5, and it was easy. My Everest, Waterloo or Stalingrad will be the breathing while keeping that count.

    Tim Gofine


    First of all, I hope that the constant turmoil in Portland and the West Coast is not presenting too much difficulty for you and your family and that everyone is well. 2020 will go down in history and a true annus horribilis.

    I’ve sent the last file for this training season: you’ll note there’s no breathing included. I’m still working on keeping the form locked; I think I’ve found the moment it relaxes, when it does and I lose a bit of momentum. It’s also a very psychological problem to solve.

    I can keep swimming for another three weeks, although it is getting very cool, and then I’ll have to close the pool. In the meantime, if you can pass a comment on the file and guide the next few weeks of swims I’d be grateful. After that, how can I stay somehow connected despite the absence of any place to swim until next outdoor season? Let me know if there is some means.




    Mat Hudson

    Hi Tim. Thank you. We are OK, and some rain has started to fall after 11 days of smoke saturated air. But it has been a heavy atmosphere over our region. We know that area of devastation and the refugees are being accommodated at the fairgrounds just a half mile from my home. Just about every place we know there are people absent because they’ve had to go deal with evacuation or property under threat. It is a regional crisis but it feels to me to be a taste of the larger crisis facing our society and planet.

    I will look at the video this weekend, and post some thoughts. I know these last few weeks are precious time.

    We’re trying to get our online Dojo remodeled into more of a community, interactive site with a single membership with access to all the core features, monthly webinars to meet one another and discuss things that interest us. We’re hoping this will meet some social/health/edu needs for some portion of our tribe out there. That could be one way.

    I wonder if there is a way to make some dryland taiji-like swimming choreographies that could built some connections in the body that would then carry back into the water when you return. That would be interesting.

    Mat Hudson

    In this video I see so many things coming together. You look very smooth, linear, deliberate about generating that forward swing of the arm and sliding into streamline, with your arm knowing precisely where it is going. You do not appear to over-extend nor over-rotate. You appear to be connecting the catch to the rotation and transfer that wave of force into the entering and extending arm. It all has a very clean, minimalist appearance.

    I am not quite sure, but it appears that you get a bit more acceleration (more effective transfer of force) from the right-catch to left-extension combo than on the other side. Did you notice a difference by chance?

    Otherwise, it appears quite symmetrical from this angle.

    Your body leaves a clean wake, and the exit and entries of both arms are fairly quiet (splashless). That closer, steeper entry – as counter-intuitive as it is – is achieving what we are looking for: directing that rotational force into the water soon than later, directing it on a pathway directly to the target, creating a better acceleration opportunity.

    I don’t have much to pick on! Good job.

    What do you like about this latest stroke?

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