Lesson Series Overview
Describing What Your Lesson and Practice Experience Will Be Like
Welcome To Your Lesson Series
You may be participating in a small group Lesson Series, or in a series of Private Lessons. These might be divided up into several 60 minute or 90 minute lessons.
We would aim to have these lessons spaced by a week or two so you have time to practice and digest what you’ve been learning in one lesson before coming back for more.
Parts Of This Lesson Series
There are three parts to this course for you:
- Attending the live training session with your coach
- Studying the notes from your lessons on the Dojo, our online training site, as well as studying additional materials in our library
- Conducting your own practices between training sessions and after the series.
The lessons are taught in an important sequence that we need to follow. If you are taking this course as part of a group and you miss one of the first three lessons, you’ll need to schedule a makeup session (for an additional fee) with your coach, before the next lesson in the series, because the skills you learn in the next lesson are built upon the skills you learned in the previous lesson.
In our live training sessions you will:
- understand the purpose of the skill
- learn how to use the drills
- introduce your brain and body to the skills through drills
- know what the skill looks like and feels like so you can guide yourself in personal practice time
In some parts of the lessons your body may find it easier and quickly acquire the skill. In other parts your body may find it strange or challenging because this particular way of holding or moving is new or quite different to what you’ve been doing. It takes time (minutes, hours, days) for the brain to map the position or movement, for the muscles to wake up and work in a new way. This process will start during the live training session and continue during your personal practice time. You will get better at these skills just by being patient and persistent with practice.
More than merely understanding the purpose of the skill, in order to practice on your own, you need to know what the skill looks like and feels like when you are doing it well. The coach can more easily see when you are doing it better or not, while you are in position to feel when you are doing it better or not. So, during the live session, the coach will explain and demonstrate and give you feedback – your job is to use the drills, to search, to ask the coach for guidance or better description until you can feel the difference between when you are doing it closer to ideal and when it is getting farther away. This feeling will guide you while you are practice on your own, away from the coach.
Even if a little uncertain at first, as long as you keep mindfully practice the skills, your brain and body will gradually learn, adapt and grow into these new skills. The brain and body are set up to learn and grow and the activity of learning to swim skillfully, with all the mistakes and successes, feeds this process perfectly.
Personal Practice Time
In art, in music, in martial arts, in language learning, in all sorts of other skillful practices it is commonly understood that the student makes progress only as much as she/he practices, and practices mindfully. So too with this freestyle lesson series, you must practice, practice, practice. And you may pay attention while you practice.
During the live training sessions, your brain and body are being introduced to the skills – like putting some food into your mouth – while it is during your practice time between lessons that you actually have the time to chew and digest these skills. The skills presented in the next lesson in the series will rely upon the skills you acquired from the previous lesson.
During the live training sessions, you are being shown, not only what to practice, but how to practice. There is a particular way that we introduce you to the skill and then have you start with more simple drills to first grasp that new skill, then step up to gradually more complex drills to keep stimulating deeper integration. You do well to follow this same pattern in your personal practice time.
In the notes for each session, a link to a Practice Guide for those skills will be provided.
How Much Practice?
That’s a good question. How much can you afford each week?
Ideally, if you could practice three times a week, between sessions, that would be great. If you can only practice twice, that’s OK. And if only once, that is better than no practice at all.
These do not need to be long sessions – it is better to do frequent short practices than to do infrequent and long ones. 30 to 45 minutes for practice would be fine if these skills are new to your body. You just need to work through the skills of the previous lesson so that your brain and body are repeatedly stimulated to strengthen these new neuromuscular connections. Even if you like you made much progress in a single practice time, the fact that you made signals travel through those connections will still be effective at stimulating them to grow. And, when you rest between practice, that is when the actual growth takes place in the brain and body. You may be surprised when you get into the next practice and find the skills easier to work on than the day before.
Anatomy Of A Lesson
There are three main components of a lesson activity:
- The skill we are going to work on
- The sequence of drill activities we will use to develop that skill
- The specific focal points you will use to develop awareness and control over the features of that skill
‘Drills’ are activities that break down the action of swimming into a more simple, more controllable action, where you can isolate some part of the position or movement to work on it more easily. Drills are meant to help you pay attention and train one part or one section of your body more easily. They may be a simple as moving a part of the body while standing on the deck, all the way to what appears to be normal, whole stroke swimming, but doing it with attention focused on one particular part.
‘Skills’ in swimming are made up of many smaller ‘micro-skills’, which correspond to specific parts of your body. In order to build the whole skill, we guide you in working, one-by-one, through a list of those smaller micro-skills that, together, compose the whole skill.
‘Cues’ are the code names we put on those micro-skills. Cues are individual commands we give to specific parts of the body to train them to play their part in that whole skill. During the lesson you will be introduced to a particular skill by working through that list or a menu of cues. You will use this list of cues to help you continue to develop that skill on your own.
In the notes for each lesson we will provide you with a list of the skills, the drills and the cues.
Steps In A Lesson
You may experience many of all of these steps in a lesson:
- The coach introducing the skill and its purpose
- The coach describing each cues for that skill
- The coach demonstrating the skill
- You doing a standing rehearsal of the skill (on deck or standing in shallow water)
- The coach demonstrating the drill
- You performing the drill over and over, cycling through cues
- The coach giving hands-on guidance
- You reporting to the coach what you are experiencing inside
- The coach answering any questions you may have
- You continuing to practice with the assigned drill
Communication With Your Coach
The coach is experienced and skilled at reading body language and continually customizing the activities to fit your personal needs. He/she will give you all the guidance and support their observations lead them to give. But she/he still cannot read your mind – so they would appreciate hearing your little reports about what you are experiencing inside as you go along, something like this…
- I think I’m getting it!
- I don’t think I understand yet. Can you explain again, a different way?
- I am not sure. Can you demonstrate how to do this again?
- That feels better.
- That feels awkward.
- I can’t feel it yet. Can you tell me what it’s suppose to feel like?
- I feel like I did that one well.
- I feel like that one was off.
- I would like to do this some more before you give me another focal point.
And, at any time, please ask for more explanation, more demonstration, more hands-on guidance if that will help you. The coach is there to serve your learning needs. Each person is a bit different. As the coach is training you to swim, you are guiding the coach in how to tailor the experience to your way of learning.
How Tiring Will This Training Be?
Whether learning the stroke for the first time, or making changes to your freestyle stroke, these live sessions will not necessarily be physically tiring to you. But, the learning that you do will involve the whole brain-body connection and will be quite demanding on your attention and neuromuscular control. This will likely leave you feeling a bit tired in the head, so to speak. 60 or even 90 minutes will go by fast as you remain so intent upon the activities, but you’ll also likely notice how tired your head is getting toward the end, and attention will wane.
Even at best, pool water is usually slightly cool for the slower drill work we do in the first couple lessons. For the first part of the session this may not be a distraction to your learning, but we know that eventually the body also starts to get chilled as it burns up fuel keeping the brain going and keeping the body warm. The coach gets chilled too.
We do keep an eye on your attention and changes in your body’s responses during the session. We will try to regulate the flow of new information and keep you moving in the water to stay as comfortable as possible in the learning process. We might call a break or finish the lesson early if your brain and body have had enough for that session.