Back in February I had a private Total Immersion lesson with Karin and promptly didn't get into the pool enough to really remember all the tricks. She was great in leaving me with diagrams outlining the drills to do (and also a fair amount of confidence) but getting back into it I needed a refresher of what we had talked about. Below is the text of an email I sent her with questions and her responses in blue. I know that I'd read a great deal about Total Immersion but didn't really get it until I was in the pool with her. You might, however, find this helpful.
Hi Karin, thanks so much for doing this update/rehash of the great swim lesson that you gave me. I know that I had read a lot about Total Immersion and seen some videos but until that lesson I didn’t understand what a difference could be made. What I really like was the emphasis on relaxation in the water – I know all triathletes could use a little more of that come race day. So, I wanted to just go over the drills that I’m doing these days. I had told you that I’d been maintaining about 21 strokes per 25 yards and that seems to be stuck there. I was finding that frustrating as I hit 19 with you and you are targeting 15 for me (based on my height of 5”4”: remember this is a target for a comfortable swim, as your increase speed your stroke count should be higher than 15) but, as I started with 27 then I’m half way there. (that is awesome!)
First Drill – The Lengthen Vessel
This one has me on my side with the lower hand relaxed below the water in about a 45 degree angle, the upper hand in my imaginary side pocket on my thigh and, unless I’m breathing, my head is positioned down and my eyes are on the bottom of the pool. So, along with trying to ignore anything strange floating around down there, what exactly is this trying to accomplish? Head position! Body position! This position is to try and maintain a horizontal position and find a balance with your head position, your arm angle and your hips. If the head is too high, the hips will drop, if the head is too low, the hips have a tendency to come up. If the arm is too high, it affects the body position! You want to find your balance with the least amount of resistance.
I’m finding that I’m really sinking down in this – is that correct or am I too relaxed in my core stability to bring myself up? Depending on your body density, you might find yourself partially or completely submerged. I'd have to watch you to help answer this one!
Second Drill – Underarm
This one takes the Lengthen Vessel position and adds a movement to the top arm. I find I think of it as bending my elbow to bring my hand up to my face, as if I’m bringing a mirror up to check myself. Have I got that right? Yes
What should I be thinking about doing this – how does this action extend into the long relaxed stroke I’m trying to achieve? Maintaining head position, body position, careful to how you "breathe"... as your head + body moves, it affects your horizontal position.
Third Drill – Underarm Switch
I take the Underarm drill and when my hand is at my face I swap my arm positions. This actually feels very elegant when I do it but as all the action happens under the water I’m left wondering again what I should be thinking about achieving in it. Distance per stroke+ body rotation... always thinking about your head position and body!
Fourth Drill – Zipper
This is, to my mind, the old fingertip drag and I’m easily able to see it’s connection to a full stroke. Careful, finger drag is different than the Zipper, the Zipper drill you literally pretend there is a zipper on your body, high elbow, your body is on its side.
Fifth Drill – Zipper switch
Building on the Zipper this has my arms switch position when my hand passes my head. I know I should be thinking about pulling all the way at this point. Anything else I should keep in mind? Always remember, correct your head position, your body position (you want a nice rotation creating the least drag possible)
I’ve really enjoyed starting my workouts with the bobbing as you suggested. I’m absolutely going to do that when warming up for races this year. It gets me into the mind set of relaxed breathing that you emphasized. I’m also working on not deliberately/forcefully inhaling and exhaling as I can feel the tension that it creates. Good! You want to breathe as normal as possible!
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