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JMiller
December 9th, 2007, 12:24 AM
Kinesthetic Awareness versus Cognitive Analysis

Usually, I like to stay as
far away as possible from
the "technique" debate. Honestly,
I'm surprised to find myself right
back in the thick of it. I guess
that's understandable considering
how obsessed swimmers are with the
importance of technique. Truthfully,
this debate has nauseated me in the
past for one simple reason.

Swimming is a feeling, not a thought.

It is a kinesthetic awareness, and cannot
be fully understood through cognitive
analysis alone.

We can try and describe the mechanics
involved, but does that idea actually
translate into personalized physiological
adaptation?

Generally speaking, I don't think so.

That's why I prefer training models that
teach the body to feel, opening up a
different kind of thinking. Your muscles
have memory, and your body has intuitive
capabilities. Literally, getting "in touch"
with the water is more likely to deliver
the results you're looking for.

Words like flow, feel, pressure, resistance,
or anything that enhances tactile
understanding. These words are more likely to
enable transference of information into the
swimming action.

The fact is, everyone has different strengths
and weaknesses, and these should be targeted
on a case by case basis. I would never ask
Phelps to swim like Nystrand, or vice
versa. (or a younger version of the two)

Which is why the technique debate appears
to be flawed from the start. The question is,
what works best for you? Sure, there are
general rules, but to get the most out
of your swim you have to reach a personal
level. You need to pay attention to forward
motion and an over-all sense of flow.

If you're one of those people that absolutely
"needs" to think technique during your swim,
I suggest trying the checklist method. In other
words, think of 5-6 things you'd like to work
on and go through the checklist on a regular
basis. Continually move in your mind from one
point to the other, don't localize in one spot
for too long. This ensures that you don't get
"stuck" on one aspect of your swim, and this
method can actually trick your mind into a
kinesthetic state.

Good luck and happy swimming,
Jonathan R. Miller

Peter Cruise
December 9th, 2007, 08:21 PM
Most technique debates seem to devolve into The War of Competing Analogies.

Jazz Hands
December 9th, 2007, 09:02 PM
Very true, Jonathan. I always enjoy your insights.

I often find myself trying for certain feelings in the water that are difficult to describe in words. Even if I could describe the feelings in words, those words would be interpreted differently by different people. So I could say, "I get the feeling that when I'm really sprinting well, my kick lets me glide on the surface." Not everybody will necessarily relate to that the way I do. And maybe in a few months I will have to reach for an entirely different sensation in order to swim my fastest.

The Fortress
December 9th, 2007, 09:55 PM
Most technique debates seem to devolve into The War of Competing Analogies.

Very Mindful of you.

Allen Stark
December 9th, 2007, 10:48 PM
Different people need to learn differently.I agree swimming is a very kinethetic experience,but there are lots of ways to swim slowly that feel good.It helps me to know why it's best to do things a certain way.

funkyfish
December 10th, 2007, 12:14 AM
I'd be curious as to what the majority of swimmers would say in regards to "how they learned" or "how they refined this or that stroke." When teaching, we're supposed to say, show, demonstrate the same thing several different ways to try and reach as many different learning styles as possible. Maybe we could poll swimmers as to which learning style they thought was the most dominant? As in, are you an auditory, visual, or kinesthetic learner? I suspect it's a combination, but maybe for some, one type dominates. Or maybe it evolves, as in - we hear or see instruction, try it, and by doing it we react to the sensations. I should stop now as I'm rambling. Good post though.
:groovy:

echo
December 10th, 2007, 01:02 AM
I'd be curious as to what the majority of swimmers would say in regards to "how they learned" or "how they refined this or that stroke." ... As in, are you an auditory, visual, or kinesthetic learner? I suspect it's a combination, but maybe for some, one type dominates. Or maybe it evolves, as in - we hear or see instruction, try it, and by doing it we react to the sensations.

Obviously, I don't know about others, but if watching and then trying worked for me, I'd be a world class swimmer by now. It turns out that watching has little value on its own, and neither does repeated "trying." I have to watch, try, and then have my attempt corrected by outside feedback over and over again in order to make the tiniest of changes. Unfortunately, the external feedback is not only useful but critical for me, which suggests I have very little kinesthetic awareness because I need to be told what I'm doing rather than feeling it myself-- and that lack is the main reason I never even tried to participate in athletic endeavors as a child: I was always a terrible kinesthetic learner. In that regard, however, I expect that I'm less the rule than the exception among masters swimmers.

funkyfish
December 10th, 2007, 12:52 PM
Obviously, I don't know about others, but if watching and then trying worked for me, I'd be a world class swimmer by now. It turns out that watching has little value on its own, and neither does repeated "trying." I have to watch, try, and then have my attempt corrected by outside feedback over and over again in order to make the tiniest of changes. Unfortunately, the external feedback is not only useful but critical for me, which suggests I have very little kinesthetic awareness because I need to be told what I'm doing rather than feeling it myself-- and that lack is the main reason I never even tried to participate in athletic endeavors as a child: I was always a terrible kinesthetic learner. In that regard, however, I expect that I'm less the rule than the exception among masters swimmers.

Good point. I can read and hear about technique, but until I try it out it's not very clear to me. I'm probably on the kinesthetic learning side, although I certainly accept and respond to outside coaching/instruction. I've also found that (nothing new here) when correcting technique, initially the "feeling" feels way off and unnatural, and it takes time to adjust to the "new, correct" sensation.

:applaud::groovy:;):applaud::groovy:;)

KaizenSwimmer
December 10th, 2007, 09:59 PM
It helps me to know why it's best to do things a certain way.

True for me as well. I spent the first 10 or so years of my swimming experience kinesthetically clueless. I didn't know how to interpret the various sensations I received, but I was also caught up in being the hardest-working swimmer in the pool.

When I began coaching, at 21, and had the chance to observe from the deck -- and more importantly to experiment with athletes -- the fog gradually began to lift.

During a camp in Coral Springs two weeks ago I gave a brief talk on training, in which I said that I considered there to be two types of training:
1) Sensations Training - in which the focus is to create muscle memory and to gradually increase one's ability to make subtle discriminations in "sense memory." Sense memory will be one's primary guide while racing.
2) "Math" Training - in which one's focus is on finding the optimal combination of SL and SR to create maximal V with minimal energy cost. This involves stroke counts, swim golf, "gears" sets and use of a tempo trainer. But sense memory is still critical, as you'll want to retain the sense of your stroke that occurs when the "math" is coming out well.

JMiller
December 10th, 2007, 10:59 PM
True for me as well. I spent the first 10 or so years of my swimming experience kinesthetically clueless. I had the chance to observe from the deck -- and more importantly to experiment with athletes -- the fog gradually began to lift.


Terry Laughlin,

Excellent to make your acquaintance, you are a pillar of knowledge in the swimming world. I really liked your reply to this thread, and I'm looking forward to learning more from you. I can relate to the lifting of the fog analogy.

Where is New Paltz NY? I'm very far away, but it is really neat that we can network through this forum, and meet each other.

My dreams are near to your reality.

Happy swimming,
Jonathan R. Miller

JMiller
December 10th, 2007, 11:26 PM
Very true, Jonathan. I always enjoy your insights.

Thanks, you know Jazzy, you might want to make the most of your youth by trying to understand your elders.

Stay open-minded about your options....

I challenge you to do this program for the next two years.
http://forums.usms.org/showpost.php?p=116151&postcount=31
INCLUDING THE WATER WORK-OUTS IN THE THREAD.
Also, try the ankle stretches, and core routine...

You will smash your life-time best through this program...

ALM
December 10th, 2007, 11:27 PM
Obviously, I don't know about others, but if watching and then trying worked for me, I'd be a world class swimmer by now. It turns out that watching has little value on its own, and neither does repeated "trying." I have to watch, try, and then have my attempt corrected by outside feedback over and over again in order to make the tiniest of changes. Unfortunately, the external feedback is not only useful but critical for me, which suggests I have very little kinesthetic awareness because I need to be told what I'm doing rather than feeling it myself-- and that lack is the main reason I never even tried to participate in athletic endeavors as a child: I was always a terrible kinesthetic learner. In that regard, however, I expect that I'm less the rule than the exception among masters swimmers.

Echo, you could have been describing me! I have no natural athletic ability whatsoever. In school I was always at the top of the class academically, with no effort. But I flunked the President's physical fitness test every year.

I'm still painfully slow compared to most Masters swimmers. But I am healthy and physically fit, thanks to swimming!

Anna Lea

The Fortress
December 11th, 2007, 09:27 AM
During a camp in Coral Springs two weeks ago I gave a brief talk on training, in which I said that I considered there to be two types of training:
1) Sensations Training - in which the focus is to create muscle memory and to gradually increase one's ability to make subtle discriminations in "sense memory." Sense memory will be one's primary guide while racing.
2) "Math" Training - in which one's focus is on finding the optimal combination of SL and SR to create maximal V with minimal energy cost. This involves stroke counts, swim golf, "gears" sets and use of a tempo trainer. But sense memory is still critical, as you'll want to retain the sense of your stroke that occurs when the "math" is coming out well.

I've always disliked math, and I don't enjoy applying it to swimming, although I can see the value. I have to force myself to count strokes. So I guess I'm in the kinesthetic camp. Although I try to put a lot of cognitive thought into how to train or what stroke corrections to make. I suspect one's approach to swimming -- sensory or math -- depends somewhat on one's personality and intellectual bent.

KaizenSwimmer
December 11th, 2007, 05:13 PM
Where is New Paltz NY? I'm very far away, but it is really neat that we can network through this forum, and meet each other.


Jonathan
New Paltz is in the Hudson Valley, at the foot of the Catskills, about 75 miles north of NYC.
Where are you?

KaizenSwimmer
December 11th, 2007, 05:18 PM
There has been a similar thread on Kinesthetic Awareness (and Math) on the TI Forum in the last few days. Here are a couple of posts that further explore ideas on sensory training.

Topic: How to handle the off day (15 of 22), Read 42 times
Conf: Favorite Practices and Sets
From: Eric De Santo
Date: Saturday, December 08, 2007 11:02 PM

I would think the preferred choice would be different in a
race and in training (as was your pattern). In a race, your
goal is to do what you must to go fast, so if adding a
stroke or two gets back to speed I agree. In practice the
idea is to practice your best stroke. I think I agree with
what you did and (I think it was) Bob suggested in
dropping the tempo until I can maintain my stroke count.

This leads to the next question I have been pondering.
We all know a lot about the periodization concept for
physical training. Have you (or anyone else) sensed or
developed a similar concept for nervous system
development? I imagine working on a focal point in 4
primary ways: 1) decreasing strokes, 2) Holding low
strokes and steady tempo for longer swims, 3) holding
lower strokes for faster tempos, and 4) using gears to find
a new optimum stroke count.

My first thought is that I should use one or two of these
until I plateau. Then use others to break the plateau. For
example, I am now trying to increase the tempo I can hold
15 strokes per 25s and increase the tempo I can hold 15
strokes for 200yd repeats all while focusing on the patient
lead hand. I assume I will plateau before too long (I have
been doing this for about 6 weeks), then I can go back to
some gears training or looking to decrease effort at these
numbers.

I guess my questions are:
1. Has anyone found reason to work on all 4
improvements at once or focus on one for some length of
time?
2. Is the focus period (until I plateau) reasonable or is
there reason to use another timing?

I am still struggling with the intuitive aspect of coaching
as you describe. One of the reasons I am asking is
because I will (finally) be moving out of California either
this summer or soon after. Wherever we end up, I am
seriously considering making a goal of entering Collegiate
level coaching. I am trying to learn everything I can about
coaching at that level and develop clear pictures of my
beliefs about swimming so I can be confident explaining
my ideas to well established coaches. (By the way, I am
saying this "out loud" just in case any of you have
connections. I would love to talk to anyone I can in
Collegiate swimming to get some idea about what that life
is like and how to break into that arena.)

From: Terry Laughlin
Now that is a really interesting way to view periodization. And I imagine that we both agree it's far more useful to apply such examined thinking to neuromuscular-system training than to energy-system training -- inasmuch as there is a such a strong correlation between certain combinations of Stroke Length/Stroke Rate and performance...and a weak correlation between certain levels of aerobic fitness and performance.

I gave a talk on training at the Kaizen Camp, saying there are really two forms of training: (1) Sensations - in which you are focused on creating "sense memory" and "muscle memory" and developing your ability to make ever-subtler discriminations in your sense memory AND (2) Math - in which you use your Sense memory while experimenting with various combinations of SL/SR, swim golf, or gears. The TT, combined with stroke count and RPE is the most rigorous and revealing form of Swim Math training.

From: Eric De Santo
Just to confirm my thoughts, the sense training seems best
suited to the mindful swim sets that are not attached to the
clock or yardage or TT?

You wrote somewhere that most of your best gains seem to
come in open water season where your sense training takes
priority. Is that right? It seems to me that you do more of
your math training in the pool season, and your sense
training in the open water season. Is that true?

From: Terry Laughlin

Correct, but sense memory remains a key reference point as I shift to "math."

I did indeed do virtually exclusive sensation training during OW season...until this past summer when I began making heavy use of the Tempo Trainer in the lake.

From: Eric De Santo
You mentioned before that you were surprised at how
quickly you were able to increase your tempo at a given
stroke count. I too have been surprised at my own
improvements in this regard. I get the feeling gears
training similarly shows effects quickly. It seems to me
that sense training is far slower. Have you found that as
well? I am making mental parallels to the difference
between aerobic training (which improves quickly for a
few weeks then seems to plateau) and anaerobic training
(which improves more slowly and gradually). I am
thinking that the rate of improvement would affect the
way we weave the training styles together.

This may be excessively academic (this whole thread may
be excessively academic) but, in thinking, I don't think I
would count tt work as math unless I am also using the
pace clock or stroke counts. I see at as scientific
variables. The TT is the independent variable. If I am
measuring my progress with sensations, as in using the
TT in open water, that is sense training. If I am
comparing tempos to paces or stroke counts, then both
the independent and dependent variables are both
numbers. Perhaps TT work with sensation is a bridge
between the two.

From: Terry Laughlin

I do agree that sensation training proceeds more slowly. That should also mean one can continue improving it - though it's entirely subjective while math training is entirely objective - forever. I don't expect that my scores in math training will improve forever. My goal will be to retard the decline of those scores as I age. My most valuable tool for doing so will be ongoing improvement in my sensation training.

Coaches have talked about "feel of the water" for as long as I've paid attention to what swim coaches say. Most seemed to refer to it a semi-mystical quality and/or a prize with an incredible price -- swim millions upon millions of meters, and...if you're fortunate...it might happen.

Where TI has departed from tradition is in seeking to turn sensation training into a highly-organized process and place it in a specific context for lifetime learning and improvement.

I wouldn't argue that Tempo Trainer use can approach pure sensory training in open water. What has kept the math element in it for me is that I've done most of my OW training along a measured line. I do a lot of stroke counting along that line (range of 155-175 strokes as my tempo increases from 1.2 to .9 sec per stroke)which has allowed me to check my effectiveness as I increase tempo.

JMiller
December 11th, 2007, 08:27 PM
Terry,

Thanks for the technical discussion from your forum...
I'm the kind of person to enjoy that sort of article.
The trick is translating these concepts into regular
language, while still encompassing the scope. Not an
entirely easy process, but certainly worth doing.

I live in Western Canada... Pretty much the opposite
side of the continent from you...

Interesting how we can network this way. I could go
on and on about just that subject alone, but I'm sure you
get the picture.

Happy swimming,
Jonathan Miller