FORUMS Post at USMS – May 13, 2013 (to people asking about the CORE and engaging etc..)
In the area of focus and mental preparation, I believe it was Dr Alan Goldberg who said that a way to note if you are not "in the moment" is to learn to catch if you are drifting out of the moment. Learn to note if your focus is on anything but the swim ahead. If you catch yourself worrying about the start, fretting turns, concerned with your swim suit or if you need to use the rest room etc............. then you have developed the ability (awareness) to catch if you are "out of the calm, proper now". The point being that if you are in the now then you are doing what you can and all you need to do to focus to enjoy and TRUST it. If you catch yourself out of the now, calmly redirect to the now and center yourself. Let's apply that to the physical aspect of swimming and feeling your line and posture. Are you horizontal or can you feel your head perched high or can you feel your low back tense or arched or can you feel your legs dragging low? If you feel any of those, feel how to make subtle, in rhythm corrections. Play with this idea on land. Can you do a plank? A bridge? A glute bridge? In each you want to hold a true line. Are you holding a true line in the appropriate segments? If so, good. In that "LINE" what is the tension level? Can you lessen it? Can you still hold the line with less tension? If not, what happened? Can you adjust and lessen tension and feel (HOLD) a line?
Swimming is a unique activity in a unique medium. It takes time to feel and master the posture, line and balance (thank you Richard Quick - RIP). It takes time to FEEL and Master those with the added movement involved in swimming strokes (training or racing). It takes time.
The ultimate goal of the skill and process is not to flex, tense, tighten or engage like a model or body builder. In fact we want the lowest tension possible that allows us to adopt efficient form (posture and line).
Watch the most accomplished swimmers hold a tall streamline as they rocket off a wall. Their hands are "stacked and locker" with the thumb of the top hand wrapped around and slightly under the outside edge of the bottom hand. It is precise and even firm yet if you look closely or if you could feel within the wrist and worearms (and torso) there is little or maybe no extraneous tension; tone without tension. That is what we want in swimming and in fact what we want in effective, rhythmic sport and dance like athletic movement.
So maybe it is OK and even best to forget about the idea of engaging and focus rather on that which happens and reflect on how and what changes you need to make if improvements in line and posture can help your athleticism and swimming. Stay smooth, not only when relaxed but in fact when under elevated to maximum manageable duress. Great training and committed racing will produce duress so the key, the process, is to manage that and understand what is happening and what choices you can and want to make to be SMOOTH.
If you are engaged, you are engaged. There is no need, in fact no benefit, of pressing the issue or raising tension. If you are in line, balanced and with good posture then accept it and FLOW. If not, then FEEL subtle rhythmic adjustments to improve but with low tension.
Pardon if this last note is self indulgent, but if you have seen my fitness videos, you may notice I do a lot of actions in planks, bridges, standing and with Swiss Balls. I rarely if ever use fancy machines where I would sit or lie and relieve myself of being able to or in fact having to hold a line and stable posture. My aim is to FEEL a line and exert the lowest tension to allow for good form and fluid air exchange. Be patient, make subtle adjustments in rhythm and FEEL the line and apply the least amount of tension needed for any skill. posture. My aim is to FEEL a line and exert the lowest tension to allow for good form and fluid air exchange.