This morning I got up early before my usual swim time and read some blogs while eating a bit before leaving for the pool. I came across this post on the Total Immersion forums, shinji asked how i cut strokes to 7, which caught my eye for two reasons: one, my coach was referenced, and two, this guy was going to talk about how he attained 7 strokes!
I quickly skimmed through it and set it to memory, and then went out to the pool today to try to apply some what he had done and see if I could get my minimal stroke count for 25 yards down to 7 (previous best was 9).
On the first try, I hit 8! It took two more 8s before I actually glided in for 7! Unbelievable! I then managed to do a few more glide-ins to 7 and 2 actual solid 7s. I stopped when I started drifting to 8 and knew that I was getting tired.
Some notes on how I achieved the 7 strokes:
1. Everything that don h said worked great!
2. There definitely was a lot of gliding. I found that I must be able to hold my body position without a single wiggle and be perfectly balanced between strokes in order to glide as far as possible on each stroke.
By the way, gliding is harder than it looks. You have to be perfectly balanced *and* also in body position for the next stroke with your arms. You also have to be relaxed and not tense, and not anticipate the next stroke but just wait patiently for the right moment and let it happen. Total Immersion drills really helped here.
3. Forget breathing. I haven't perfected breathing without some slowdown, so I elected to hyperventilate and recover fully before each length, so that I could swim the entire 25y without taking a breath.
4. The push off the wall was with a traditional streamline, with both hands pointed into a spear in front of my head with one hand on top of the other. This allowed me to travel further before slowing down.
5. As Don mentioned, I too played with the first stroke, which was my right hand. I attempted to make that stroke also propel more further before my official first stroke (remember that my coach told me that the first stroke is counted *after* this initial stroke pulling the arm back from the first streamline). This was difficult, and very much brought me back to skating drills; I had to stroke back strongly and then get into skating position without losing balance. Once I get the knack of that, I could go 11 yards or so before taking my first stroke.
6. One interesting note. I tried to glide with my arm up in cocked position, ready for the next stroke as Don suggests, but I found that where my previous head position was, this would actually drive my head forward and deeper into the water, sometimes actually even sinking me down! This was not good, as it did not allow me to use gravity to drop my cocked arm down into the water and forward into the next stroke. In fact, being partially submerged made it harder to even perform that movement with that cocked arm. So I had to actually lift my head up slightly, which counterbalanced my dropping hips with the cocked arm's weight and I was riding much better and higher on the water that way.
7. I practiced minimizing my leg movement between strokes. I relaxed and tried to keep the insides of my feet lightly touching. This minimized drag.
8. One thing I tried actually not to do was to glide too much with my recovery arm in stationary cocked position. I was feeling like this may relate to some of the comments my friends and I have regarding efficiency training as "cheating" because you glide so much and this doesn't happen in real swimming. While I have come to feel that super slow swimming for efficiency training is not cheating, I felt that it was better to just pretend that I was super duper slow motion swimming where my recovery arm never really stops moving. In this way, I could just imprint the movement, however slow, and in theory speed it up and hopefully keep form.
Super slow swim training really works, in my opinion. I can really examine everything my body does in slow motion, and I know when something is wrong when all of a sudden I need an extra stroke to the touch the wall. Or, sometimes I need to glide just a little longer on that last stroke to hit the wall. Then I replay my length in my head and try to remember where I didn't do so well and try to not to that again on the next length.