Monthly Archives: June 2011

Total Immersion: Fixing My Left Side and Swimming Symmetry

Back in May, I met with Coach Shinji for a swim lesson. Going through some of the things I wanted to work on, I remarked that for some reason when I am spearing with my right hand, I seem to glide a lot faster/longer than when I spear with my left hand.
It had been annoying me to no end for months now. I would swim and watch the black tiles go by underneath me. As I speared with my right arm, stroking back with my left with a flick of my left foot in two beat kick, I would glide forward at a certain speed. Then my left arm would come forward and speared forward, again with right arm stroking back and flick of my right foot, I would glide forward again, but always travelling less distance and with less speed than when I speared right.
How annoying!
There would be times when I swam that there would be 1 or 2 perfect left spear strokes for each length and my glide on that side would be as fast and as far as the other side. But most of the time, I would glide more upon the right spear than for my left.
It’s amazing to see the asymmetry in my swimming when I began to train Total Immersion. The two ways you could see this was: 1) Coaches Shinji and Dave Cameron could see this with their practiced eye, and 2) constant video taping of myself by me and watching painful videos of myself swimming in slow motion.
So experienced coaches first note the problem, but then after you leave the coaching session you need to keep practicing and have the ability to get feedback on your performance so that you’re still practicing the new movement and not reverting back to the old problem. I videotaped myself swimming virtually every session for the last few weeks after the coaching sessions. I would critique myself, swear silently at myself for thinking I was improving a focal point but video evidence would tell me I barely made a nudge or I was still exhibiting the problem. Then, for the next swim workout, I would mentally adjust my focal points a little more and attempt them at that next workout.
This left side asymmetry was definitely a tough one.
The timing of my left arm spear, my body rotation, hip drive, and flick of my right foot in two beat kick were sufficiently off enough to make a noticeable difference between my left and right sides in propulsion. The problems were mostly in the timing of the left arm drop from high recovery into the water and how the hip is connected to that movement. Then the kick itself was not exactly at the right time to send the spear off with maximal effect.
How I worked the heck out of it and brought it to some level of being fixed:
1. I would swim very slowly and focused on using my hip to move the arm into the water, versus whatever I was doing before, which was more about leading the spear with my arm and shoulders.
2. At Shinji’s suggestion, I then worked on focusing on my hips to time each stroke versus any other body part. Thus, I would focus on rotating my hips from side to side and let my arms do their normal thing. This increased my awareness of my hips’ contribution to the stroke versus just the arms.
3. Dave Cameron made a great suggestion, which was to use a tempo trainer to help fix the coordination and time my two beat kick to each beep. In order to make a beep, I had to use my hips or else my body would just be moving too slow. Then, in order to time my kick to a beep, my side and arm spear had to be in the water before the beep so that my kick would be able to hit on that beep. This really helped even out the difference between my left and right sides.
It took many weeks of focus and drilling with the tempo trainer to start evening my two body sides out. Now I travel much further during my left spear than before, but it is still not up to quite as far and fast as I travel during my right spear.
It’s amazing to see how my body has created such asymmetries over my lifetime. I start favoring my right side since I’m right hand dominant and it is so much more coordinated than my left. Now through incessant drilling and focus, coupled with a feedback system – my coaches and videotaping – allows me to address these differences and become a better athlete as a result.