Learning to Breathe and Sight with Shinji Takeuchi’s TI Swimming 11-13-09

It’s been almost a month since my last lesson with Shinji. My blog was busted until now but finally I can post my notes from my last swim session with him.
This session was focused on improving breathing, and also learning TI’s sighting method which was slightly different than what I was doing.
Previously I noticed that my speed would suffer when I took a breath. Every time I would breathe, I would take the breath and turn my head and look back downward in the water and notice that I had come to almost a complete halt. I needed to figure out how to breathe and still be gliding and not at a dead stop due to bad streamlining.
We went through some drills to improve breathing and not slowing down. The drills were very basic, which was to break down the movement and drill each part partially until the whole movement was perfected.
Generally, the head turns with the body and remains in neutral position with respect to the body position until the very last moment as the head is almost breaking the water, at which point the head turns slightly to take what they call a “sneaky breath”. The water is still sticking to the mouth at this point, and you have to exhale slightly to clear the water away from the mouth so that a breath can be taken. If you move the head too much, you create drag which slows you down.
Also, I’ve found that after reading the TI forums, that slowing down occurs when I do not completely shoot the lead arm forward and complete a strong stroke, and that when I breathe, sometimes I forget to complete the stroke sequence correctly.
These drills were:
1. Take 4 strokes with head down, then turn the body and head until you look at the raised arm (after the stroke and arm recovery, but holding it up in the air) but no taking the breath yet.
2. Take 4 strokes with head down, then turn the body and head until you are almost breaking the water, then turn the head slightly and exhale (to clear the sticking water), and take a breath. Then turn the head down and glide, leaving the recovering arm in the air after its stroke.
3. Do 2, but then recovering arm completes the next stroke after breath.
Since I breath on the right side primarily, I start with the left arm leading and do the 4 strokes, at which time the right arm is the last stroke and can breathe on the right.
For sighting, Shinji says to sight when I shoot the right arm forward. It needs to shoot a bit shallower, as I lift the head up to look above the water. Then drop the head down and complete the stroke.
Drills to practice:
1. Take 4 strokes, then when I shoot the right arm forward, look up to sight and glide.
2. Do 1, then take a stroke after looking up.
3. Do 2, but take a breath after a stroke to get the rhythm of sighting regularly and breathing.
4. If 1-3 too hard, try stroking a few and then shoot the right arm forward and left head to sight, and scull the arms to practice gliding a bit while looking.
I practiced this extensively in the oceans of Hawaii a few weeks back. It works pretty well but the timing is a bit funny for me in the beginning, but I think I got the hang of it.
Other notes:
1. To improve breathing, practice active balance drills. Practice glide and while kicking, rotate the body and practice the ease of doing so.
2. I was still kicking with a lot of splash, so practice silent kicking. Quick, smooth, minimal splash.
3. Same with stroking. No bubbles, enter the arm smoothly into the water, no splash. Focus on quiet entry and shoot forward.
4. On left arm forward skating, I tend to tilt my head to the left. I must keep it straight.
5. Overhead arm recovery is not choppy, but smooth.
6. Another arm recovery drill, while underwater, is to lift the arm circularly up from the bottom.
7. We talked about improvements to practicing rhythm and SPL control. I have not done this yet, but one practice to try is to continually swim lengths at a SPL, and then figure out how to increase or decrease from there. So if the base SPL is at the “0”, then do this:
0 – at the base SPL, it should be an easy pace
-2 – focus on power, more speed
+2 – less power per stroke, focus on rhythm
Repeat this. Don’t worry about the tempo.
Today, I have another lesson with Shinji on extending TI swimming for speed and time. TI has been running seminars for Advanced Total Immersion which is to drill with TI techniques for speed and distance. I’m hoping Shinji can help me to extend my TI skills to swim longer and faster. I also signed up for an Advanced TI seminar in January. Looking forward to taking that!