Total Immersion: Single and Multiple Focal Points

Total Immersion uses focal points and incessant drilling of focal points to imprint the correct movement habits for better swimming.
In the last few months, I focused on these focal points:
1. Upon recovery, my elbow lead needs to come more forward. In my videos I see that sometimes my recovery is messy and my hand comes forward first.
2. Dave ran us through a lap focusing on a slight hip drive with the spear. This really added some power to my spear.
3. We worked on the spear-kick-stroke back timing. Dave had a great drill where he made us wait until the last possible moment to kick, with the recovering arm entering the water up to the elbow by the time the kick happens. When the spear was almost extended, then the other lead arm catches and strokes back.
4. Shinji has shown me how to generate a flat back. Now I need to drill with this focal point to figure out how to maintain a flat back while swimming.
My workouts would look like this:
200 W/U
4×50 with RI to full recovery ~20-40 seconds with each 4×50 on a single focal point:
1. Bringing the elbow all the way forward into true elbow led recovery.
2. Modified catch up, per focal point 3 above.
3. Adding the hip drive to spear
4. Relax the forward shoulder as recovering arm comes forward to about shoulder point, before spear.
5. Practice swimming with flat back
It would only be about 800-1000 yards and that’s it. I would do this quality swim 3-5 times a week in order to work solely on imprinting the right habits without wiping myself out so that I would get too tired to swim properly.
Then I started thinking about how I could swim with better technique overall, so I started playing with doing drills with more than one focal point.
So I began my drill sequences as above, but then I would challenge myself with focusing not only on the current focal point, but also on every preceding focal point too. For example, after doing focal point 1 for 4×50 alone, for the next 4×50, I would focus on both focal points 1 and 2. Then the next set of 4×50, I would focus on three focal points: 1, 2, AND 3.
This was succeedingly harder as I added one and then 2 more focal points. At about 3 was my limit of how many focal points I could focus on during any one lap of the pool. But through practice, I was able to segment my brain to be able to focus on more than one and juggle them together and make sure I was performing each well, but all during a given swim.
Of course, this was also an expression of my mastery of those focal points, so adding focal points as I became more proficient at performing them became easier because they were imprinting. For totally new focal points, I would most likely have to go back to focusing on that one particular point in order to begin imprinting it.
I queried the Total Immersion forums on this issue, and Terry answered my post. I also liked his version of the successive addition of focal points, which was to grab a few focal points for a given swim set, and then focus on one point for a given set of laps, and then switch to the next point and so on.
Still I think there is value in both Terry’s method and mine, although I think that mine is tougher on the brain at least initially. Most people I meet don’t have the mental ability (yet) to maintain a single focal point for any length of time! But as I’ve found, ingraining new habits even requires practice of ingraining/imprinting, as well as the actual imprinting itself.
To add to my fun, I’m now working on even more focal points:
4. Slip through the hole made in the water by my spear.
5. On the stroke back, exit my arm at an angle forward, and no swiping the water backward.
6. Complete a catch with completely vertical forearm and forward of the head.
7. Let the body rotation pull arm back and make less of a conscious effort to stroke back the arm strongly.
I’m looking forward to my next coaching session with Coach Shinji, and also the next Total Immersion Tune-Up!

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