Friday, June 22, 2007

Prioper Proprioception

Pretty much everything about swimming (especially front crawl) is unnatural for humans. As Thomas M. Griener puts it:
For us, swimming involves the use of all four limbs in a way that is completely different to how they are used during walking. None of our walking and running skills translate well to swimming. In addition, our mouth and nose faces in the same direction as our belly, so that the mouth and nose are in the water when we swim. Without taking special actions (such as turning our head to the side) we cannot breath and swim at the same time. This means that for humans, swimming is basically a learned activity. It is not a natural extension of our normal behavior.
There's a massive amount of stuff to get right about body position and motion. Working on a swim stroke is an outrageous exercise in prioper proprioception.

Some of the work we can break down. We can start with relatively simple skills and build upon them. We can use drills to help us isolate specific stroke elements. Nonetheless, there's a massive flood of sensory input to interpret and react to.

Back in January I was experimenting with a Christmas present from my sister, the pool toy known as a Tech Toc. The Tech Toc is an enhanced version of a ball-bearing in a tube. Strapped to my back, when I roll to the side the ball-bearing falls in the tube and "clacks" against the bottom. This gives me an auditory (and tactile!) augment to prioper proprioception - I don't just feel my body position in the water, I get additional feedback!

On Monday I rediscovered another mechanism for enhancing prioper proprioception. Effects from my Saturday participation in the one mile sea swim were still with me - some lingering muscle tightness. Muscles that I use and misuse in swimming were registering almost every stretch, flex, and contraction. Several things that I know go wrong with my stroke I would feel going wrong, with no additional concentration required - bonus!

Amongst other considerations in a workout week, perhaps I should try putting two swim workouts two days apart.


Blogger Andra Sue said...

I think maybe you meant proprioception? (Sorry, biomedical science degree on board.) :) Nevertheless, great post. I never reallly thought about it that way. Makes me feel better about how freaking hard it is to swim!!!

6/22/2007 10:11:00 am  
Blogger Brent Buckner said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6/22/2007 10:23:00 am  
Blogger Brent Buckner said...

Thanks. Online dictionary had cleverly redirected from my misspelling to the definition of the word I actually wanted, and I blithely continued on with my misspelling. Now fixed.

6/22/2007 10:29:00 am  
Blogger Wendy said...

Yup. No matter what we think we look like in the water, it takes a video camera to show us. And then we are often surprised (sometimes verging on horrified).

That's why good swim coaches are invaluable -- they can see what we really can't.

Muscle soreness as a workout biofeedback technique is really something I hadn't considered!

6/22/2007 11:02:00 am  
Blogger SkiRough said...

This is officially a dick swinging post. First you bust out the strike-through html tags, and then you drop bombs like "proprioception" with links to medical dictionaries. What's next?! Algorithms and footstrike derivatives for proper run technique? (I wouldn't put it past you...)

6/23/2007 10:44:00 pm  
Blogger Fe-lady said...

The TechToc hmmm? Maybe it would cancel out the water aerobic's ladies counting every.move.they.make! (and messes up MY lap counting...)
But I think the tick-tocking would drive me even more bonkers....great concept tho.

6/24/2007 06:02:00 pm  
Blogger ShirleyPerly said...

I agree that there is nothing natural about swimming, at least for me. I'm happy to say that at least I don't hate it as much as I used to thanks to various toys (SwiMP3, pullbuoy, paddles, fins, etc) that make it more interesting.

BTW, congrats on your mile swim results!

6/25/2007 09:47:00 am  
Blogger the Dread Pirate Rackham said...

oh man. That sounds like a cool toy!

And I would probably be horrified at my swim technique...

6/26/2007 07:36:00 pm  
Blogger mishele k said...

Wow, neat toy thingy. My tri urges whisper I should buy one, but I need to quit succumbing to tri toy urges. :(

6/28/2007 03:22:00 pm  
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