By using all of the hand manipulation tools available to you, you can create a wide variety of contrasting sensations.
This allow you to feel a LOT more sensations than you normally would, as well as learn how to differentiate what you’re feeling. It helps you tune in.
As a start, the nature of the contrast doesn’t really matter.
All that matters is that you’re swimming with one type of surface area on one hand and a different type on the other hand.
Keep it simple to start, and you can get fancier as you get more experienced.
Step 1. Simply pay attention to what you’re feeling. Imagine you’re swimming with a paddle on one hand and no paddle in the other.
They’re going to FEEL different, right?
There’s going to be different amounts of pressure and there’s going to be different distributions of pressure.
It’s definitely not going to be symmetrical.
While we used the example of swimming with one paddle, you could use any of the configurations above provided that each hand is doing something different.
It is the simultaneous contrasting sensations that really help you learn to feel differently. Because they’re happening at the same time, the contrast is immediate and significant.
The key is to really explore what you’re feeling.
NOTICE what feels different and what feels better.
Pay attention without necessarily trying to intervene or change anything.
Using different types of contrast can help to accelerate the process of learning to pay attention, particularly because you are creating contrast amongst the contrasts!
Novelty will always get your attention.
Take advantage of the phenomenon.
Step 2. Change what you’re feeling. After you’ve spent some time paying attention, it’s time to intervene.
Let’s use the single paddle example again.
Now, rather than just observing what you’re feeling, you’re going to try to change what you’re feeling.
You want to swim in a way that makes the pressure on your arms and hands feel as similar as possible.
This mean you’re probably going to change the way you’re swimming, and you’re going to need to rely on your sensations to do that.
This is what feel for the water is all about.
Using the sensory information your body is sending you to make technical changes.
You’re doing it! It may come easy at first, it may be difficult at first.
Regardless, keep working on making SLIGHT progress. Any time it feels a little more similar, that’s a big win.
Important! If you’re swimming with a closed fist with your left hand and large paddle on your right hand, you’ll probably never actually be able to make it feel the same.
What’s is important is the attempt, the intent, and the progress. If you can make the sensations more similar over time, that’s progress.
It’s about the attempt and the exploration rather than the outcome. Now, if you can actually make them feel similar, that’s even better.
Step 3. Add metrics. Now you’re going to try to create symmetrical sensations with asymmetrical surface areas while achieving certain levels of efficiency and effectiveness.
It’s one thing to pay attention to what you’re feeling, and then alter what you’re feeling, while going as slow as you’d like, with little or no physical stress.
It’s time to turn it up.
Slowly add speed expectations and stroke count limitations.
Perform some your ‘training’ with a contrast in the surface area you’re using. Start off with just paying attention, and move on to actively working towards symmetry of action.
This might take some time to get the hang of.
That means you have a lot of opportunity to improve. If it was easy the first time, it wouldn’t help you improve.
If you’re more of a sprinter, try to put more pressure on improving the speeds at which you can control your sensations.
If you’re more of an endurance swimmer, focus on improving how long you can sustain higher speeds over longer distances.
In both cases, work on achieving that speed efficiently.
Step 4. Expand the contrast and repeat the process. Let’s say you started with an extended pointer finger in one hand and a regular hand in the other.
Having played with a little speed and with stroke count limitations, expand the contrast. At the extreme, use horns and the biggest paddle you can find.
There will be a HUGE contrast in what you’re feeling.
Can you notice the nuances involved?
After increasing your awareness, can you learn to change those sensations?
Once you feel like you have some control, start to increase the speed you’re swimming, as well as play with limiting your strokes during certain sets.
*A quick note- it doesn’t take a lot of work here.
It’s more about consistency.
Spending 10-15 minutes or 300-500 yards 2-3 times per week is all it takes.
You can include this work during warm-ups, during warm-downs, as mini-sets, or during part of longer sets.
It doesn’t matter.
Just get it done and look for progress over time.*
Faster. Easier. Better.