ChiSwimming begining

At long last the outdoor swimming pool at Bourg St Maurice has opened for the summer. I went along to see if I could remember how to swim. Although I lose physical fitness rapidly when not exercising I find that I never seem to lose any skill – the same with musical instruments. I only wish I could remember telephone numbers and dates a fraction as well. My memory banks appear to be almost entirely directed towards m body and away from everything else. Ask me questions about any offshore job I participated in and I’ll have trouble remembering anything about it. Perhaps this is quite a useful thing then. Naturally it felt like I hadn’t ever been out of the pool so i could take up my swimming development where it had been left off a couple of years ago. Immediately I wanted to see what might surface from everything I’ve learned from the ChiRunning philosophy.

Kicking from the Spine

I’ve never been able to “kick” properly in the crawl and normally hardly move – or even go backwards. I tried lying on my back to kick and immediately started to move from the spine – rotating strongly around it with each kick. It worked. Not only did I advance strongly but it was easy because the large chain of core muscles was involved. I’d always hated kicking because it felt artificial just kicking with the legs – and now I know why! Trying it lying on the stomach the result was the same. Why couldn’t anyone teach me this? Why is it not mentioned in any of the swimming books that I’ve bought? Danny Dryer (author of ChiRunning) states that “There will never be a ChiSwimming!” and strongly advocates “Total Immersion” – but he’s wrong because there is nothing like this in the Total Immersion system. Trying to coordinate the spinal rotation with the crawl stroke is another kettle of fish and that’s going to take a bit of work. I’ve always felt “disconnected” between the upper and lower body while trying to do the crawl and I suspect that the answer will lie here somewhere. I’ll have to take what I’ve learned from coordinating the legs, hips and upper body in skiing, cycling, running and walking and try to find the links. I could get coordination correct already but it meant reversing my learned movements and so it felt very insecure for the time being.


The biggest problem in both running and walking is over-striding. Due to heels on our shoes we reach ahead with each step and manage to seriously mess up our body mechanics in the process. We develop a psychological need to reach even further ahead when trying to lengthen the stride or speed up. All the time we should be doing the opposite by stopping the feet from going ahead and by extending the stride behind us. It occurred to me that I was probably doing the same in swimming which might explain why I have no strength and end up out of breath and with tired arms very rapidly. I seem to spend a long time reaching ahead and cause a delay because I haven’t even started to pull when the other arm is already recovered. All of my focus was “ahead” exactly as in running. Changing this to focussing on extending behind made everything suddenly feel relaxed, allowed me to access the bigger back muscles and core muscles and also seemed to automatically eliminate the delay in the pull. I’ll be looking forward to seeing how this develops. The Chi philosophy has automatically brought another level of insight into the picture.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *