Punctuated Equilibrium

Discussion in 'General Fitness' started by 4precious, Sep 13, 2003.

  1. 4precious

    4precious Guest

    My brother is a biologist. He told me about an idea in the field of evolutionary biology which is
    called "punctuated equilibrium". That notion helps describe what is often seen in the fossil record.
    Namely, that animals and organisms appear to go unchanged for vast amounts of time, and then, quite
    rapidly, there will be significant changes in what the fossil record holds. So things are in
    equilibrium for much of the time, but due some changing conditions, there will suddenly be a spurt,
    or punctuation of change.

    I bring this up on a swimming user group because I had this idea.

    The loping camp, spear-headed by Dr. Weisenthal, believes that human freestyle swimming is
    "punctuated equilibrium".

    The Total Immersion folks, Boomer, Laughlin, Maglischo, think freestyle swimming is about
    "equilibrium" at all times.

    In the loping technique, the body is often in equilbrium. For example, when the swimmer extends
    their right arm forward after recovery. (asumming a right-handed swimming) However, clearly such
    conditions as the extreme forward look, and the head-pop are positions that the swimmer can only
    use in a transitory, or punctuated fashion. The body will have to be brought back to equilibrium at
    some point.

    The TI folks say paddle your body as stable and straight as you can. Keep equilibrium at all times,
    rolling like a log to the air so that not even that disturbs anything. And we should drill long and
    concentrate hard on doing that at all times.

    The people that try to earn Gold from the water, elite swimmers who dream of becoming World or
    Olympic champion, tell us that Larry is right.

    If swimmers were allowed to use snorkels, then we could all paddle our vessels (bodies) merrily down
    the lane while striving for beautiful high elbow pulls from our "paddles" (arms) on each side.

    But we have to breath. We have to roll our mouths from directly down in the water to the surface. So
    by definition, the freestyle form is "punctuated equilibrium." Lopers embrace that notion and use it
    to their best advantage.

    -Eric
     
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  2. Scott Lemley

    Scott Lemley Guest

    Hi Eric,

    <<The loping camp, spear-headed by Dr. Weisenthal, believes that human freestyle swimming is
    "punctuated equilibrium".>>

    Although I respect Larry's accumen and enthusiasm and don't doubt his experience, he is a bit of an
    evangelist. No offense, Larry. I know you understand the scientific method and digest as many
    peer-reviewed papers as possible to help make your case. However, I'm not easily swayed by your
    evangelical spirit. I'll keep thinking about "loping" and "head lift" and what it was that Janet
    Evans taught the rest of us
    . . . and I'll continue to coach my own philosophy until convinced by your arguments to believe
    differently.

    <<The Total Immersion folks, Boomer, Laughlin, Maglischo, think freestyle swimming is about
    "equilibrium" at all times.>>

    I have great respect for Terry and what he's done with his TI philosophy, Bill Boomer and his unique
    observations on balance - both physical and emotional, and Ernie and his ability to have one foot in
    the world of the scientist, one foot in the world of the coach, all the while keeping both eyes wide
    open and reporting to us about what he sees. And while I've probably learned ten times as much
    thinking about everything I've heard and read from these three men compared to the (relatively
    speaking) few paragraphs posted by Larry on this newsgroup, I still think, for the most part, I'll
    continue to coach my own philosophy, which has been cobbled together after giving a great deal of
    thought to the hundreds of coaches I've watched and listened to (not just Terry, Bill and Ernie) and
    thousands of athletes I've coached during the last 25 years.

    <<The people that try to earn Gold from the water, elite swimmers who dream of becoming World or
    Olympic champion, tell us that Larry is right.>>

    I would dispute this assertion. This really speaks in part to what we as members of the coaching
    community are trying to do. I've coached and taught nationally ranked age groupers, junior national
    champions, high school and college All-Americans, and senior national and Olympic Trials
    participants. Do any of them qualify as an elite swimmer who dreams of becoming World or Olympic
    Champion? Sure. Have any of them "told me" its better to have loped and lost than never to have
    loped at all? Nope.

    I've also coached a heck of a lot more swimmers who showed up just as often and put in just as much
    work as those "elite" swimmers. The vast majority of the swimmers with whom I've worked never made a
    national cut. Can you "teach" the truly gifted athletes how to swim better? Can you teach the
    less-gifted (the other 99%) how to swim like the gifted? SHOULD you teach a regular swimmer
    technique which only a swimmer with unusual flexability or coordination can achieve? Is it better to
    ask questions than to answer them? You tell me.

    Could you achieve as much success (read improvement) with your swimmers by simply teaching them to
    relax more when they swim? Or teaching them to focus more? Being more physically relaxed and more
    mentally focused, would your athletes be more inclined to "feel" where to put their hands and feet,
    how to hold their head, how much to roll, when and how to lean into the water, etc.? I believe I've
    learned more about how to effectively coach swimmers from my martial arts training than from any
    coaches clinic or seminar I've ever attended. We coaches quibble over head position and continue to
    re-discover principles which have been described before, off and on, at various times during the
    last 100 years of organized competitive swimming. Other than loping, of course, which I think is an
    absolutely unique discovery . . .

    The principles the great martial arts masters teach today have been tested and refined over the past
    5000 years. I think I'll go with those principles.

    How many competitive swimmers are there in the world who might be interested in learning better
    technique and who could probably improve their mechanics with a little coaching? Probably millions.
    How many are potentially "elite" swimmers, you know, those who tell us Larry is right? Very few.
    This set of all competitive swimmers numbering in the millions, should they be lopers? Or should
    they work on keeping their heads as steady as possible? We know none of them are going to be able to
    race with a snorkle. We know they have to develop some mechanism for moving their mouths up to the
    air which involves moving that head that should probably remain steady.

    <<But we have to breath. We have to roll our mouths from directly down in the water to the surface.
    So by definition, the freestyle form is "punctuated equilibrium." Lopers embrace that notion and use
    it to their best advantage.>>

    How about teaching swimmers to minimize that head movement? Could that be to their advantage?

    We may some day discover (read "prove") that a certain percentage of swimmers are gifted enough to .
    . . lope successfully, achieve an extremely high elbow very early in the stroke cycle, change the
    pitch of their hands at just the right time to benefit them more from lift than drag propulsion,
    change their tempo throughout their races to reflect, second to second, their energy stores as those
    resources are depleted, know instinctively when they're vitamin and mineral deficient and which
    vitamins and minerals they need . . . and how will that change what the basics lessons are which the
    rest of us (the 99%) need to learn?

    Respectfully submitted,

    Scott
     
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