By Terry Laughlin

There have been a number of threads in the last few months, debating some of the points in articles I've posted. One topic which seems to have drawn more comment than most is the idea of swimming easier and faster by "Pressing the T"

The idea is that the most common and frustrating swimming handicap is the dragging butt and legs. I suggested that it could easily be cured by leaning into the water on the chest, an action I referred to as "Pressing the T."

But that term seems to have struck many people as a bit obtuse, so I've decided to change the terminology to "Pressing Your Buoy." Here's what I mean by this and here's why it works:

  1. Think of a water polo ball or something similarly buoyant. If you push it into the water, what happens? Right! the water pushes it back out.
  2. We have only one place on our body that's similarly buoyant--the space between our armpits and behind the breastbone; it floats mainly because it has volume (Empty Space!) not mass. Most everything else on the body (except for body fat wherever we may have it) tends to sink. So let's call it our Buoy and it will prove far more valuable to us than the buoy we stick between our legs to keep them afloat.
  3. If we Press Our Buoy into the water, the water will respond by pushing it back out. But we make the strategic CHOICE of what we're going to let the water push out. In this case, we choose to release the HIPS to the surface. It's that simple and costs us far less energy than trying to keep the hips and legs up by kicking.
  4. Finally you add some counterweight to the sinking tendency of the hips and legs, by using the head. Your body in water is really a teeter-totter with it's fulcrum somewhere between your waist and your sternum. The longer heavier end naturally wants to sink. Your head, if kept connected via the head-spine line to the hips will act as an effective counterweight. In order to use it this way you have to avoid lifting your head to breathe.
Hopefully from now on when people refer on-line and elsewhere to this as "Pressing Your Buoy" there will be a higher level of common understanding.

A second issue in this discussion has been a certain degree of resistance among some of the more experienced and competent swimmers to the idea that balance is a big concern and that you need to take special measures to improve it. It's important to understand that most good swimmers, unlike the 90%+ of typical triathletes who didn't swim as kids, don't have radical balance problems to overcome and have over the years evolved intuitive ways of dealing with balance in the water. It's just not something they have to THINK about while swimming, anymore than they need to think about breathing. They just do it. So to suggest to them that they think about just gives them a headache. Besides which, experienced and accomplished swimmers are often reluctant to change tried and true ways of doing things. But. Matt Biondi, after he had already set multiple world records and won multiple Olympic medals, said that he felt he had learned only 10% of all there was to know about swimming well. I've been swimming for 30 years myself, have finished 2nd at US Masters Nationals and am still learning more effective ways of interacting with the water, simply by being open to that possibility If I ever feel that I know it all about swimming, look for me to take up golf because swimming will at that point cease to be interesting to me. Happy laps.

Terry Laughlin will be teaching adult swimmers how to "Press Your Buoy" and other creative approaches to swimming better, easier and faster at his Total Immersion weekend freestyle workshops in various cities this summer and year-round. Details available at