Thanks for hosting this experiment.
"Some of the better coaches I know put a premium on knowing how to swimming slow. "
How does one define "slowly". I'm a 2:15-2:200 100scy swimmer. If I swim any slower, I'll sink to the bottom of the lane. OK, this is a rhetorical question.
"Rather than overthinking this, I just want you to concentrate on not contorting your torso, not bending at the waist, when you breathe. "
The issue I have with any drills is how do I know I am doing it correctly. I can (and did) concentrate but I have no idea is I was doing what you want me to do. If I am not doing the drills properly, what benefit do I derive from them?
I tried the one armed drill. I am a right-side breather who breaths every two strokes (i.e. coincidental with my right arm entering the water) and who really like to breath every 1.5 seconds (or more frequently). With this drill, I found myself focusing on breathing not focusing on the intent of the drill. I had to lift my head to breath, thus causing my legs to sink even more than normal. I even tried fins to make up for 50% of the propulsion I lost. No help. I gave up out of exhaustion and frustration after the third interval.
A generic question on swimming intervals. I am exhausted by the time I hit 1200 yards. So much so that I can feel my form degrade even more than normal. How does swimming 100-150 yards and then stopping to rest help me swim 1500y in a race? I am relatively strong runner for a 55 year old guy and I rarely run intervals. Instead, I run longer (i.e. race) distance, occasionally mixing up the tempo. This regiment worked well enough to have the 5th fastest 10K (M55-59) in Omaha after coming out of the water last in the AG. I am trying to reconcile these two situations.
you are so in luck! by week-4 you're going to be a new man. in specific answer:
slowly: what i mean is, slowly relative to your normal speed. if you slow things way down, form issues are amplified. i WANT form issues amplified, so we can expose and correct them.
one-armed drill: perfect! what depresses me is to hear that you CAN do it, and do it well. when i hear that you CAN'T do it, i'm jazzed! now i know we can make progress. what i recommend you do is continue to use fins, for now, and break this up into 50s, and break up the set into quarters, and do a fourth of the set interspersed between other elements. warm-up, then a fourth of the 1-arm pull set. more warm-up, another 4th of this set. main set, another 4th; warm-down, another 4th. each 50 should be right arm down, left arm back.
i promise you, you WILL get this. and it won't take more than a week or so. once you get it down, so that you can do it, then we'll take off 1 fin. then, the other. and then we'll work on the off hand (no sculling). then more on the off hand (keeping it close to the surface). by week-4 you'll be a champ at this.
you're exhausted because how you swim is exhausting. by week-8 you'll breeze through 2000 yards easily.