There's a difference between fundamentals and "technique work." If you truly lack the fundamentals then you need them.
I think that you are wise to make a distinction between various level swimmers and what their "limiting factor" is, but I think that you might employ too narrow aview, like Coaches Sousa and Sutton, about what entails technique development, and more importantly, "proper technique". I wrote a much longer blog on this topic today (https://www.findingfreestyle.com/?q=hammertime
), but the gist is as follows:
What Paulo and Brett Sutton both have in common, in my opinion, is that they rebel against the classical view of "proper technique". I understand this. When confronted with schools of instruction that put forth Michael Phelps freestyle stroke as the optimal, and then focus on drills that ingrain "long and strong", they correctly in my view, reject that line of reasoning for most open water endurance swimmers. For their rejection of this view of technique, however, they outwardly offer little antidote beyond the hammer (and a few toys), and thus throw the baby out with the bath water. To me, they imply that drills are either: a) irrelevant to the open water distance swimmer, or b) irrelevant for the purpose of enhancing an athletes condition. Let me be clear, for all athletes and to varying degrees, the hammer works: increasing training volumes CAN improve technique, and in some circumstances it IS just as simple as cranking out some more -- humans are ADAPTATION MACHINES, we do it very, very well. But we CAN optimize our adaptation with proper application of training technique.
If I were a betting man, I would bet that both coaches Sousa and Sutton would see effective hand-speed as a worthy technique, and one that can and should be trained in the context of a conditioning set. So, what aspects, besides hand speed and endurance can make someone successful in open water, and ALSO be part of a sucessful conditioning regimen? I would love to hear their thoughts on this, but for me and mine, it's:
- free and plentiful air exchange,
- ability to sight,
- ability to turn the legs on and off at will,
- ability to change speeds as the race demands (if swimming in a pack especially).
- And above all, TIMING: The ability to synchronize the movement of the head, hands, arms, legs and torso (and breath).
Rejecting "technique work" as being synonymous with "do slow 25s while having your coach correct your stroke" is a limited view of training, conditioning, and skill development. It's also pretty darn low in terms of effectiveness. It absolutely, positively time that we got past having a classical, 100 meter freestyle-centric view of "proper techinque". But that's not all. It's also time that we stopped looking at "conditioning" and "technique" as two separate entities. They are inextricably linked and the best of us have always acknowledged that on a sub-conscious level. Perhaps it is time that we started to acknowledge it consciously.
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and Not just a bunch of drills - A Process.