Swimming Lessons (from the World’s Fastest Runner)
by Terry Laughlin

Posted on December 3rd, 2012
I’ve long believed there are universal laws underpinning the highest skilled movement. Among the simplest is What Is Most Beautiful Is Also Best. These extraordinary National Geographic Channel video of  the fastest creature on four legs reaffirms my faith in that.
These slow motion studies offer an unprecedented opportunity to understand why cheetahs can reach speeds of up to 60mph/97kph. And will probably not surprise regular readers of this blog that I discerned in the cheetah’s running mechanics several matches for key points in TI Technique principles — as well as a lesson we could all do well to emulate. 

Technique Tips from the World’s Fastest Runner
Balance and Stability
The cheetah’s head is amazingly stable.
The cheetah’s head-spine line is always moving in the direction of travelStreamlining 
The cheetah achieves full extension of its bodyline in every stride.
The cheetah uses a compact, relaxed ‘recovery’ (bringing fore paws forward close to the body.)

Propulsion
The cheetah runs with its whole body, not its limbs.
The cheetah places its fore paw with striking care — even delicacy. The equivalent in TI Swimming is relaxed hands, patient catch and ‘gathering moonbeams’ (taking care in initiating pressure.)

The Lesson
The cheetah sacrifices none of these at its highest speeds and stride rates. In fact it seems to do them most exquisitely when it is moving at maximum speed. It reaches its Maximum Stride Length when it’s also at Maximum Speed — which is, of course, the secret to being the fastest runner on the planet.

Human swimmers, as we know, do exactly the opposite when striving to swim fast. We sacrifice Stroke Length as we increase Stroke Rate. Sometimes radically (Alain Bernard, while anchoring France’s 4×100 relay in Beijing being the highest profile example. Usain Bolt, in contrast, ran as the cheetah does, achieving his Max Stride Length at max speed.)

Cheetahs run fast by nature. We must swim fast mindfully.

Cheetahs on the Edge–Director’s Cut from Gregory Wilson on Vimeo.

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4 Responses to “Swimming Lessons (from the World’s Fastest Runner)”

  1. chdoyle says:

    what most impressed me by the clip was the end when they showed the incredible set up required, ie. look at what extravagant means us humans require to move that fast when these incredible animals do it on their own.

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  2. Ian Stewart says:

    I am fascinated by the way the cheetah’s legs often move forward together, but are placed separately, and not always left or right first. Both front and back legs!. How does it know where to do that, while never leaving sight of the goal? Also, the back legs always land somewhere far forward of where the front legs left the ground, a bit like Phelps’ hand leaving the water further forward than where it entered?

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