Smooth Moves

Train as hard as you want, but until you've tapped the secrets of top-notch form you'll be all go and no flow

Aug 1, 2001
Outside Magazine

In the water, think long, think narrow. The keys to a more efficient freestyle stroke are to let yourself sink horizontally just below the waterline    Photo: Dennis O' Clair

TECHNIQUE IS not so much a dying art as it is a rotting corpse. This seems especially true in the notoriously individualistic, hard-charging world of outdoor sports, where "Just Do It" is our motto, not "Just Do It Right." Let the Romanian gymnasts obsess over good form. It's not something Shaun Palmer worries about; he just goes out there and rips it, right? Not exactly. "Culturally, people have bought into the idea that sports are about physical effort, to the exclusion of everything else," says New Paltz, New York­based swim coach Terry Laughlin. "But if you talk to an Olympic swimmer after a big win, they don't talk about enduring the pain. For them it was about being in a flow state where things came easy. If you believe that, you should work toward finding flow rather than enduring pain."

Good technique, it turns out, is the gateway to flow, and not just for swimming. Form becomes especially important as you--masters swimmer, age-group bike racer, middle-of-the-pack marathoner--find your training time more precious and fitness gains more elusive. Getting better by economizing movements (the way, say, John Stockton one-hands a pass straight off the dribble) is all about the connection between effort and flow. And there isn't an athlete alive who couldn't use less of the former and more of the latter.
To help you along the path to this biomechanical nirvana, on the following pages we present the secrets of flawless form in swimming, road biking, mountain biking, and running. We also provide some simple drills to help nail down proper form, courtesy of the world's technique gurus--Olympic runner Jeff Galloway, pool pro Terry Laughlin, road-cycling and sports-medicine expert Andy Pruitt, and Olympic mountain biker Anne Trombley. We won't punish you if you ignore their wisdom--but your competition will.