Swimming you'll love
No matter why you swim - be it endurance, fitness, speed, recreation - your improvement and overall satisfaction will be far greater if you approach swimming as a game of skill rather than test of endurance.
I believe swimming is both an essential life skill and a way to enjoy physical and mental health throughout our whole life. My mission is to help people of all ages and abilities achieve meaningful goals through smart, effective, satisfying practice.
"I’ve swum mostly for the sheer pleasure of it. If it’s not fun, why do it? . . . What I want most is to feel engaged in body, mind, spirit — that there’s nothing I’d rather be doing — and to leave the pool counting the hours until I can swim again. " Terry Laughlin, founder of Total Immersion
I can promise that you’ll experience the following:
Feel better physically
- Feel you’re working with the water
- Finish each swim feeling refreshed and energized
- Over the long term, feel fit, strong, and supple--and avoid injury
Feel better about yourself
- Have a stroke you’re proud of, and which others compliment
- Set any reasonable goal, and feel confident of reaching it
- Swim better every year . . . for life!
- Make swimming the best part of any day
I believe in three principles:
Principle 1: Swimming Is a Skill
Good swimming is a skill that is completely against our instincts.
To swim well, we need to do practically everything the other way around than our instincts tell us - to lie down on the water, relax, submerge our head, calm our arm and leg movements.
Many swimmers and coaches are unaware of the absolutely crucial fact:
We swim in and through the water
Yes, I mean it. I understand that it is clear to everyone that swimming takes place in water. But water is very different from the air we are constantly moving in and through:
- Water is about 900 times denser than air. When we move through it, it creates a lot of resistance (drag).
- We can't lean on water. Although it is so dense, it is not solid enough for us to lean on (such as the ground).
- We cannot breathe in water. Life-giving air is above the surface and must be reached in time.
All this causes uncertainty and sometimes panic. That's why I always first focus on making swimmers feel safe and comfortable in the water. To gradually learn to relax and find out how their body behaves naturally in water. To experience lightness and buoyancy in the water. Some of them for the very first time, even though they have been swimming for years.
Comfort and confidence in the water is the foundation which my entire swimming education system is built on. Skills that are easy to master and that will completely change your swimming.
Water resistance (drag) is the largest factor limiting how far or fast we swim. Fish and aquatic mammals are naturally streamlined. For human swimmers it’s a learned skill.
We minimize drag by teaching these skills:
- Shape Your ‘Vessel.’ This step is inspired both by the streamlined shape of fish and aquatic mammals and by the principles naval architects use in shaping vessels to minimize pressure drag. Apply it to the human form by extending your body—head, limbs and torso--into a long, slippery shape. Mindfully strive to minimize deviation from this shape as you stroke and breathe.
- Don’t Make Waves. Minimize Wave Drag by striving trying to minimize wavemaking, bubbles, splash, and even noise. All are evidence of energy being diverted from locomotion into moving the water around. The farther and faster you swim, the bigger the payoff from doing so with quiet strokes.
In traditional technique, the arms and legs do all the work, while the core body is passive baggage. We invert that dynamic initiating all movement, power, and rhythm in the core—the most naturally powerful and fatigue-resistant part of the body.
You will learn to carefully integrate the movements of the head, arms, and legs with rhythms initiated in the core. Power originates in the core and flows to the arms and legs. The better that integration, the less work it takes to swim farther and faster.
Principle 2: Seek Continuous Improvement
Did you know that the average swimmer uses only 3% of his energy to move forward?
Because our inherent efficiency is so low to start with, our potential to improve it is limitless and lifelong. Thus, your foremost intention for each practice or swim should be to improve your swimming.
Before each practice, identify an improvement opportunity, choose the means by which you can achieve it, and how you’ll measure improvement. Afterward, assess how you improved, what you learned . . . and how eagerly you anticipate your next practice.
I would like to see that you are not only improving steadily, but also enjoying it more than ever. I believe in the pursuit of pleasure, rather than pain.
Most adult swimmers have become resigned to swimming year after year with little to show for it. Your goal should be Kaizen (continuous improvement) Swimming.
I still make exciting advances every year, and still sense almost limitless possibilities for further improvement. The refinements I’m making are fairly subtle, but my capacity for fine distinctions in position and timing has increased steadily. My current focus is on greater relaxation, especially when swimming faster.
Your goal in every pool session is to improve your swimming – not to complete a certain number of meters or raise your heart rate or any of the traditional goals.
Principle 3: Swimming As a Movement Meditation
The most effective way to draw your mind into a calm state is through meditation. For those of us who live the multi-tasking life so typical of modern western society, meditation is very difficult.
Of all the forms of practice and training that I have tried, sitting meditation is the most challenging. Meditation is a practice of disengaging the mind from it’s incessant commentary of judgments, opinions, desires and aversions. This disengagement assures a calm, attentive and curious mental state – what practitioners call beginner’s mind.
I am able to approach most of my athletic training sessions with a beginner’s mind – yet I rarely practice sitting meditation. So can you! I use moving meditation to find and control the volume of my little voice. In fact, swim training – or any form of endurance training – provides you with a great opportunity to gain proficiency at volume control through moving meditation.
How to enter meditative state
- Become passionately curious. Swimming is the most complex, challenging and non-instinctive of all physical skills. This is because it’s an aquatic skill, while humans are terrestrial mammals. If you tirelessly seek to expand your knowledge and understanding, you’ll enjoy swimming much more, make steadier progress, and be able to have great confidence in your choices.
- Love the “plateau.” This will become more important a few months to a year after you start practicing, as the improvements take longer to achieve. You’ll spend weeks, and eventually months, practicing without being conscious of any improvement. During these times, maintain faith that change IS taking place — at the level of neurons. After a period of time that change will consolidate and produce a thrilling forward leap.
- Practice is its own reward. Whatever goals have motivated you to begin swimming, strive to progress to a point where those external goals — while remaining sources of motivation — essentially become beside the point. The motivation that brings you to the pool day after day, year after year, decade after decade is the knowledge that your practice is the high point of your day, it leaves you energized mentally and physically for everything else you do, and–over time–produces enduring positive change in body, mind and spirit.
Train for Life
In summary it is much more about your brain than your body.
Following these efficiency-oriented principles will greatly improve your chances of achieving your endurance, speed or performance goals. You’ll also finish every swim feeling energized--in body and mind—ready to give your best to the rest of your day.
And finally, by converting swim training from a lap grind to a problem-solving exercise (solving the Three Percent Problem), you’ll develop thinking and learning habits you can apply to anything.