by, February 27th, 2009 at 11:23 AM (4089 Views)
At this morning's practice, I usually do a fixed set - 500 warm-up and then, because it is Friday, I do 50 (or close to 50) x 50 - just because it is Friday and it's kind of fun. I'm usually really beaten down by Friday and need a day off to recover. So I was expecting to have to struggle with the interval.
But this morning was a pleasant surprise. I really felt tired and sore during the warm-up, but once I got into the sets, I discovered the joy of "swinging your arms" and "rhythmically rolling your body". Instead of forcing and struggling, I used momentum to leverage my way into some decent times. All with out really elevating my heart rate.
Swimming is really a zen sport - the harder you try, the slower you go. Try, but try less, release the mind, suppress the inner critic, and enjoy or embrace the rhythm.
I'm reminded of the word Kaizen - which is the art and philosophy of making small, repeated improvements so that over time, you make a big systemic improvement. The concept comes from the Japanese version of quality control (Denning, six sigma, etc). As a philosophy, one can apply it to all aspects of life. I've been trying it in an effort to improve my stroke technique. I've been working on the stroke technique advice that my nephew gave me - swimming lots of long slow, focused sets (4 x 400 at a low or moderate heart rate). It's really hard to do, but if I continue to use the old stroke with it's flaws, I know that I can't go any faster. The only way to go faster is to 1) minimize resistances and 2) maximize proplusion - both via more efficient, but absolutely weirdly feeling motions. It takes a lot of mental discipline to repeat these motions over the course of these long (and boring) swim sets and my hope is that they will become ingrained in "muscle memory" so that I don't have to think "do this or do that" when it comes time to swim fast.
In this morning's practice, I finally felt the first emergence of a better stroke via momentum swimming. It was satisfying to have the relative effort positively connected with a time (performance).