Continuing on with the topic of Challenging Normal, I’ll share a simple example of how even I, a swimmer quite focused on the details of my body and each movement, can develop a ‘blind-spot’, and greatly benefit from some outside feedback…

In Krakow a couple weeks ago while warming up in the hot tub after a long teaching session in the pool Ricardo, our new TI Coach from Canary Islands, was sharing an idea about how to return his feet to streamline position in each 2-beat kick cycle. We discussed the mechanics of it then decided to jump back in the pool and test it out. As an example I swam ahead of him and showed him my kick, which I felt was quite compact and likely demonstrated his idea… but of course, I am not able to see my kick while swimming, and I admitted as much. And to my surprise, Ricardo noticed that I was in fact holding my leg just a bit lower than I needed to after the toe flick- which in effect was creating a little extra drag on each kick cycle.

I had assumed my kick was ‘fine’ and had let it relax into something so normal that I had lost sensitivity to the way water was flowing around my legs at this point. But just that observation by another coach was enough to jolt me out of the rut and get me focused on reformatting the kick pattern. For the weeks since I have become very conscious of what the water feels like against my foot and have been making adjustments to reduce the sense of drag. And I am putting Ricardo’s good idea into practice.

This brings up another thing: trust. We need to both trust our own body and to trust sources outside of ourselves to help us improve. They are both critical to our improvement. We want to train ourselves to have a very high awareness of body-wisdom and emotional wisdom so we can make good decisions (and trust ourselves to make good decisions) while we are out there on our big swims. After all, the act of swimming is ultimately a solitary endeavor. But our preparations for big swims are not. We need to recognize and access good sources of feedback and insight to show us what we can’t easily see for ourselves. We need to recognize what each member of our ‘team’- each person we ask and each tool we use- has to offer and trust each to deliver that for our well-being and progress.

We gather insight and wisdom from various swimmers or coaches who specialize in certain kinds of knowledge and experience. As well, we learn to use the measurement tools we have access to (besides only the watch)- stroke counting, heart rate and perceived effort, breathing rate, Tempo Trainer, video cameras, internet videos, even the lines painted on the bottom of the pool, etc. Once we understand how they work and how they can be used, they can become a valuable part of our trusted team.

Maintaining the attitude of a Learner is a key to our progress. And a Learner needs to trust others at some point. Certainly, the more we access certain people for their knowledge and the more familiar we become with certain tools the more we will know in what ways we can trust them and how much- we’re building a team afterall, not a religion. It’s ok to measure out our trust- actually we could say it is a personal responsibility to dispense it carefully. A Learner is open-minded, AND a critical-thinker.

Our progress in swimming is also going to go much better with some deeper understanding and trust in the way the body and brain learn new skills and make improvements. Having even a basic understanding of swimming physics, physiology and neurobiology will enable us to trust the learning process we need to go through in order to make our greatest improvments. This will be the topic of the next essay…

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