I will pull this quote from my previous essay because I want to elaborate a little more…
As swimmers we need to realize that what happens inside the body is far more important than what we see happening on the outside. The outside of the swimmer is a product of what has occurred on the inside… or lack of what has occurred there.
The folly of my first 13 years of swimming (and a few years of triathlons in there until I got irreparably injured) was that I was continually using my tolerance for pain (my pride and pleasure in it, actually) and hard work in the attempt to drive performance into my body, from the outside in. “I”, or my ‘will-power’, acted upon my body to make it do things I thought it didn’t want to do but needed to in order to get faster.
But this was the great folly. I mistook the pain and stress I felt inside as a lazy body’s resistance to work hard. But what I see now is that my body was actually in agreement with my goal. Instead it was resisting my destructive ways of going about it.
Keep in mind a couple things about injury:
1) Injury is not an accident – it is a warning.
It is the body’s way of shutting you down to give you a chance to get smarter about doing what you are trying to do. If you don’t get the message and get smart, it will shut you down for good.
2) Injury happens not only to the physical body, but to the mind also – and possibly much more often.
If your mind or your body doesn’t want to get out of bed to do that next workout – guess what? Something is wrong. You’ve injured your mind, or possibly even your spirit.
I often define spirituality as ‘the capacity for healthy relationship’. Your body is something you must have a healthy relationship with. You must communicate with it and take good care of it and it will take good care of you. If your mind doesn’t agree within itself, or your mind and your body don’t agree, something is wrong in the relationship.
The Tune-Up time (formerly known as the Warm-Up) is all about bringing your body and your mind into the pool, and then about bringing your mind into your body, and then getting those two to hook up and get ready to work in complete harmony with one another toward the common goal. You can’t have a jockey and a horse with two different ideas and agendas. You can’t go far in your improvement with a mind that’s tuned out of the body and tuned out of the pool. The brain is your info and energy controller. Your mind is the conscious awareness of and influence upon that brain and thereby the body. Letting your mind go is like letting the pilot leave the aircraft cabin on takeoff or landing.
More than feeling how the water is flowing around the body, more than feeling the right kick or catch, go further in to just feel how you direct energy through the body to move your arm forward, how you move the core of your body from the center as you rotate with the arm. Tune in to your body so that it becomes completely connected to itself and working as one unit. Then you will be in position to tune in to the water and work in complete harmony with it also.
It’s your passion (passion means ‘to suffer’, by the way) for holding onto this inner awareness that will pave the way for your improvement and your highest performance. It is the pathway that removes injury to both the body and the mind. Be willing to forsake ‘hard work’ of the workout, and pick up the hard-work of rebuilding relationship with your own body whenever you lose touch with swimming from the inside. Do whatever is necessary to get it back and don’t try to go forward until you do.
I apologize for this sounding so ‘mystical’ but I am really working on putting this into concrete terms that you can recognize in your physiology, not just in your philosophy. This stuff really matters to your swimming, whether you like to think abstract and inward or not. I spend as much time helping swimmers build, or rebuild, their relationship with their body as actually building their stroke so I get the impression this is a common need.
Just remember this: ‘hard-work’ + ‘swimming from the outside’ is the equation for injury and burn-out, while ‘hard-work’ + ‘swimming from the inside’ is the equation for FLOW State and your peak performance.