The first objective I have in swim practice is to bring my body and my mind into the water. The next objective is to bring my mind into my body. The third objective is to bring all my internal systems online and into a unified, cooperative state for higher performance. Then I am ready to work for the day.
If I cannot achieve this unified state within the normal time frame it usually indicates that I am fighting an illness and need to get out to rest for the day. Or it may be that I should remain in this Tune-Up process longer.
Silent Swimming is a very useful activity in Tune- Up (a.k.a. Warm Up) for accomplishing these objectives.
I recommend at least 8 minutes for this. 12 minutes is ideal for myself.
Basically, the task is to produce as little noise, splash, bubbles (= lowest turbulence) as possible. It is not about moving slow, but rather it is about moving gently and that usually compels us to start slow and wait for the systems to unify and tell us when its time to turn things up. This is based on the premise that our bodies really do want to work hard and perform at highest capacity. The body has inbuilt wisdom for how to get there each day and a signal language through which it communicates that wisdom. We need to learn how to read those signals and respond cooperatively.
Silent Swimming is an exercise, or more so a discipline, in listening and responding to those signals.
In Silent Swimming you may start out gently and increase tempo as you feel your body relaxing, the joints loosening up, the tissues starting to slide and yield to a full range of motion. Blood will migrant to the areas of your body that need to work. Heart rate and respiration will increase and come into a working rhythm. Your attention to your nervous system and especially to the surface of your skin will awaken and focus. Energy production will turn up and urge you to use it.
As you start, it is helpful to walk through a scan of each body section and check for alignment:
- Head and Spine
- Shoulders and Arms
- Hips and Legs
You can use focal points from your training in each of these sections of the body. First scan for internal tension and tight spots, for parts working disproportionately. Then see how each part interacts with the water flowing past.
By paying attention to the feedback from the water – noise, splash, bubbles – you will be gaining insight on how your body position and level of relaxation either increases turbulence or reduces it. A silent swimmer is a smoother swimmer. A smooth swimmer is a relaxed swimmer. A relaxed swimmer is an aligned swimmer. Without alignment, a chain-reaction begins: internal tension > restricted movement > disconnection from (working against) the water > turbulence > noise > wasting energy.
What will happen is that once your mind comes into your body – like pilots coming into the cockpit and going through the pre-flight check and engine warm-up – and all your internal systems wake up, connect and start working together, you’ll feel yourself pulled pleasurably into an increase in intensity.
And once your body tells you it wants to start adding more intensity, you will insist on taking that relaxed, smooth, unified sensation with you all the way. Even as you start to take brisk or powerful strokes the approach you will take should be much more like ‘cutting butter’ than ‘pounding meat’.
Your discipline to do this process at the beginning of each swim will enhance your piloting awareness and skills tremendously. Sensitivity to your internal state will be connected to the effects on the water outside your body – you will be in position to improve this internal state and thus in position to improve the external impact of your stroke more than ever. Now you are in position to really pilot your vessel for smooth sailing, at higher speeds and in wilder conditions.
Note: I acknowledge that this may require you to be secure in your own plans, to ignore what others are doing around you (as long as you are not obstructing them) and resist external pressures to serve someone’s agenda for you. Be loyal to your own internal state. People may see you come in, look serious and focused, expect you to jump in a go like a hotshot, then see you start out so slow and gentle and be surprised. Let them own their own ignorance and misguided judgment. A wise person will suspend judgment, and ask inquisitive questions if they really want to know why you do what you do. You can immediately tell the difference – insecure people immediately want to fix you, to change you because you make them feel uncomfortable. In contrast, secure, wise people will first want to learn from someone doing something deliberate and different. If you believe in the process you follow, be secure in it and let others learn from your example of self-leadership.
By the way, Silent Swimming is also a perfect cool down activity as well. And, you can do it with all four stroke styles. The same objectives and skills apply.
Swim on… as silently as possible!