If you are reading this blog, most likely you are interested in improving your swimming skill, whether you are a fitness, competitive or adventure swimmer. So, you don’t really need to be convinced of this further.
But, like me, you certainly notice the majority of people at your local pool who are swimming day after day, with no apparent improvement, nor focus on improvement. Just laps with some variety to it or none. Many of those people may give the impression that they are there to just improve their fitness, to lose weight, to move in water where exercise on land is too painful or dangerous. And those are all good reasons to be in the water.
What would you say to them to make them interested in changing their focus for swimming from doing laps to building skill?
If a person simply feels the need to swim in order to burn calories, to build muscle, to pump blood through the system, and it takes an hour do to that each day – why should they care about swimming better if what they do already is getting that job done?
Well, here is an argument we can make…
The goal of gaining fitness from swimming is going to take time. It’s going to take a lot of yards/meters each day, and done most days of the week. And it needs to stay consistent part of your lifestyle over the years.
In order to have the best chance of remaining a frequent, consistent part of your lifestyle through the ups-and-downs the activity needs to be as attractive as possible to the body and brain. The more pleasure (physical and/or mental), the more reward that is experienced in the act of exercise, the more it will create a positive addiction to the activity. (Habit forming, or re-forming and positive triggers are discussed more in Charles Duhigg’s book The Power Of Habit).
The case for enjoyment-based exercise has a growing mountain of scientific support behind it – make it enjoyable (at whatever intensity level) and it will be easier to stick with it. The books Spark by John J. Ratey MD and his website Sparking Life is a good place to start studying further.
So, how to make swimming more enjoyable so one can stick with it over the years?
The TI recommendation: Expand understanding. Solve puzzles. Build skill. Increase focus. Teach it to others.
Expand understanding for How Swimming Works, How Improvement Works, and How Speed Happens. This is what Total Immersion and Head Coach Terry Laughlin are dedicated to.
Based on that new understanding set up improvement puzzles. Work on the skills that allow you to solve those puzzles.
Increase sensitivity to improvement by increasing focus on parts of the body and mind you can control. Strengthened attention is the way of reducing stress and increasing rejuvenation through exercise.
And, super-charge that understanding, that skill, that attention by teaching to others what you are learning yourself.
A skill-oriented swimmer will be far more attracted to swimming every day because swimming is far more enjoyable when there is something new to discover and achieve each day in the pool. And that enjoyment, let alone the obvious improving swimming skill, is attractive to others, drawing their curiosity, which opens the door to share and teach.
If you want to enjoy exercise and want to exercise even more in order to accelerate fitness gains, the key to momentum and sustainability is tremendous enjoyment of the training.
And the path is a well-designed skill-improvement process. This will trigger enjoyment in the human brain, where mindless repetition of calorie-burning motions will not.