Do you know what its like to spend energy of one kind in order to gain energy of another kind? 

That’s what it usually feels like for me when I go swim. It doesn’t have to be ‘easy’ swimming either. Most often I train quite strenuously, challenging select parts of my performance system. I just like it this way. I may leave the pool quite tired, but only in certain ways, because I leave refreshed in others. That’s the amazing trade off that has keeps going for years. Once I learned how to consistently make that kind of conversion, swimming quit being a chore I had to do to ‘stay in shape’ and became something that rewards me in the act of doing it, and provides a long lasting afterglow. 

This is not a reward that comes only after enduring a hard, unpleasant practice, feeling the pumped muscles and pride of voluntarily suffering what others won’t (which is rather fleeting and shallow anyway). I can feel the conversion of energy happening in the act of swimming. Physically, I feel cleaner. Mentally, I feel refreshed. Emotionally, I feel strengthened. Even on a rough day I may go in heavy, I feel it giving me something more than I had coming in. It doesn’t make my problem go away, but it does give me more energy to face it. 

It is wired into my implicit memory now. I have a strong positive association. Even when really down, if I can just get to the water for just 30 minutes this kind of practice will help me feel a bit stronger, it can help me keep going. 

I also feel the same eager anticipation when going out on my long training runs, and those leave me far more tired than swimming. A big part of my motivation for engaging in ultra-distance training is to take what I do in the water and work on applying it to what I do on the land, which is harder on the body. The conversion is a bit less efficient than in the water because the equivalent work in running imposes more pounding on the body, despite my great attention to stress-reducing technique. That wear on the body takes up additional resources for recovery and extend it. But nonetheless, mentally and emotionally, I feel so much better in the act of hard or long running and afterward. I look forward to improving my ‘energy conversion’ skill on longer and longer runs. 

This has a great deal to do with paying careful attention. It has a great deal to do with careful technique – making things work more smoothly, with better synchronization and consistency. It has a great deal to do with an attitude that assumes a cooperative relationship with the mind, the whole body, the water and the natural forces I work with.  

I hope you too are tapping into this wonderful conversion, where your practice allows you to spend energy of one kind to gain energy of another kind, for a more positive and pleasing trade off. 

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