first water, subtlety

There’s a subtlety to good technique. Some training sessions are devoted entirely to technique, to developing the form in which you swim, run, lift, or otherwise contest your sport. For points-based sports like gymnastics or diving, I don’t know; but for those scored on indisputable metrics, such as time or distance, there is the concept of proper form, there in most cases to optimize the contestants’ speed, efficiency or power. And most athletes will do best to implement at least a variation of this concept.

Athletes of every echelon of all sports benefit from continually practiced technique, though no doubt new practitioners focus here more heavily. And while the importance of such training for all athletes is seldom argued, the serious athlete should recognize when his thoughts are to be consumed by form development. For a boxer, that time is not in the ring on fight night. Nor is it appropriate for a swimmer to be distracted by technique before taking her mark on the starting block. It is at these moments the athlete should be in a mental state that will allow her to exert a maximum effort, leaving nothing in the pool or the ring or on the track that could have bettered the performance. I try to think about that sometimes when I’m swimming in the morning. Sometimes I imagine how I would feel next to an athlete in a race, how my effort would intensify and how that would affect my form. Any change to my technique near race intensity would have to be done smoothly so that my time would not suffer. I really need to focus on moving forward, directing all movement in that effort, not on some new detail of my stroke. Any change to my form would have to be subtle. I’ve swam long enough that I instinctively swim in basically good form. Most of the recent change to my stroke has happened subconsciously, from my body naturally becoming efficient mechanically and physiologically.

Swimmers maybe appreciate more than other athletes the importance of subtlety. Humans do not intuitively perform well in the water and the skill can not be rushed. It is only after many miles over many sessions that a swimmer will start to look comfortable in the pool. I swam almost 80 miles this summer but I’m amazed how much more efficient competitive swimmers look. They’ve adapted their technique, sometimes consciously but, I suspect, mostly in subtle ways they are unaware of. For highly developed athletes technique would have to be second nature, so they clear their minds of any such distractions, dealing instead with the psychological impact of physical exertion near human potential. To them, any conscious effort to adjust technique would be very subtle.

da numbers:

  • 150m easy free
  • 1000m free
    • time: 18:30
  • 3 x 50m free
  • 200m fly kick
  • 100m catch-up drill

total distance: 1600m

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