Sunday, October 25, 2009

Here We Go Again - Time vs. Effort

It is the beginning of the competitive swim season and all across the country, indeed the world, swimmers and their coaches are hitting the first couple of meets to see what is going on.

So, what do we see? What exactly is going on?

Coaches see swimmers doing the following:
1 - Attempting new techniques
2 - Struggling with new techniques
3 - Doing the same old routines
4 - Being dissatisfied with results
5 - Wondering if they are in shape
6 - Wondering if they are out of shape
7 - Asking familiar questions
8 - Asking new questions
9 - Eagerly trying new racing strategies
10 - Frustrated by results when using new racing strategies

You can see this list is nearly endless, or so it seems to us.

What is very clear to us however is that to improve upon previous performances, swimmers must look to gain new insights to swim more effectively. If you want to swim faster you must embrace change...and know what to change and what to keep the same but do more efficiently or effectively. The difference between these two is a subject for another time.

Today we want to reinforce the need to look at the difference between times achieved when racing and the effort or improvement achieved when racing. Our sport is wonderful in that we require zero subjective input – namely, no judge determines the outcome of a race based upon how we look while we swim. The clock tells the story, period. And this is often the bane of our existence, especially as coaches. Extended improvement occurs when new skills are learned. For the sake of simplicity we will say today that those skills fall into two categories: technique and pacing.

When you race using a different technique you are challenging your brain enormously. Old habits are tough to overcome. When you race using a different pacing strategy you are challenging your brain enormously. Old habits are tough to overcome.

No, you didn’t read that incorrectly. The brain and its wiring are extremely powerful in regards to how we swim and how we race. The same old strategies and techniques that yielded the same old results make it challenging to make change.

This is the same for all swimmers, from the slowest to the fastest. When you think of the fastest swimmers in the world they too must continually challenge their preciously held beliefs about what works and what doesn’t.

The message today is that while you are working on change focus on your effort. Time improvements occur when more effective technique blends with more efficient pacing strategies. Those two items require time for the brain to make the change and for you to become comfortable with that change.

For now, focus on improvement and let the time take care of itself. When we were in sophomore history looking at the clock, waiting for the period to end, the teacher remarked, “Time will pass, will you?”

Enough said. Enjoy your week at the pool! Let us know how it goes.

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