Swimming as a Lifelong Student
by Terry Laughlin

Posted on May 14th, 2011

Of all the things studied by social scientists or economists, the least ambiguous may be the relationship between education and income, The relationship is so strong that you can practically draw a rising diagonal line through the points on a graph in which education is the Y axis and lifetime income the X axis. Social science rarely produces results this clean. So what does this have to do with swimming? Income is the measure of a person’s economic activity. Improvement is the measure of a person’s physical activity. No physical activity poses a greater number of consequential and challenging questions than swimming. Indeed every lap can be the occasion for more. Questions like:

  • Am I tired because I’m out of shape or because I waste energy?
  • Why am I getting out of breath?
  • How often (or how far) should I swim?
  • What’s the right stroke count?
  • What will happen if I swim intervals instead of continuously?

The key to success, to pursuing understanding, is the Passionate Curiosity, I described in my last post. How can you satisfy your curiosity? Two ways: (1) Reliable Information Source; or (2) Direct Experience.

Reliable Information Sources
are best for learning Core Principles that help you answer many other questions with a narrower focus. Core Principles include:

Human Swimmers are energy-wasting machines, converting only 3% to 9% of energy and horsepower into locomotion.

The fastest and most significant way to reduce energy waste is to Balance and Streamline.

Practicing struggling skills simply makes them more durable.

Velocity equals Stroke Length times Stroke Rate.

When you learn a Core Principle – or any piece of advice – subject it to a test of logic. Two good, free Information Sources are this blog, the mission of which is to empower swimmers with understanding, and the TI Discussion Forum, which is a Learning Community where people like you share thoughtful interpretations of Core Principles and lessons drawn from their Direct Experience.

Direct Experience is best for converting concepts into effective action. Learning through experience is the opposite of rote repetition. Rather it requires:

  1. Being actively involved in the experience;
  2. Setting up a feedback loop or means of measuring;
  3. Reflecting on the experience and using analytical skills to conceptualize it;
  4. Applying decision-making and problem-solving skills to test and apply insights gained; and
  5. Sharing those insights with others who will use critical thinking to examine and extend your individual experience.

Be a Passionately Curious Student of Swimming for life.

5 Responses to “Swimming as a Lifelong Student”

  1. Deb Brudvig says:

    My current fun/curiosity is using the Tempo Trainer. At the Free 3 workshop I became instantly addicted and fascinated by it. I like the concrete feedback and playing with a new constant while working on technique. It’s not just stroke count but stroke count in tempo. If I can tell an extra stroke is coming on I can think–drop your head–or, be patient–or, long to the toes–and I get results I can measure. This week I was working on some sighting while hanging on to patient hands. More complexities to circle around…back up, slow down rotate through focus point, go again. The process is gratifying and smile inducing.

  2. I love this description of practice. >>This week I was working on some sighting while hanging on to patient hands. More complexities to circle around…back up, slow down rotate through focus point, go again. >>

  3. chris says:

    Terry, thank you for sharing your passion. This blog is such a wonderful place to learn life lessons. Whenever I visit, I learn something that I can take with me even out of the water. I especially like short sayings. They are memorable and carry the whole lesson in just a few words.

    I feel so well supported by your work. Thank you!


  4. Luis says:

    Hello Terry,

    I really enjoy your posts and I’m a faithful follower of your teachings. Long live TI!
    Question: Is there an “open water swim watch” you would recommend? I’m looking for something that can interface w/ a Mac, and display a map w/ the route, distance, and speed.

    I tried the GARMIN Forerunner xt 310 (US$ 375.00 !!!) w/ no luck. The satellite signal is interrupted when the watch under water, rendering it non-practical for OW swims. Also, the heart-rate monitor does not function unless the watch is almost touching the strap-held transponder…

    If you have come across any product that worked for you, please let me know.

  5. The Finis Swimsense might work – for recording stroke count and rate. No GPS function though.

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