Video: Swimming for ‘Epic Experience’
by Terry Laughlin

Posted on September 29th, 2013

Last week during TI OW camp on the Mediterranean, in Ciralu Turkey, Coach Mat Hudson posted this on his Facebook wall: “Johnny Widen  [a TI coach from Sweden] asked if I keep my mind completely consumed with stroke counting and focal points like Terry Laughlin does.”

Mat and Johnny in Ciralu

Mat and Johnny in Ciralu

While keeping track of ‘metrics that matter’ is a core principle of Kaizen practice, I quite often swim mainly to embed epic and enduring memories which helps stoke my all-consuming passion for swimming. The past month is a perfect example.

From June thru August, I used the 200y line at Lake Minnewaska to pursue measurable improvements in time, pace, Stroke Length and Stroke Rate. (See Enjoyment Meets Improvement.)  All summer, my measurable improvement focus produced both a sense of mission and Flow States. [Click here to read the  series of thrilling breakthroughs I recorded this summer at Minnewaska, ]

But starting with my final Minnewaska swim (the course closes for the season at 7pm on Labor day), I shifted course. That evening, I swam purely to have an immersive experience, as described in the accompanying video. 

I swam for 45 minutes as dusk fell, trying to soak in the beauty of my surroundings, to create  memories of the beauty around me to last through months of swimming indoors. But I wasn’t yet done with the great outdoors.

Two days later, I began swimming at Lake Awosting, where I’ve since swum 3 to 4 times a week since. In place of the 200y line is a mile of uninterrupted swimming–and hard-to-describe natural beauty.

The western end of my 'mile of beauty' -- with the blue dome overhead.

The western end of my ‘mile of beauty’ — with the blue dome overhead.

What do I do instead of tracking stroke count, tempo or pace?

1. I always have a Focal Point. For weeks, I’ve been immersed in feeling  armstroke and 2-beat kick are connected through the core–which has become a force-coupler and force-multiplier feeding effortless power from one to the other and back.

The great advantage of continuing uninterrupted for 30 minutes (going west, then after a brief break, repeat going back east) is when I feel I’ve achieved  a state of silky synchronicity in my stroke I can continue imprinting what produced it for nearly 2000 strokes.

2. I take in the visual delights of uninterrupted green (now dappling with reds, yellows and oranges of fall) on the shoreline or the brilliant blue dome of sky with every breath. Or the halo effect produced by rays of sunlight piercing the depths below.

3. I enjoy the contrast of warm sun on my exposed back with the bracing cold of the water (62F/16C yesterday) on the immersed parts.

Dave clicks a selfie at Awosting Sept 28

Dave clicks a selfie at Awosting Sept 28

4. When I’m fortunate to have a companion, Willie Miller or Dave Barra, I synchronize strokes–and sometimes race–with them. Several people who have seen us from  shore have commented on how much pleasure it brought to  watch the manmade beauty of graceful and synchronous movement in the midst of natural beauty.

East end of Awosting w/Willie Sept 18

East end of Awosting w/Willie Sept 18

‘Rehearsing’ for the Experience of a Lifetime

So, for the last four weeks (and probably for the rest of 2013) my swimming has emphatically shifted from ’empirical’ to experiential. The empirical appeals to an analytical part of my brain, the experiential–as well as creating beauty in the midst of beauty–to a more artistic part.  

In a sense, i’ve also been rehearsing for my next big swim.

In  10 days, I’ll swim across Gibraltar Strait  from Tarifa Spain to Almanza or Cires, Morocco with TI colleagues Lennart Larsson of Sweden and Tommi Patilla of Finland.  This swim will be an experience of a lifetime, shared among good friends–not a test of endurance (though it could take over 5 hours to complete) or speed.

And we fully intend to make our Gibraltar swim historic in one sense–the first intercontinental swim done entirely with synchronized strokes.

And there’s one more thing: When I swim for pure quality of experience, giving little attention to distance or pace, I feel as if I’m practicing for the kind of swimming I’m likely to do more and more as I age, as quality of life replaces the quest for physical attainment.

[youtuber youtube=’’]

Related reading: Creating Beauty (getting speed in return)

Join us at a TI Open Water Camp.

Outside the Box DVD and Ebook: A TI Program for Success in Open Water


11 Responses to “Video: Swimming for ‘Epic Experience’”

  1. todd says:

    where is lake minnewaska located? i’m in MN, but that doesnt look like a central minnesota shoreline to me.

  2. New Paltz NY in the Shawangunk Mtns — actually a ridge, nor formally mtns. One of a chain of lakes atop the ridge called the Sky Lakes.

  3. Roland Isnor says:

    Question: Is there a website or directory set up to identify lakes that are open-water swimmer friendly? Given boaters and fishermen, most lakes are not set up to accommodate open-water swimmers. Thanks for the info, if it exists.

  4. Roland
    Good question. I know there’s a swimmers’ guide for pools, but I’m not aware of one for open water venues. I will start a project on the TI web site to create a wiki-like guide that answers such questions about OW locales.

  5. edo says:

    question: is there any tips for identify a lakes is save for swimming?

  6. No powered watercraft is a good start. I’m fortunate that Minnewaska and Awosting permit only swimmers and paddlers.

  7. Alex says:

    I am new to TI but have been a swimmer for many years. I recently moved to one of the most beautiful lakes in the world and invite you to check out Laguna Bacalar, MX. It is in southern Yucatan, fresh water which is spring fed. It is a perfect year round open water swim vacation destination. I have lots of pictures on my FB page

  8. Alex – How far from Merida is Laguna Bacalar?

  9. Cristina says:

    Can´t wait to hear about your Gibraltar adventure. There are very strong currents in the Strait. I live an hour away from Tarifa so I´m very curious and excited about your quest.
    By the way thanks for sharing your TI experiences, I´m trying to get started in TI courses but it´s a challenge in Spain.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.