Has a Swim Coach ever suggested you Smile?
by Terry Laughlin

Posted on April 2nd, 2010

The last few days I’ve been taking vinyasa classes at YogaSwami in a yurt on Hwy 101 in Encinitas CA. At home in New Paltz I practice yoga regularly, but since coming to San Diego two months ago to train for upcoming swim marathons, I’d let my yoga practice lapse, partly because I’m swimming 20 to 25 miles a week, rather than my usual 10. But a brief back spasm after jumping off the boat to begin my Maui Channel swim on March 21, persuaded me to make time for yoga before the Tampa Bay Marathon on Apr 17.

My first time at the yurt, I noticed teacher Michelle smiling broadly for pretty much the whole 75 minutes. She also reminded us to smile when a pose felt difficult. If my arms complained about holding Down Dog longer than usual, a smile made it easier. This morning, as we faced the center of the yurt in “Warrior 1” teacher Roxanne told us to “Smile at whoever’s opposite you.” I already was, having started with an intention to keep smiling.

This gift of a smile is a lesson I’ve noticed several times in recent months. A few times while swimming at LaJolla Cove, cold temperatures, rough water — or swimming in the dark on a couple of pre-dawn swim starts  — have given me a tiny shiver of self-doubt or misgiving. But each time, as soon as I began I’d feel so good to be in open water, I would involuntarily smile and instantly know I was where I feel happiest.

When Dave Barra, Willie Miller and I swam Maui Channel 12 days ago, there were small craft warnings and signs in our hotel lobby warning guests not to enter rhe water because of “extreme surf.” I lay awake much of the night listening to waves crash thunderously on the beach, thinking about swimming 10 miles in that the next day.

From the start, every stroke was a struggle. It felt as if we were being tossed around nearly as much as we moved forward. But before long, it dawned on me: “I’m swimming with Dave and Willie!”  We’ve swum hundreds of hours together at Lakes Minnewaska and Awosting in New Paltz – as well as in the Bahamas and Hawaii – three abreast synchronizing strokes and simply enjoying one another’s company. As soon as I recalled the pleasure of swimming together I couldn’t help but smile. After we finished, my wife Alice told me she’d seen me smiling, from 20 or more yards away on the boat, each time I breathed to my left. When I began to smile – though conditions remained turbulent – I stopped struggling and enjoyed the next 9+ miles.

Yoga teachers are on to something powerful when they remind us to smile, but I’ve never had a swim coach tell me to smile. If you coach yourself, start a new habit next time you swim. In fact, even the thought of swimming should make you smile.

9 Responses to “Has a Swim Coach ever suggested you Smile?”

  1. Heidi says:

    Thanks Terry. This is fab. I had a horrible pool swim the other day (worried about kids, water aerobics women trying to kick me (really), water up the nose on several flip turns…) and I’m sure if I had just smiled I could have chilled out and continued the swim in peace instead of in pieces. I’ll remember that for today. Thanks!

  2. surfsalterpath says:

    yoga and swimming and biking seem to complement each other very nicely.
    Thanks for the smile tip and your experience. I will pass this on
    to our noontime lapswim group at da bubble!

  3. Swami says:

    Funny how things shake out, really.
    I was recovering from back surgery (splattered L4-L5 disc) and started swimming in my 15 yard community pool. My longtime skitouring rockclimbing buddy gave me Total Immersion book, and I started applying the principles to my stroke in the pool. When I got confident in my stroke I graduated to open water. Went to La Jolla Cove, and who do I see (day one) but Terry Laughlin coming up the stairs as I’m about to go in. Saw him the next weekend too. That’s not the funny part. The next weekend I went to Yoga Swamis and had the same “smile check” experience as he had, and a week or two later read this post.
    I swear; the craziest coincidences happen to me all the time.
    Last Sunday I was riding my bike from Carlsbad to Torrey Pines and back, and on the way home I was following a guy on a single speed thru Encinitas who was making great time. We had a brief chat at Leucadia Blvd, and a couple days later, (Tuesday) I was swimming around the O’side Pier for the first time ever, and afterward was just chilling out watching people, and Jeremy was doing a surf check, (the same guy who was on the single speed in Leucadia) recognized me and started chatting me up. Wierd huh?

  4. Rick Amira says:

    Very nice thoughts on swimming techniques–
    I also feel that working TOO hard may not be that
    beneficial, especially if you sacrifice technique—
    Many people who swim too hard will stop thinking when they swim—
    One should always focus on technique!!!

  5. Maryjane says:

    Yoga in general makes a great balance with swimming. I have been doing both for about 20 years and whenever I start having back trouble, I start doing more yoga. I do like the idea of ‘smiling more’. It is amazing what a smile does for us and for others around us.

  6. Herb Janecek says:

    Well, I do know and indirectly apply some yoga principles–eg breathing & relaxation–that can bring a smiile, when I do my regular floor stretchs on awakening & retiring in my bedroom..and at YMCA before lap swimming Tues & Thurs…and w/cardio-eliptical M-W-F.
    Commencing my 880 yd lap swim w/a combination of yoga breating and the Psalm,” ..on my soul be still and at rest in God along from whom comes my hope…” Just wish I had opportunity–location & direction– to once again give my 78 yo body some TaiChi movements. Yours for smilin like our Gulf Coast dolphins!

  7. Doug Norris says:

    Promoting Smiling has always been my attempt at making swim practice fun for 34 years of coaching.
    It has worked for me. Your the greatest Terry.

  8. Hi Rick. Nice to see you here.

  9. Gotta love Yoga Swami. I’m back in New Paltz, swimming and doing yoga here, but I miss Yoga Swami nearly as much as I do LJC.

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