What does Living Well have to do with Swimming Faster?
by Terry Laughlin

Posted on October 30th, 2010

A comment on my post of a year ago Can a Slower Recovery help you Swim Faster? raised the question about whether such content is suited to a blog whose title is more philosophical – Swim Well to Live Well.  Indeed, there are other posts with “faster” as their subject, including Slower Strokes Produce Faster Times. How so? and A Meditation on Swimming Faster.

For many readers the combination of words such as “slower” and “meditation” with “faster” should signal an unconventional way of thinking about speed.  But the question is valid point, and may occur to other readers. What does swimming faster have to do with swimming – and living – well?

For many the two will be unconnected. I strongly applaud that. One aspect of Swimming Well we advocate regularly is to swim as a practice, in a spirit closer to yoga or tai chi rather than as a workout like competitive swimmers.

But another key aspect to Swimming Well is to focus on improvement. To enter the pool each day with an explicit intention to be a better swimmer when you leave it an hour later. And to be a better swimmer – in measurable ways – next month or year, than now.

Some aspects of improvement are qualitative – feeling better in every way possible during and after swimming. But others are quantitative. Because the saying “What gets measured, gets improved” is so true, my practices include many quantitative metrics to tell me how I”m doing.

One of the those metrics is SStrokes Per Length. Another is Stroke Rate or Tempo. Another is distance or duration. Others are heart rate (which is objective) or Perceived Rate of Exertion (which is subjective.)

When working on technique I focus first on feelings or sensation. What feels better usually is better. But then I’ll usually try to verify that a better feeling actually resulted in greater efficiency – a lower stroke count. Or the same count maintained at a faster rate, for a longer duration — or with a lower heart rate.

When you combine more efficient strokes with faster tempo, or can maintain that combination longer with less effort, you swim . . . faster. The fact that “fast” can be so easily measured makes it a useful — and satisfying — metric.

I don’t practice with a goal to swim faster only for the momentary satisfaction of seeing the time displayed as I touch the wall. I do it for the far more enduring satisfaction of the ‘deep’ practice it requires and the personal habits — and new brain cells – deep practice produces. And that’s a big part of my efforts to Live Well.

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