Thoughts to Swim By: Freestyle
by Terry Laughlin

Posted on November 2nd, 2010

Sometimes the best inspiration comes while sleeping. I just awoke from a 10-minute post-lunch nap (maybe it was the Chinese food I ate here in Taipei) to find that, while I slept, my brain had been contemplating the best way to express ‘essential thoughts’ to swim by. As soon as I woke, I went straight to my laptop and these phrases flowed from my fingers like Shinji’s stroke.

Balance Intentions

  • I feel weightless and supported.
  • I feel comfort and trust, in the water and myself.
  • I feel both free to move and able to control my body.

Streamlining Intentions

  • I feel long and sleek.
  • I hardly disturb the water or leave a wake as I swim silently.
  • I move through the water like an arrow through the air.

Propelling Intentions

  • The water feels thick and my arm feels firm as I begin my stroke.
  • My movements feel integrated and harmonious.
  • I shift my weight and move forward effortlessly.

This list references How Would Einstein Teach Swimming in which I tried to distill TI Swimming principles into a short list of essential actions in priority order. Credit for that distilled list goes to TI Coach Shane Eversfield.

The inspiration to write them as affirmations goes to TI Coach Suzanne Atkinson.

Please share affirmations that have worked for you.

7 Responses to “Thoughts to Swim By: Freestyle”

  1. “The water parts FOR me…” I started using this one this past summer when I noted on the team record board that a friend’s son, 15 years old, was the fastest swimmer in his school. I mentioned it to a mutual friend, who knows nothing of total immersion, and she said, “It’s like the water parts for him”. I started visualizing that and low and behold…it parts. 🙂

  2. Terry, what’s really cool about this list of yours is it’s beautiful “symmetry” (three threes) the 3 main principals each with 3 essential affirmations. And also that it occured after a nap. I need more naps. Furthermore, all 9 of these affirmations can encompass a lifetime of practice.

    Thanks, I’m going to print this out for my next TI/Triathlon clinic that starts tomorrow.

  3. Alan says:

    Got it!
    I guess I need more sleep, no, better sleep.

  4. Tom Norris says:

    Terry> Interesting how your thoughts flowed when you were writing about flow. Just as we trust the water to support and work with us, so too we can trust our unconscious processes to create without effort or “trying” when we have that intention. These swimming intentions are amazingly helpful.

    I do more writing at the moment than swimming. I’ve often gone to bed at night with the intention of writing about a particular subject, and the next day, the article emerges well-organized.

    Suzanne> “The water parts for me.” Just saying this takes away effort and resistance. I feel as though I’m being drawn through the water. Another intention could be, “I’m drawn through the water.” “Parts for me” works better though.

    I’m wondering if it’s best to choose a single intention for a swimming session and change the intention from session to session. Could there be a “prime intention” for each of us. “The water parts for me” might be one. “I swim silently” might be another.

    When I swim, I have the visual intention (I’ve never actually worded it) of leaving the surface of the water smooth as though I hadn’t been there. This correlates to your “I hardly disturb the water or leave a wake as I swim silently.” When I swim, I look back and see just faint traces of little eddies on a smooth surface. I’m trying to state this in a sentence that’s totally affirmative. I guess I better sleep on it instead. 🙂 Possibly, “I leave the surface smooth.” (This popped into my head when I let go of trying to think of something. And when I reread this paragraph, I realized I’d already written it….yeep.) I better stop now….. T.

  5. Tom
    I can’t claim deep familiarity with Neuro-Linguistic Programming, but this discussion has introduced several ideas that I believe advocates of NLP might identify as significant in their potential to ‘rewire the brain’ for a desired change.

    1) From Suzanne: Whenever possible, create Stroke Thoughts as affirmations, rather than actions.

    2) From you: Create affirmations that infer your environment accommodating you, rather than you trying to impose something on the environment. (The water parts for me.)

    3) Also from you: Create affirmations that activate imagination. “I leave the surface smooth.” You can’t look back and see it, so you swim with that intention while also visualizing how the water will appear after you pass through it.

    Definitely stuff here for a blog of its own.

    PS: Researchers who use mice for brain study have noted that mice which receive a food reward for solving a maze continue to ‘solve the maze’ while napping, indicating that the brain continues to encode high-value activities while we are in an unconscious state.

    You make two invaluable point about the potential power of affirmations that describe a positive outcome as happening without effort or trying.

  6. Tom Norris says:


    “Create affirmations that infer your environment accommodating you, rather than you trying to impose something on the environment. (The water parts for me.)”

    Wow. This really reconceptualizes everything.


  7. Suzanne
    I’ll admit to editing that list until I achieved that symmetry. (Okay, it didn’t pour all that effortlessly from my rested brain – but the key ideas were there from the moment I awoke.
    The idea to draft subsets of 3 points came from the elegant simplicity of Shane’s initial 3 Big Ones of Balance, Streamline, Propel. That helped me so much that I thought each should be further illuminated by a subset of 3 thoughts.
    Some time ago one of our Forum posters raised the question of ‘why so many focal points and can’t we accomplish as much, with greater clarity, by abbreviating the list.
    I agree with the concept, but have also found a few dozen different thoughts — such as 5 or 6 for freestyle recovery — to be helpful.
    So I’m beginning to feel that one way to offer simplicity for those who prefer it and granularity for those who prefer that would be divide Subset A (9 points) into a further Subset B, with 3 thoughts for each of those 9. Dip into the next subset whenever you feel ready or eager to go deeper.

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