The Unexamined Stroke
Personal Best, in the Well blog, in The New York Times (whew) gave us some Training Insights From Star Athletes.
One of them was from versatile Natalie Coughlin:
Like many distance swimmers who spend endless hours in the pool, Natalie Coughlin, 30, used to daydream as she swam laps. She’d been a competitive swimmer for almost her entire life, and this was the way she — and many others — managed the boredom of practice.
Coughlin is not a distance swimmer. Her medals are from 50m to 200m and in all strokes but Breaststroke.
But when she was in college, she realized that daydreaming was only a way to get in the miles; it was not allowing her to reach her potential. So she started to concentrate every moment of practice on what she was doing, staying focused and thinking about her technique.
“That’s when I really started improving,” she said. “The more I did it, the more success I had.”
I also used to daydream and even sing to myself as I slogged through high school and college swim practices. As an adult I started reading swim manuals and trying to tinker with my stroke. Attending a Total Immersion workshop gave me a framework to rebuild my stroke, and from the web TI founder Terry Laughlin exhorts TI alums to think deeply and strive for perfection with each stroke.
I wish I’d gotten the advice sooner, but I do enjoy my swimming a lot more now that I have reasons for everything I do.