Yesterday I swam a little over 2.5k. Quite an ordinary training session in this respect. But extraordinary in the fact that I got out of the pool feeling as though I'd made real progress. Swimming long distance, and being largely self-taught, I know that I have developed habits some of which don't perhaps serve my aim of efficiency. Habits are hard to break. Some are harder than others. I know that perhaps better than most.
On average, I swim 3kph. It's not particularly quick, but it's not slow either. Particularly when the bulk of my usual training is done by my upper body alone. I swim arms-only, keeping my legs steady using a float. I am working towards letting go of this aid, and swimming with my ankles tied together as my friend and fellow aquatic enthusiast does. Losing the float will introduce an additional challenge, I will have to work hard to maintain correct body position in the water. My legs had their workout on the bike last night.
Ploughing up and down for 100-120 lengths is something of a pleasure. I appreciate that this may not appeal to all, but confess that I am never disappointed. The biggest hurdle for me is generally getting to the pool; once I'm there, it generally goes swimmingly. Recently I've not been making it as regularly as I like to, but am hoping to commit to an increased schedule in coming weeks and months.
Wednesday's session was something of a surprise, as I had not intended to work on my turns. In order to maintain momentum and rhythm, I flip turn at each end of the pool to continue swimming length after length. Yesterday I did over one hundred turns in total. The first quarter of my swim, my mind was elsewhere. It takes me a while to fully arrive - whilst my body is there, my mind often take a little time to catch up. Upon arrival, I experimented with a couple of different turn techniques. By what was to be the mid point of my swim (I don't, generally, decide this in advance, preferring to go with the flow, remaining attuned and responsive to my energy levels), I had adjusted the timing and style of my turn. I continued to practise, knowing that to integrate this into my regimen, I needed to coach my muscle memory - here, my body needed to catch up with my mind. Being able to envisage the perfect turn is no help at all when you're upside down underwater; your focus needs to be sensory, not intellectual - in order to maintain the all-important breathing pattern throughout the turn.
For my final 200m, my turns felt seamless and might have looked (I optimistically imagine) rather slick. They felt effortless and easy - I was achieving a consistent body posture when starting the new length, and my breathing was stable and settled. I noticed too that, in spite of fatigue's advent, my splits had improved, a great feat at the end of my swim.
My encounter in the pool once again resonated with my experience on dry land - that taking the time to come back to basics can be an important step in making any significant change. Establishing firm foundations and creating new habits, through practice and repeated action, can help solidify the change, underwriting it in the future.
Habit breaking is best followed up with the introduction and of new habits, the cultivation of which require patience and persistence. Turning things around is one of life's great pleasures, and we each of us have the power to do this - in all areas of our lives.