"Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired in the morning, noon, and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired.”

- George S. Patton, U.S. Army General, 1912 Olympian

Monday, July 25, 2011

Learning to Swim

I've done a brave thing this month: I started to swim. For someone who doesn't swim doing so can swing somewhere between embarrassing and horrifying, depending on the day, my energy level and the number of people within view. I struggled through the first couple of days, completely out of breath after just 50 yards. I'd catch my breath and then do it again. I'd finish my 500 yards, get out of the pool frustrated and wonder if I would ever come back. And then I came across an article under a Google search entitled, "If I'm so fit, why is swimming so hard?"
I read the five page PDF wondering where this gem had come from. It described me and my struggles precisely. I later traced it to a book call "Total Immersion" which I promptly check out from the library. Over the next 24 hours I plowed through 120 pages, nodding my head, creating a picture in my head of what the perfect swim stroke should look like. I watched YouTube videos and marveled at how easy the subjects made it look. On page 121 I came to the first drill: float on your back.
I called my wife and told her I wasn't sure whether I wanted to throw the book across the room or cry. 120 pages of gold and the first thing I'm being asked to do is the thing I absolutely cannot do: float. (The second and third drills, by the way, called for me to float on my side). Frustrated but determined I skimmed the rest of the book and was about to put it away when I stumbled across two pages which had five simple visualizations to keep in mind. They described the picture I had created in my head exactly. Following the visualizations was a note to those who struggle with the drills and how if they did nothing but pay attention to these visualizations, they'd probably be alright. Good enough. I went to work and lo and behold, swimming got easier.
I'm still a massive work in progress but I've got my basic mechanics down. Various lifeguards at the YMCA have offered tips and advice (which I appreciate) and slowly but surely I'm getting better. Even with my less than perfect form I know I can finish the 500 yards I'll need for my first triathlon next month, but now it's about doing it well.

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