Passionate Curiosity and Deep Practice
by Terry Laughlin

Posted on May 12th, 2011

Grant Hall posted this yesterday on the TI Discussion Forum

Several days ago, looking for a new comparison I swam 25m without taking a breath. Results 16 strokes/22 sec.

Then I swam 25m taking a breath every second stroke. Result: 16 strokes/23 sec.

The next length I swam with the barest minimum of my mouth out of the water. Result: 16 strokes/22 sec.

Today I did a ladder 2×25, 2×50, 2×75, 2×100 and back down and was able to hold the 22sec/16 strokes for all but the first 100 using that focus point. Up till now a 22sec/16 stroke  length, with a 2-beat kick, was a very sporadic event.

Grant is a 75-year old Masters swimmer from Sooke, British Columbia and a Canadian record-holder in Butterfly. Until he was nearly 70, he was almost exclusively a sprinter.  Since taking up TI Swimming, Grant has avidly pursued improvement in distance swimming.  And even more avidly pursued Mastery via Deep Practice of swimming.

NY Times business writer Adam Bryant recently published a book The Corner Office: Indispensable and Unexpected Lessons from CEOs on How to Lead and Succeed. about characteristics of the most successful CEOs.  The first characteristic he noted was Passionate Curiosity, which one person described as “being alert and very awake and engaged with the world and wanting to know more.”  As as soon as I read that term, I recognized it as equally indispensable for anyone whose goal is to improve their swimming.

Grant’s experiment is a great example of the tendencies of the Passionately Curious Swimmer.  Staying efficient while breathing in freestyle is as challenging as any skill in swimming. Grant started by measuring the ‘efficiency cost’ of breathing. Then he experimented further to see if he could find a way to breathe freely with no ‘efficiency penalty.’

As soon as he discovered a way to keep his peak efficiency while breathing his immediate instinct was to put his ‘sneaky’ breath to the test: For how long a distance could he maintain a 16-stroke and 22-second pace? The set he devised is a great example of Deep Practice as it included all of the following:

1) A highly specific task
2) Objective and clear measurement
3) Searching for the point where his task-mastery might break down.

He found that point of weakness at 100m – where he could no longer maintain the 16SPL efficiency and 22-sec pace. Finding his weak spot gave him the opportunity to address and correct it in his 2nd 100m and maintain his new level of mastery to the end of his 500-meter set.

And. it must be noted that even a single 25-meter length of 16 strokes and 22 seconds would be enormously impressive for any 75-year old — and people several decades younger too.  Not a bad argument for combining Passionate Curiosity and Deep Practice.

Related: Want to work on your breathing skill? Consider O2 in H2O: A Self-Help Course on Breathing in Swimming as a tool for doing so.

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3 Responses to “Passionate Curiosity and Deep Practice”

  1. […] Total Immersion Swimming triathlon Wu Wei and Taoism yoga and swimming Zendurance « Passionate Curiosity and Deep Practice Swimming as a Lifelong Student by Terry Laughlin Posted on May 14th, […]

  2. […] Jim, it would be difficult for you and anyone else to be confident that we both had the same understanding of ‘how hard is hard.’ Your best course is to seek the answer to this question via the kind of orderly experimentation Grant employed to learn the effect of breathing frequency on his stroke efficiency, which I blogged about here. […]

  3. Emrah says:

    Dear All,
    Please find below my crawl technique videos, I am traiing 4-5 times a week in a 25m pool, each trining consists of 3000-3500m volume including all strokes. I compete in long distance races between %5-8K such as Bosphorus and Dardanelles channel races in Turkey, so freestyle is my main stroke…

    Waitin for your comments on my videos:
    http://vimeo.com/29548576

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