100 Opportunities to Improve Mindfulness
by Terry Laughlin

Posted on November 7th, 2009

Lennart Larsson of Sweden posted this log of two recent practices on the TI Discussion Forum.

Yesterday i swam like this: 1500 meters very easy and efficient, concentrating on what you said Terry, a short glide each time your hand points forward and concentrating on the forward move. It was quite amazing how easy and relaxed I felt.

I forgot my sports watch so I have no time on the total distance, but checked a couple of100s. I was swimming each 100 meter at about 1:47 . Not fast, but my SPL remained constant at 33-34, which is 2 to 3 strokes lower than my usual.

After this 1500 I was so relaxed I could have swum with that speed indefinitely. I followed that with 3×300, broken as 50+100+150. I set my Tempo Trainer at 1.28 sec/stroke for #1, 1.24 for #2 and 1.20 for #3. Next I swam 3×100 with TT at 1.10 and SPL at 37. My pace on these was 1.30.

I ended with another fantastic and relaxing 800 meters. Gorgeous training session!

Today, just to see if I could get that feeling back, I swam a straight 5000m  in the pool, with TT at 1.32 and holding 34-35 SPL. I didn’t take any water during the swim so I was thirsty afterwards, but apart from that I felt like I could have continued that way for another 5 K.

That post prompted Vol to ask: Congratulations! Was that a 50m pool? How can you swim “straight 5 K in the pool” (not river/lake/ocean) without being bored? It means 100 laps in a 50m pool.

I replied: It’s true that many people would find it boring to “follow the black line” for a straight 5K. The key to avoiding boredom — and to swimming your best — is to be mindful.

Set a goal for the swim. Not a time goal, but a measure of both consistent execution and consistent engagement. Make it your primary goal to stay in the moment for every one of what could be – in a 50m pool – 4000 or more strokes. In other words. 4000 opportunities to improve your stroke and make efficiency more permanent. If you succeed, the 5K will seem timeless and, indeed, when it ends you may even be sorry it’s time to stop.

The challenge of being mindful in a pool is fundamentally no different than in open water, where potential boredom is thought to be far less of an issue. Pool swimming requires you to reset your focus and intention after every turn. As you approach the wall, execute the turn, then push off and break out, you’ll replace your “stroke thought” with “turn thoughts.” Every time for 99 turns. That makes 99 opportunities to improve your turn.

Add it all up and a 5k in the pool represents 4099, or more, opportunities to improve your capacity (neural circuits) for attentive repetition.

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