I swim most mornings for 30 minutes in my Endless Pool. I feel fortunate to have that opportunity because it’s not just a swimming machine. It’s a feedback machine–letting me know instantly when I’ve made a good technique choice. Because the speed of current is constant, when I make an advantageous ‘tweak’ to my stroke, I either move forward in the current, or I can remain in place with noticeably less effort. Because that effect occurs immediately, I know exactly what intention produced the improvement.
Earlier this week, while swimming butterfly, I had one of those magic moments that makes Endless Pool practice addictive — and helps me understand fluid dynamics better.
I was swimming the Endless equivalent of 400 Individual Medley repeats. For me that means 40 strokes of Fly, 40 cycles (80 armstrokes) Back, 40 strokes Breast, and 40 cycles Free. After each series I turned up the current speed slightly. I was aiming to maintain a constant sense of ease and leisure as the current got faster.
During my 3rd round I began feeling a ‘creeping edge’ of fatigued after about 20 strokes of Fly. When I feel that I’m in the habit of examining my streamline. I tried to make my kick smaller (less knee flexion) and to feel that body motion–rather than thigh muscles–was driving it.
As soon as I had that thought, instead of holding my place I began to creep forward and had to lighten my stroke pressure to avoid crashing into the grill.
This was just the latest instance of having my practice confirm the truth of the maxim that Less is More. This is accepted wisdom outside of swimming, but it seems especially true in swimming because:
1) Human swimmers are Energy Wasting Machines – converting as little as 3% of energy and power into forward motion. Thus out greatest and most accessible improvement opportunities will always come from saving energy rather than working to increase fitness or power.
2) It seems ingrained in our nature–as terrestrial mammals in an aquatic environment–to overDO and overWORK in almost any aspect of our swimming. Excessive efforts lead far more to commotion than locomotion.
3) Energy and power are scarce and non-renewable resources. Attention, care, grace and precision are plentiful and non-diminishing resources.