Last week during TI OW camp on the Mediterranean, in Ciralu Turkey, Coach Mat Hudson posted this on his Facebook wall: “Johnny Widen [a TI coach from Sweden] asked if I keep my mind completely consumed with stroke counting and focal points like Terry Laughlin does.”
While keeping track of ‘metrics that matter’ is a core principle of Kaizen practice, I quite often swim mainly to embed epic and enduring memories which helps stoke my all-consuming passion for swimming. The past month is a perfect example.
From June thru August, I used the 200y line at Lake Minnewaska to pursue measurable improvements in time, pace, Stroke Length and Stroke Rate. (See Enjoyment Meets Improvement.) All summer, my measurable improvement focus produced both a sense of mission and Flow States. [Click here to read the series of thrilling breakthroughs I recorded this summer at Minnewaska, ]
But starting with my final Minnewaska swim (the course closes for the season at 7pm on Labor day), I shifted course. That evening, I swam purely to have an immersive experience, as described in the accompanying video.
I swam for 45 minutes as dusk fell, trying to soak in the beauty of my surroundings, to create memories of the beauty around me to last through months of swimming indoors. But I wasn’t yet done with the great outdoors.
Two days later, I began swimming at Lake Awosting, where I’ve since swum 3 to 4 times a week since. In place of the 200y line is a mile of uninterrupted swimming–and hard-to-describe natural beauty.
What do I do instead of tracking stroke count, tempo or pace?
1. I always have a Focal Point. For weeks, I’ve been immersed in feeling armstroke and 2-beat kick are connected through the core–which has become a force-coupler and force-multiplier feeding effortless power from one to the other and back.
The great advantage of continuing uninterrupted for 30 minutes (going west, then after a brief break, repeat going back east) is when I feel I’ve achieved a state of silky synchronicity in my stroke I can continue imprinting what produced it for nearly 2000 strokes.
2. I take in the visual delights of uninterrupted green (now dappling with reds, yellows and oranges of fall) on the shoreline or the brilliant blue dome of sky with every breath. Or the halo effect produced by rays of sunlight piercing the depths below.
3. I enjoy the contrast of warm sun on my exposed back with the bracing cold of the water (62F/16C yesterday) on the immersed parts.
4. When I’m fortunate to have a companion, Willie Miller or Dave Barra, I synchronize strokes–and sometimes race–with them. Several people who have seen us from shore have commented on how much pleasure it brought to watch the manmade beauty of graceful and synchronous movement in the midst of natural beauty.
‘Rehearsing’ for the Experience of a Lifetime
So, for the last four weeks (and probably for the rest of 2013) my swimming has emphatically shifted from ‘empirical’ to experiential. The empirical appeals to an analytical part of my brain, the experiential–as well as creating beauty in the midst of beauty–to a more artistic part.
In a sense, i’ve also been rehearsing for my next big swim.
In 10 days, I’ll swim across Gibraltar Strait from Tarifa Spain to Almanza or Cires, Morocco with TI colleagues Lennart Larsson of Sweden and Tommi Patilla of Finland. This swim will be an experience of a lifetime, shared among good friends–not a test of endurance (though it could take over 5 hours to complete) or speed.
And we fully intend to make our Gibraltar swim historic in one sense–the first intercontinental swim done entirely with synchronized strokes.
And there’s one more thing: When I swim for pure quality of experience, giving little attention to distance or pace, I feel as if I’m practicing for the kind of swimming I’m likely to do more and more as I age, as quality of life replaces the quest for physical attainment.
Related reading: Creating Beauty (getting speed in return)
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