In my last post I suggested you perform an exercise in meta-consciousness: Bring to a conscious level your belief system about swimming—the ideas (often unconscious) that guide nearly every choice you make—and consider where they originated and whether your experience confirms them as true . . . or calls them into question. I then listed the five First Principles that guide my personal practice and my teaching and coaching.
Choosing Core Principles
Before I proceed to the details of those principles, I’d like to suggest one more set of five principles to guide your swimming. These are Core Principles. What’s the difference between First and Core Principles?
First Principles represent a set of verifiable truths about how swimming works—the universal conditions and challenges the vast majority of swimmers encounter.
Core Principles are a set of enduring and essential tenets to guide thought and action. They help ensure that you always maintain absolute clarity on your reasons for swimming, and that you act in ways most likely to fulfill those reasons.
I have been a goal-oriented swimmer for 50 years, since I first joined my high school team in the fall of 1965. But I only realized the importance of, and clarified this set of core principles as I approached my mid-50s. My swimming experience has been far more consistently positive and satisfying; I’ve performed on a strikingly higher level in competition; and I’ve consistently achieved the goals I’ve set since then.
• To be considered core, principles for anything should be few in number–three to five. A larger number increases the likelihood that they’re peripheral rather than core.
• Core principles should also remain valid whether you’re a novice or an expert, and resonate as strongly decades from now as they do today.
• Core principles should be effective as guidelines to evaluate possibilities; solve problems; assess information or advice; answer questions; and . . . most critically, to ensure that you align your actions with your intentions.
Five Core Principles for Swimming Well
Here are the five Core Principles that have guided my swimming and coaching for the past 10-plus years. Try them on yourself and see how they work for you.
- Focus on improvement. Start every swimming session with the explicit intention to be a better swimmer when you finish. Or, as Total Immersion enthusiast Hadar Aviram said, “Never swim a lap in vain.” In particular, each time you push off the wall, do so with a conscious intention of honing a skill or enhancing a sensation or experience—and a clear plan for accomplishing that. The plan you form should be based on the First Principles.
- Practice economy and sustainability. Seek to do less, before doing more. Conserve–before generating or expending–energy. Reduce resistance before increasing force. Stroke more effectively, before stroking faster.
- Never practice struggle.Work with, not against, the water. Move like Align your efforts with existing (or natural) forces, like gravity.
- Swimming should make you feel good physically. During your swim. Immediately after swimming. And over the long term. If this isn’t the case, review the previous two principles.
- Swimming should make you feel better about yourself. If you experience prolonged frustration or a sense of failure, compare your actions to the first three principles.
In my next post I’ll write in detail about the first principle that should guide you as you set priorities, evaluate information—whether an on-line or printed article or an informal suggestion or ‘stroke tip;’ plan a practice or decide how to swim a set or race: Human Swimmers are Energy Wasting Machines.