“Effortless Swimming” – that was the main goal I set for myself when I sat down with Whitworth Head Coach Steve Schadt last September to discuss my goals for the year. I wanted the focus of my swimming to switch from going faster, or winning races, to being able to move through the water in a way that looked absolutely effortless to any one standing on the deck watching me swim.

Here’s where the idea came from; the paradox of swimming is that the harder you try, the quicker you tier and the slower you go. P.H. Mullen puts it like this in his book, “Gold in the Water”; “A race can often become a contradiction within yourself. The harder you fight the water, the more you lose your streamline, increase your resistance, and slow down. One of the many paradoxes of the sport is that harder swimming does not usually lead to faster times”. (If you haven’t read this book and want to understand the mind and lives of competitive swimmers this is a very, very good read.)

Great goal! Make it look easy; cool! That was the easy part, how the hell do you do that? There in lies the challenge. I put some thought into how I wanted to go about achieving the goal, and came up with two focus points to work on through the year. These were not by any means the two easiest goals I have ever set for myself.

1. Work with the water, not against it. – The water will never get tired of pushing against my body, I on the other hand will get tired of pushing against the water. The water will always win, so make friends with it, don’t fight it.
2. Develop strength and power to the point where I could relax into letting my body do the work. Never force the pace! The quicker you do, “the more you lose your streamline, increase your resistance, and slow down.”

I made every effort to stick to these goals as I worked through the college season, I however found it very difficult. With over 40 people training in a 6-lane pool, you are always fighting against someone’s wake. Relax for a second and you suck 3/4 of the pool in through your nose and mouth. I had a little more control over the the development of my strength and power, but again, training with a group and when you are in the gym, you do what the group does.

This is my fourth week back at training since Nationals and I am finding that I have a little more control over my two goals now. We are in the “Spring Conditioning” part of the season so the lanes are a little emptier, and I am solely responsible for what I do in the gym. I think the focus I have put into effortless swimming is beginning to pay off…

This last weekend I swam in a club swim meet called “The Triple Pentathlon”. It was hosted by the club I coach for, The Spokane

Deep Breaths Before the 200 Freestyle

Waves, and conveniently took place at the Whitworth pool. I thought I would get in some racing practice, and have some fun and see where I am at… Obviously I am a sucker for punishment; this “fun” consisted of 4 x 50’s (one of each stroke) and a 100 IM on Friday night, 4 x 100’s and a 200 IM on Saturday morning, and 4 x 200’s and a 400 IM on Sunday.

Friday night started pretty well… aside from the 50 Freestyle you never get a chance to race any of the 50’s in college meets, so it was pretty fun to get up and race some short events. Saturday was also pleasantly good, but I have to be honest and say that by the time Sunday rolled around I was not exactly in the mood for racing! I swam the 400 IM, and then decided to pull out of the 200 Backstroke and 200 Fly and focus on the 200 Free and Breast – I unfortunately took some verbal abuse from the other coaches on the staff for my decision!

I was happy with the way all my swims went throughout the meet. I am particularly pleased with my the way my Freestyle events went – this is where I think I am making gains in my goal to swim effortlessly! Comparing the times to my Conference Champs times in February, a meet I wasn’t shaved for, but was a little rested and pretty hyped up, I am very happy with the way I swam. At conference I put up a 21.18 in the 50 Free, I went 21.59 this weekend. I swam a 46.93 leading off the relay in the 100 Free, I went 47.15 this weekend, and I went a 1.42.36 from a relay start in the 200 Free, I was 1.45.85 this weekend from a flat start. These are good indications – I certainly didn’t do 4 weight sessions the week before Conference like I did last week. I also managed to set 12 new team records as well as help set a a new 200 Free relay record with some of the other Senior Squad swimmers.

Taking All The Help I Can Get During The 400 IM! I love this picture 🙂

Talking with Steve at morning practice on Monday he mentioned how amazing the human body is and how well it adapts to any stimulus you throw at it. It’s true, I have put the focus on strength and power in the gym my body has returned favor by reproducing strength and power in the water. Open your mind, honestly challenge your body, and it will respond by stepping up to a new level for you.

I didn’t spend the entire weekend focusing on myself though! I was coaching all the way through it too as a lot of the swimmers I coach during the week swam in the meet. I approached coaching them from a new direction this weekend. I push these kids pretty hard and yell at them quite a lot during the week, but I want meets to be fun, a time for celebration! So I didn’t watch the clock this weekend, I watched them swim. I gave them the advice I thought they needed, told them to go have fun and then just sat back and watched to see how much of what I yell during the week actually gets absorbed. I must say I was very impressed! They swam very, very well indeed, and I know they all had a lot of fun! I’ll leave you with a couple of pictures of them taken by their parents this weekend.

“They are merely atoms, two parts hydrogen, one part oxygen. So simple, yet what lies between them… Immeasurable. Only The Water Understands”… I love sharing my passion for the water with these kids.