I’ve heard it discussed, that if an individual loses one of their senses, for example sight, their bodies and brains are able to adapt to the loss by heightening one or more of their other four senses in order to compensate for this loss. According to a MSN Health article, until recently, there had been little scientific evidence that blind people really do benefit from sensory compensation. A Doctor at the Montreal Neurological Institute of Canada’s, McGill University put popular perceptions to the test. Their results confirmed expectations.

So, what did Kevin Wang, head coach of the Spokane Waves (my club team), decide to do with the first training cycle of the summer?

Make us swim with a blind fold on…

Just kidding, but it feels just like it! Starting two weeks ago, and continuing through next week Saturday there are no watches or clocks on our pool deck. None, nada, zip, zero, nothing. No indication of how fast you are going, no idea of the send off you are actually pushing off on… Fast practice, slow practice, no clue!

Why the madness Kevin? Well, the idea runs along the line of the heightening of the senses and the experiments done to confirm the compensation mentioned above. Kevin’s thought process is that by removing the clocks from the pool deck the swimmers and the coaches are forced to compensate by focusing on so many other elements important to good performance that often get ignored in practices that center around send offs and goal times.

For the most part, when we enter into the technique portion of our work outs (usually during or following the warm up) the pace is medium, or done to a build, and time is often not taken into consideration. Yeah, it’s great that we are developing our technique, mastering the finer points of the stroke, the only problem is you NEVER race at a medium pace, you race as fast as you can! But when we swim test sets in practice – ones that most resemble race pace, the focus is usually on the clock. We certainly don’t forget about technique, but we are more concerned about the times. The coaches are watching the splits and the swimmers are working towards a goal time. We aim for speed and toughness. The odd piece of advice given on “maintaining your posture” or “not breathing off your walls” gets lost in the bark of “Swimmers, 3, 2, ready, GO” or the words (heard in any combination) “FASTER, DESCEND, HARDER, MORE”.

When this no-clock news was first mentioned to the team last Monday, I was very doubtful. I felt that swimming was all about the clock. It’s all about the pace you hold, the send off you go on. If you don’t have the clock you can’t push the pace; if you don’t push the pace you can’t get faster. The clock indicates how well you are doing. You can’t train without a clock! Two weeks later I am changing my mind.

One thing is for sure – the pace has not dropped. If anything, it has been increased. I’m pretty sure the intervals we are pushing off on have decreased too. It sounds odd for me to say this, but maybe the clock was limiting us? Is that possible? What is interesting is that despite what feels like the increase in pace of the workouts, the focus on technique has really improved. The coaches are spending the entire practices giving feedback and we as swimmers seem be absorbing a lot more of it than usual. Kevin’s idea seems to be working!

We have one more week left in this cycle before the clocks come back. It is going to be interesting to see where we are at in terms of pace when the clocks are turned on again. It’s also going to be interesting to see if we, as swimmers are able to maintain the technique improvements we have made this cycle. I’m pretty sure though that this exercise has not been a waste of time – I for one am sure that I will be a better swimmer at the end of this cycle, all thanks to Kevin’s creative genius.