The feel for the water.
Most swimmers believe you have it or you don’t. If you’re reading this, you probably think you don’t. It’s a mystical quality that has blessed those ‘talented’ swimmers that you envy. They seem to sail through the water with no effort. And they’re FAST.
There is a widespread belief that the swimming gods touch a select few, gifting them with supernatural powers, leaving the rest of us hopeless in our quest for faster swimming. Fortunately for you, that’s all BS. The real problem isn’t a lack of talent. The real problem is approach.
Upon reflection, it’s no surprise that most individuals are consistently struggling with their attempts to improve their feel for the water. If someone isn’t blessed with a natural ability, we shouldn’t be they’re likely failing to make any progress, if they even bother trying to improve at all. We’re going to get stuck if we-
· Use a definition of feel for the water that is too vague.
· Struggle to pay attention to what is happening as we swim.
· Continue to perform training that is extremely repetitive.
· Fail to get clear feedback about our performance
· Only consider one performance outcome, typically speed.
If we want to solve the problem of improving one’s feel for the water, we need to do things differently. If we want different results, we need to change our approach. We need to-
· Define feel for the water practically. It’s all about pressure.
· Learn to pay attention and perform sets that grab our attention.
· Introduce novel and varying training tasks, using any means necessary.
· Get crystal clear feedback, in the forms of concrete outcomes and powerful sensations.
· Measure performance in as many ways as possible.
If we can accomplish these objectives, we’ll be well on our way to improving our feel for the water, and swimming faster as a result. Here are some of the tools that you can use-
Paying attention. The information you need to feel the water is already present, you’re just not paying attention. Simply beginning to pay attention is a great start. The purpose of all of the activities below is to give you more to pay attention to. The information is already there, you simply have to feel it.
Metrics. The outcome we’re looking for with improved feel for the water is faster swimming and more efficient swimming. As such, it makes sense to measure what we want to improve. Simply paying attention to times and stroke counts will help you interpret what you’re feeling.
Sculling. The feel for the water is all about sensing pressure, and sculling is a tool for manipulating pressure. There are a lot of ways to scull, and they’re all effective for helping you understand how to maintain pressure, and sense when you’ve lost it.
Hand manipulations. Part of the problem with feeling water is we’re used to feeling the same sensations over and over again. By manipulating the size of the hands, you can change what you feel, which will develop your ability to pay attention.
Training equipment. As with hand manipulation, training equipment allows to feel the water moving in novel ways. Learning comes from novel environments. Training equipment, when used wisely, is superb creating effective learning environments.
Resistance. Resistance is magic in that it provides crystal clear feedback as to how much pressure you’re creating, or not. You can FEEL it. Further, if you’re not doing a good job of manipulating the water, the consequences are immediate and significant. You simply stop moving forward.
The best part is that developing this skill can help all of your swimming, regardless of what strokes you focus, what distances you swim, or what you’re trying to accomplish by regularly getting in the water.
Faster. Easier. Better.