Once you’ve learned to pay attention to what you’re feeling and have developed the ability to tune into that source of feedback, it’s time to learn how to really calibrate what you’re feeling.
This topic was briefly discussed in the previous sections, and we’ll explore it in more detail here.
Calibration is performed when simultaneously using sensory feedback with performance or visual feedback.
By using two sources of feedback in conjunction, they’re even more effective than when used separately.
As swimming is a performance sport, the ultimate goal is to learn how to associate what you feel with how you perform.
Doing so requires combining feedback from the body with objective feedback about performance. When you’re racing and competing, you can only rely on what you’re feeling to know if you’re swimming well.
There’s no coach that can tell you you’re doing what you need to do!
The only way to learn this awareness is pay attention to how well you’re swimming and comparing it to what you’re feeling.
Whenever you swim fast, you’ll definitely want to know what you need to do to repeat, or even improve those performances.
The only way you can do this is if you’re aware of what you’re feeling AND you’re paying attention to how you’re performing.
This happens in practice.
While it would be great if this was a systematic process, it’s more a product of happenstance.
When you consistently pay attention, you learn to associate fast swimming with certain sensations.
On occasion, you’ll swim fast and it will feel different, almost by chance.
If you’re paying attention, you’ll be able to make the change. If you never know how fast you’re swimming or how many strokes you’re taking, you’ll never be able to make the connection between what you’re feeling and how you’re performing.
While the value here is obvious, it’s even more significant when you consider that better swimming often feels VERY different than what you’ll expect.
It will feel wrong, and the only way to convince yourself that it’s better is to have proof of performance.
With proof of performance, you’ll be convinced that what you’re feeling is actually better, even if you don’t believe it.
It provides the confidence to continue with the change you’re working to implement.
There is not much nuance in this process, and there aren’t really any tricks.
Simply pay attention to what you’re feeling and how you’re performing.
Over time, you’ll begin to understand the relationship between the two sources of feedback, and this understanding will dramatically improve your performance.
Most swimmers either pay no attention to their performance, or exclusively pay attention to their performance.
Neither approach is going to be optimal.
It starts with tracking performance AND tuning into what you are feeling.
As described before, most swimmers will be surprised, even shocked when they see themselves swim for the first time.
We’re going to touch on this again because it is that important.
What they think they’re doing and what they actually are doing are two very different things.
What they feel is improperly calibrated.
The same is likely true for yourself.
The easiest way to solve this problem is to get video of yourself and internalize what you’re feeling with what you’re doing.
Doing so allows you to know what you’re swimming likely looks like based upon what it feels like.
As many individuals are highly visual, being able to ‘see’ yourself swim based upon what you are feeling is very valuable.
All it takes to develop the skill is seeing yourself swim on occasion.
Beyond creating an awareness of what you look like when you swim, comparing what you feel with what you see is critical in another more important respect.
One the biggest skills you can learn is to realize how different even a small change will feel. You may be moving your hand entry 3 inches to the left and it will feel like you’ve moved it 3 feet.
While you can have a coach or a friend communicate this to you, it’s not quite the same as seeing it for yourself.
When attempting to change, most swimmers SEVERELY underestimate how significant any change will feel.
This is obviously a problem if you’re trying to change your skills. Video can really help you understand how different a change is going to feel, and this makes every future change easier once this dynamic is understood.
What FEELS like a major change in how you are swimming will often be shown to be a very small change on video.
You learn that to create a meaningful change, it will feel VERY different.
Once you go through this process a few times on video, it becomes more intuitive. You can calibrate your ‘change awareness’.
Rather than making small, insignificant changes, you know you’ll need to start with the major changes that almost feel ‘wrong’.
It’s really hard to trust that you’re not changing enough.
It feels really wrong, and as change is an emotional process, that can be scary.
The solution is video, as video can’t be argued.
While you may believe that your change couldn’t possibly be right, the video proves it for you. The change process is always an uncertain one.
You’re taking a risk.
Fortunately, the proof of video can take much of this uncertainty out of the process. You KNOW you’re doing the right thing, even if it feels wrong at first.
Video comparison can help you develop the appreciation and understanding that any change is going to feel dramatically different.
Over time, you learn to trust that you’re going to have to make it feel REALLY different.
Once learned, you’ll find yourself wasting much less time ‘changing’ without actually changing anything.
You know it needs to feel really different, even wrong, so you just make the dramatic change and let it be.
This will save a lot of time and aggravation.
More importantly, it works.
Faster. Easier. Better.