If you want to accelerate learning, you need variation.
In this article, I'll explore how to bring this idea to life through practical strategies.
Ideally, you’d like to rely on a small handful of skill development exercises to facilitate the changes you desire. Less is usually better. Using fewer exercises is really powerful at keeping you focused on what is most important. It also forces you to use the exercises that are most effective for you.
At the same time, this is not without its downsides.
Simply repeating the same exercises can become boring, especially if you’re something that likely variety in their swimming. Beyond the issue of boredom, there’s also the issue of effectiveness. A key part of the change process is getting your attention by using novelty. If you’re repeating the same exercises over and over again, what’s novel at first becomes very much not novel before long.
To maintain the benefits of focusing on a small number of exercises, while also ensuring that you’re maintaining novelty in your practice, you’re going to need some tools. Here's one that's particularly effective.
Unfortunately, training gear is used by many individuals as a crutch. Kickboards, pull buoys, and fins are all tools that people can use to make it feel like they’re swimming well, when they really just serve to inflate egos. However, when used intelligently, these same tools can be used to provide novelty to your technical exercises, and they can even enhance them. It all comes down to intent, and why you’re choosing to use these training items. In addition, training gear can make it MORE difficult to perform specific exercises, and this is exactly what you want when you’re looking to challenge your skills. Let’s look at some specific examples.
Pull buoy. Pull buoys are a favorite for swimmers that tend to sink in the water. It keeps their feet up and it requires no effort to do so. Using a buoy for this purpose is a crutch. However, if you use a pull buoy specifically to take away the ability to kick, then it becomes a tool. You can change the impact of any technical exercise simply by putting in a buoy. It will require you to figure out how to execute the same exercise without the legs, using just the arms. Depending on the exercise, this can be a powerful tool that will enhance your learning.
Fins. Fins are often used by those who struggle to stay balanced in the water. They help swimmers get more from their kick. Rather, we’re going to use fins to help you swim faster, and ride through the water higher than you otherwise would. This will dramatically change what you feel, and force you to learn to execute the exercises differently. This will change the relative contribution of the arms and legs by giving a boost to the legs. This too will impact what you have to do to successfully execute your skills.
Snorkel. For many swimmers, the breathing action is problematic and the snorkel allows them to hide from this weakness. Rather than using your snorkel as a crutch, you can use it to improve your breathing. By spending time with a snorkel, you can learn to FEEL great body position and then contrast that with how it feels when you’re breathing. You’d then switch back and forth with the intention of making your strokes feel the same regardless of whether you’re breathing. Further, when trying to learn certain skills, having to constantly worry about breathing can be a distraction from what you’re trying to accomplish. Using a snorkel can be a great way to focus on what matters.
Regardless of the training gear you’re using, why you’re using it is the critical factor. If you’re using it to a hide a weakness, that’s a problem. If you’re using it address a specific issue or to create change, go for it. When used in this way, training gear can be a terrific tool for enhancing your learning.
FASTER. EASIER. BETTER.