After reading parts II and III, you should have the tools to work through the process of deciding what technical change you want to make.
Now, it’s time to actually work throught the process of making it happen.
Making a Change
While it’s challenging enough to decide what skill you’d like to change, it can be even more difficult to actually make the change. I’m going to describe several change strategies that are really effective in assisting the process of creating the change that you want.
The biggest challenge in creating a change is that there is a MASSIVE disconnect between how you feel you’re moving and how you’re actually moving. Until you really appreciate this disconnect, it’s going to be tough to create the magnitude of change you really want. However, once you get comfortable with what you need to do, you’ll find changes happening much faster.
All of the strategies build upon the same theme, what you feel is not what you are doing. When making a change, you need to behave with this reality in mind, and adjust your actions accordingly. If you’re unable to do so, you’ll find yourself struggling to change.
You may find that one of the strategies below resonates with you more than the others. That’s great. Do whatever you need to do to make the change you’re trying to make.
Your body is lying to you. Your body does not like change. It prefers to move in exactly the same way it has been moving. Whenever you create change, your body isn’t going to like it, and it’s going to create all sorts of ‘alarms’ that make movement feel REALLY weird.
Most swimmers will get freaked out by what their body is telling them and go back to their comfortable, yet ineffective skills. However, once you know that your body and brain are overreacting, you’re much more likely to stick to the changes you’re making, regardless of how bad it feels.
There is a difference between what is happening versus what you need to do make it happen. Let’s say you read in a book that you should swim with a 90-degree bend in your elbow. Assuming this is great advice (it’s not!), it would make sense to try to swim with what feels like a 90-degree bend in your elbow. The problem is that what you want to happen and what you have to do to make it happen aren’t the same thing!
For instance, it may FEEL like your arm is almost straight to actually swim with a 90-degree bend, or it might feel like it’s completely bent. Using another example, let’s say you pull your head to the right every time you breathe. It would make sense to try to ‘keep it straight’ when you breathe. However, if you actually want to keep straight, you’re going to need to try to pull your head to the LEFT to actually get it to stay straight.
What you have to try to do is different than what you’re actually doing, which leads us to the next strategy.
You need to OVER-correct. Whatever you think you need to do, you need to triple or quadruple the magnitude of the change. If you think you need to move your arm over 6 inches, you need to try to move it 2 feet. If you need to lower your head by 3 inches, make it feel like you’ve lowered in 12 inches.
Make it feel like you’ve over-corrected the skill, and you’re much more likely to make the change you’re trying to make.
Make it feel WRONG. If it feels right, you’re doing it wrong. If it feels wrong, you’re doing it right. When making a change, it’s not an adjustment, it’s an overhaul. As a result, instead of trying to make your new skill feel ‘good’, you need to try to make it feel wrong. Preferably, you want to make it feel really wrong. Remember that your body overexaggerates the sensation of change.
To make a meaningful change, it will need to feel VERY wrong.
If it feels different, it’s the same. If it feels cartoonish, it’s right. This is an extension of the previous strategy. Swimmers will often tell me it feels ‘different’, and I’ll often be forced to respond that it was exactly the same. In contrast, they’ll occasionally perform a repetition and start laughing afterwards at what they just did, and I’ll tell them they got it just right.
Very rarely will a change feel like you expect it will.
It’s better to go too far than not far enough. We only know our limits when we cross them. This strategy is a twist on that comment. Your much better off overdoing the change to the point where it’s wrong at the other extreme than you are under-adjusting.
By learning what is ‘too much’, it’s much easier to scale it back to ‘just right’. It’s much easier to calibrate between to extremes than it is too constantly adjust upwards. By going too far, you’ll have a much better sense of where the middle can be found.
Calibrate. When using any of these strategies, don’t just trust what you’re feeling. Confirm what you’re feeling. Get your coach, a friend, or a video camera to confirm what you’re feeling. This will give you the confidence that you’re making the change you want, regardless of what you’re body is telling you.
Importantly, you’ll learn to trust what you’re feeling and you’ll learn to associate these new and foreign sensations with faster swimming. Once you accomplish that feat, you’re well on your way towards change.
Rely on serendipity. You never know when you’re going to stumble on a slight change that is going to make all the difference in the world to what you’re trying to accomplish. It might be how you breathe, how you hold your body alignment, how you’re engaging the water. It could be a significant part of your swimming, or it could be a minor part. It’s like the water offers up a clue every so often. Actually, these opportunities come fairly often. The problem is that you’re probably not paying attention, yet.
The only way you’re going to be able to seize these opportunities is by paying attention. You need to be paying attention to what you’re feeling and you’re going to need to be paying attention to how you’re performing.
All the time.
You never know when you’re going to have moment of divine inspiration. All of a sudden, you’ll make a ‘mistake’ and realize your mistake felt really good. Or you’ll realize your ‘mistake’ allowed you to swim really fast.
Once you’ve learned how to swim in a better way, it’s time to start training those skills.
That’s the topic we’ll explore in the next post.