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Where Is My Mind?

WHHRRR!! RING! HONK, BEEP, HONK!!! RING RING RING!!! Computers, phones, TV, radio, cars. The sounds of everyday life are enough to drive you batty. One day this week I was at my wits end, which isn’t hard to imagine or very far to go because I am naturally a half-wit. So I went in search of my mind.

After a long day, I found myself on the pool deck early in the morning. I was working with a young swimmer who has recently come off an awe-inspiring performance. The performance wasn’t surprising because I’ve seen the kind of work he’s put in for the past seven months. He has been swimming twice a day every day for that entire period, and he has gone the entire time without racing. So this was his triumphant return to the meet environment.

This swimmer did what he thought he could do, but performed just below what he wanted to do. This has been better for him than if he had exceeded his expectations. This morning in the pool, he swam with a new air about him. He was confident but hungry, happy but driven. These are merely attitudes, but they have a remarkable effect on physical performance. When you watch a swimmer long enough, you can start to tell what their mental state is. What you are thinking and feeling as a swimmer comes out in how you swim.

I was amazed by the swimmer’s ability to execute this morning’s practice. We started with a review of the previous morning’s set/lesson/skill. The set was one that Glenn had come up with: 6 x 50 @ 1:00, alternating one breaststroke and one recovery free. The breaststroke 50s were double descend — time AND stroke count. That means you have to get faster while taking fewer strokes. The final 50 breaststroke had to be swum in :32 seconds, while taking just 6 strokes per length.

The swimmer did what he was supposed to do through each part of the set…up to the final 50. He took 6 strokes per length on the final 50, but his time was :33 — not quite the standard he had set for himself. I told him to do another 50, focusing on what Glenn had told him the day before. He pushed off and did it. No questioning, no complaining. He just did it, and looked good doing it.

He flowed through the rest of the practice with the same kind of grace. We worked on different breakouts for the 100 and 200 breaststroke. Again, this was well executed with an attention to detail. We finished by working on turns and getting in and out of the walls quicker. For each stroke he has a time in and out of the flags. So we did some wall work, focusing on getting the times down lower than his previous bests. On his first try he went nearly a second faster than his previous best in both backstroke and freestyle. We kept repeating until he hit a goal or a plateau of three times that were the same. He was able to set a new goal in the backstroke while he hit a plateau in the freestyle. I thought that was a great way to end the day because he accomplished something, yet realized there was more left to do.

After he was done, I hopped in to swim myself. I had planned on doing a warm-up that I have been doing for the past 7 months. The second part of the warm-up was a 200 pull. When I hit the wall at 200 I did a turn instead of finishing. I just kept swimming without any purpose. I stopped counting; I wasn’t really concerned about time or interval, aerobic base, or anything else. I just kept going, and the longer I went the better I felt. For the twenty minutes that my head was in the water all I could hear was the water. It was very Siddhartha like, and provided some time without distraction. Eventually I finished, and the sounds of the industrial air conditioner and splashing swimmers took over. That is when I thought of writing this article.

Now, after driving through traffic, I am back on the computer with the radio going and phone ringing. The big difference today is that I know where my mind is and that makes all the difference. Once you find it you have to kick it around for a while and get it in the right place. So, in answer to the question, where is my mind? Like the Pixies song, it is in the water swimming, or on the deck coaching.