In the video and article below, TI Coach Shane Eversfield discusses how endurance athletes must balance athletic goals with an artistic process.

Shane’s latest e-book,  An Introduction to Kaizen-Durance, Your Aerobic Path to Mastery, is the first of a 6 part series.  CLICK HERE for more details and to order your copy.



TI Swimmer: Athlete or Artist?

As a TI swimmer, are you an athlete or an artist?  In my experience, that may shift with age.  Consider the slogan on the back cover of each book in my new Kaizen-durance series:  

Athletes decline with age. Artists improve. 

At 62 years young, I am leaning more towards endurance arts than endurance sports.

Both the athletic approach and the artistic approach are essential and empowering for all of us as we pursue mastery and excellence.  Terry Laughlin used both approaches brilliantly in his mastery of swimming.

So, what’s the difference between athletics and art?  After all, we play sports just like we play music.  A primary difference is this: One is focused on goals and results.  The other is focused on process and craft.

Let’s start with the athlete.  The key word in sports? Goal!!  

Team sports often call it the goal line or the goal box.  Endurance athletes call it the finish line.  The focus from the beginning is to reach that goal.  As a sport, the goal in swimming, like most endurance sports, is focused on distance and time.  

These are metrics.  They are measurable results. (Metrics: Measurable results)

Metrics provide us feedback – with results – that can motivate us, and with a clear way to measure our progress, our degree of success, both personally and in relation to others.

There is a saying: That which can be measured can be improved.

So, as a swimmer, how do you reach your goal?  Do you dive in and flail away for the required number of laps?  Do you hope that by exerting as much effort as possible that you will reach that goal?  This is not how Terry prepared for and executed his swim performances.  

However, he did use metrics intensively in his training and his performing.  He focused on stroke length and cadence.  He used these metrics for incremental improvement.  He used them to monitor and train his efficiency in real time moment by moment. 

Now let’s look at the artist:

Like a great painter, we complete our task one stroke at a time.  And like the painter, each stroke is a vital part of the masterpiece.  Not one of them is ignored.  In our fixation on speed, consider this: A musician plays a concerto one perfect note at a time, not by rushing to play the final note.  

All artists are focused on creating their masterpiece by rigorously exercising their craft.  They spend years and decades patiently mastering their unique and brilliant craft.  We master our craft through sensation-based experience.  As TI swimmers, we totally immerse ourselves in that sensation-based experience.

Terry patiently focused on his aquatic craft as an endurance artist each time he entered the water to practice.  He crafted graceful, efficient, precise strokes one at a time – even when he was striving for maximum speed.  He did this by investing his attention on his sense-felt experience. 

As an athlete, he used metrics to monitor and measure the effectiveness of his technique at a given pace. 

As an artist, he used sensation-based experience to perfect and master his craft.  

As TI swimmers and coaches, we all experience this: Finesse is stronger than force.  Once we pass our aerobic prime in our mid-to-late 20’s, our aerobic force begins to decline.  Finesse becomes our saving grace, our enduring satisfaction.  And this is why we can continue to improve with age.

To summarize:

  • We need the athletic goals and metrics for motivation, and to measure our progress.  This is the analytical side.  We use science and logic to design and implement a metrically-based method to pursue mastery.
  • We need the artistic process and craft to achieve those goals one graceful efficient stroke at a time.  This is the sensory side.  We use our sense-felt experience and intuition to feel our way to precise, aligned, graceful, efficient, seamless strokes that empower us to realize our goals.

Improvement and mastery are about identifying and solving problems.  We need both our logic and our sense-felt experience to identify the problem and navigate the solution.

In summary, each of us has a unique balance and combination of these two.  And that balance may change as we evolve and age.

Thank you for granting me the opportunity to share with you my insights and my passion as both a lifelong athlete and a lifelong artist.

If you want to explore further your unique balance of inner athlete and inner artist, I invite you to check out Book One of my Kaizen-durance Series, available via the TI Online Academy.  CLICK HERE for more details and to order you copy.  You can learn more about goals, metrics, process and craft, and how to use these tools most effectively to reach your goals, to strengthen motivation and increase enjoyment, and to experience brilliance and mastery no matter your age or fitness level.

I invite to visit the Kaizen-durance website as well.  I offer lots of resources for your pursuit of excellence and mastery in the endurance arts.

Swim Long and Prosper!

– Shane Eversfield