Mile a day?
First of all, I'm fairly certain that I could go out tomorrow and swim a mile no problem. However, whether it was a "good" mile is another issue and whether I could do it regularly is a big "maybe." ONCE AGAIN, I'm thinking about making swimming my PRIMARY type of exercise and, after reading about the health benefits of longer swims, I was thinking about doing a mile a day. I work out 5x/week during lunch at work so my time is somewhat limited but I can make that part work. I also don't do flip turns so I guess that will slow me down.
I see some of the coaches read here so my question is, should I just go "do it" or should I work on something first or work up to it? I have the open water swim DVD and haven't learned the two beat kick but I don't think the distance would necessitate changing my kick.
This is prompted by (1) blood pressure creeping back up, (2) periodic back problems getting more frequent and (3) I LOVE to be in the water! I think I need more aerobic exercise (less anaerobic) and this just seems more sustainable over time... I'm 55 now.
Setting any goal will benefit your swimming, as will planning a regular routine. And both will benefit your health.
The key element is that your overarching goal is to tirelessly strive to improve your swimming.
Lately I've thought and wrote a lot about the aspects of swimming for health and happiness that go beyond technique. The thread on The Talent Code gets into this and I expect to devote much more time to these topics. So just by setting this goal -- and voicing it publicly, while also asking for help and support -- you've taken an important step. So before getting into details like whether you should swim long or short, whole stroke or drills, here are a few lessons I've taken from "The Talent Code" and other books like "Flow" by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and "Mastery" by George Leonard.
1) You can and should set highly ambitious -- even audacious -- goals;
2) There is an identifiable set of attitudes, behaviors and habits associated with the achievement of excellence or mastery.
3) If you learn and practice these behaviors, improvement is almost inevitable and your chance of achieving the goals you set will be greatly enhanced.
4) Your experience of swimming will be far more satisfying as a result of aspiration, optimism and mindful practice.
The key to improvement is to commit to what some call Deliberate Practice and what we call Examined Swimming. The essence of both is to be continually looking for the weak points in your skill and habit, then to focus on fixing errors and strengthening weaknesses.
Longer repeats of whole-stroke will reveal one set of errors or weaknesses. Shorter repeats of whole-stroke or drill will reveal others.
Can you name the top 3 aspects of longer-distance swimming skill that you feel you could improve right now? The main outcome of improving them is that, when you finish swimming a mile, you feel you could swim another right away. Or even better, to feel more energized after swimming a mile, than before.
If the mile is so easy for you and you don't do flip turns, I propose setting one of your challenges to doing a mile with flip turns! Break the mile into intervals if you choose to or need to in order to do the turns without running out of air and having your stroke come apart. Work up to doing that for one mile total then one mile straight.
I love setting goals for other people. It's so easy for me. hehe
(2) As suggested above, I think working on the flip turns would enable me to better achieve #1 and enhance my experience of flow throughout the time I'm swimming. The break at the end of each length seems to disrupt things.
(3) Commit to doing it. In the old forum, you'll find at least two threads I posted about "I think I"m a swimmer." I've struggled with this whole notion of what should I be doing for the best use of my work out time for years. Calorie burn and muscle tone used to be highest on the list but I think aerobic capacity is right up there. With the back issues and the creeping blood pressure, I think my best best may be to focus more on swimming with body weight exercise mixed in for resistance training.
Two things about committing.
One, motivation is not an issue but payoff is. I need to be convinced that what I'm doing will provide me the benefits I seek or I'll go elsewhere which is why I've gone away and come back so much. Same with Chi Running but I'm pretty convinced that's out now for me.
Two is related to one. If part of the payoff is that I can be GOOD at something, that's a big motivator. At 55, I pretty much suck at all the things I used to be good at. I played basketball for many years and that ended with a medal in the Senior Olympics (regional) but I knew that was it. My body could no longer do what the mind knew needed to be done. I have friends who still "play" but they aren't really playing, they are just participating which is fine but not for me. I would like to actually be somewhat GOOD at something still. It really pisses me off to go to the gym (I work on a college campus) and feel that I'm some how "less than" the others around me. I guess the ego doesn't go away even when the body falls apart. However, I think that swimming might be the one area where I could at least hold my own. I had a 1 1/2 x body weight dead lift and a 1 x body weight squat three years ago but that's all gone and I don't think those are sustainable anyway (may even be part of the problem now!) but swimming is!
There is no Masters program close (enough) by but I can still do this on my own or at least make progress. So, Terry, the obvious reason for calling me out on the "three things" was to create a plan. I have the beginnings of one and I will find one of the books you mentioned as well because I'm also interested in the mental aspect as well.
Oh, yeah, then there's the problem with FOCUS. I have a full time job but I also teach college classes as my part time job and I have a side business but it's also teaching so I control the hours. I've been working on improving my digital photography skills (gave away my 35mm), relearning chemistry (mostly organic), and have a stack of books next to the bed about topics related to plant physiology. My wife is undergoing chemotherapy the rest of 2009 and I spend a lot of time with her both when she's undergoing treatment and when we're home. We work for the same university so we're never very far apart.
I can definitely stay focused on her and her needs but, beyond that, I may get distracted too easily and jump from one thing to another which prevents me from getting very much better at any one.
The turns could very well be breaking your flow. There are basically two turns for every lap so you need to make them good. Whichever turn you decide to do, learn to do it well. A poor flip turn will not be better than a good open turn.
OK, how about doing intervals of only 2 laps at a time? That would give you multiple opportunities to duplicate the feeling of the first lap during the second lap. Once you can maintain the feeling for 2 laps, increase to 3 lap, and so on.
Use the pauses between intervals to "reset" your body and think about the experience you just had and the focal point(s) you will use during your next interval.
Doing short intervals might also allow you to maintain a higher pace, which would partially compensate for the pauses between intervals. On second thought, it might be best to keep your pace slower with the whole mile in mind.
This motivation is the most elemental and powerful, and the one with the greatest potential to spark a sustained interest -- even passion as time goes on.
I think I can confidently assert that no personal-mastery quest will prove to be more appropriate, nor offer more opportunity for satisfaction, than swimming.
1) As humans we're SO NOT WIRED by evolution to be good at swimming, that the opportunity to improve is virtually universal, nearly limitless and highly accessible. It is literally possible to have an experience in your first 5 minutes that suggests a world of unrealized potential -- mainly by doing Superman Glide.
2) While we may not be wired by evolution to swim well, humans are wired to be "problem-solving machines," and the TI approach is designed to guide you through a logically-sequenced problem-solving process.
There is virtually nothing in the physical arena that I can do as well or easily or feel as good doing as I felt 40 years ago at 18. But in swimming I feel exponentially more capable, skilled, tuned-in, and comprehending than I did at 18. This is a major source of personal satisfaction.
One of the best ways to discover the leading edge of any swimming skill is a ladder set. My two favorites when working on a skill that is particularly exacting or subtle enough to require my full attention are:
25 + 50 + 75 + 100, or
4 x 25 + 3 x 50 + 2 x 75 + 1 x 100
Whether it's an SPL, or a new skill, or a deeper perception, I try to establish it on the 25, then test whether I can maintain it reasonably close to the same level for a 50. If that goes well, I venture on to the 75, etc.
The first version is a simple test. The second version offers me a bit more opportunity to deepen my awareness, or the imprint, before trying to stretch my capability.
If I reach a point where I'm no longer satisfied with my expression of the new skill, I have two choices:
1) Back down the ladder -- I.E. If I lose it on the 75, return to the 50; or
2) Start at the bottom again.
In fact, when doing a ladder like this, I usually plan from the beginning to do at least 3 rounds. I've found that, as a rule of thumb, 3 rounds of any task or set works well as a way of understanding the task (round 1), puzzling out the solution (round 2), and neurally and kinesthetically imprinting the solution (round 3).
A 4th round may or may not be additive. In some cases, yes. In others you no longer sense improvement, or may feel yourself slip back a degree or two.
The key thing is to keep yourself balanced on the fine edge between the challenge of the task you set and your current level of skill.
The other questions are: (1) how much rest and (2) what to do while pausing between repeats.
The answers are:
1) Just enough, but not too much. Enough that fatigue or inattention do not become factors in your ability to do the task well. You want to feel equally fresh, physically and mentally, on subsequent repeats. Initially that will be challenging. As you practice -- and can master the task more efficiently -- you'll find you regenerate more quickly and your rest interval will naturally decrease. The main idea here on rest intervals is not to use random intervals suggested in some book or article. Set your own intervals attuned to your own sense of readiness to do the task well.
2) Keep swimming mentally. Learn to visualize so vividly that your brain never stops working on the problem during the entire duration of the set. The great thing about swimming mentally is it can always be perfect. And the same electrical signals from brain via neural fibers to muscle motor units get sent while swimming mentally as while doing it physically.
This is a great discussion and I love the advice!
One point I wanted to make to follow up my previous comments. Although focus is a concern, I do have a very sound set of priorities so the distractions are mainly an issue farther out from higher priorities. For example, my wife is always at the top of the list. Work in all forms is second because that's essential for supporting everything else. I got a master's in parks & recreation so we discussed a lot about how people identify themselves and I'd like to identify myself more as an accomplished swimmer and less as whatever I do at work so I want that to become third. I'm ordering The Talent Code from Amazon today, am excited about receiving it and I think that would help support solidifying priority #3.
So, in the short term, I don't want to reduce my calorie expenditure during exercise. Do you think I can follow your guidelines and still get a good workout or should I break it up into ladder set session first followed by "just swimming"? Can I get the same workout intensity by just keeping the breaks short but maintain mindfulness?
Thanks for all your support... I'm excited!
The ladder set also seems like a good way to adjust to the water and warm up a bit. (I'm not the type that drives straight in a goes a few hundreds yards immediately. More like, inch in, paddle around, prime the aquatic breathing, then begin to get my swim on 10 minutes later.)
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