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Old 11-10-2009
terry terry is offline
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Default Replace Struggle with The Art of Imperfection

Originally Posted by eddiewouldgo View Post
I think one learns things in a fatigued state that cannot be learned in a non-fatigued state . . . the ability to perceive unnecessary strain and drag sources and replace them with more efficient movement patterns on the fly and sustaining velocity while reducing energy costs. (A different skill, mentally and physiologically, than just bludgeoning through and hoping to survive the stress.) !
Thanks so much for better highlighting and articulating the key points in my post. The same sort of improvement happened with my recent blog post, Swimming Lessons from Bruce Lee thanks to a comment by TW. This suggests I should post all of my articles here first, before releasing them to a wider audience elsewhere.
(I described my imperfect swim in a mentally fatigued state just before turning in for the night and maybe there's a lesson in that too.)

Eddie is correct in saying I'm moving away from an earlier TI mantra "Never practice struggle." The updated version is "Practice the Art of Imperfection."
Conventional wisdom in swim training could be summed up in variations of these two phrases:
Get through (the set, the workout.)
Swim til it hurts.
Both speak of Surviving.

Here are the key improvement principles I can draw from my post and Eddie's:
I. Stress - physical or mental - causes adaptations. That's classical training theory. It works best when stress is applied in a thoughtful and measured way. That allows the organism -- your muscles, CV system, YOU -- a chance to adapt. Staleness, failure to improve, injury, and burnout are all symptoms of what physiologists call "failing adaptation syndrome."
II. Stress should be avoided, or applied with great care, when a swimmer is developing basic confidence, skills or body control -- comfort, balance, alignment, coordinated movement.
III. Because human swimmers are massively inefficient by nature (converting 3% to 9% of horsepower into forward movement, compared to 80% for dolphins) the most reliable way to improve is by increasing efficiency. Thus the application of "stress" should be through tasks that test your efficiency in an incremental and well-ordered way. Another way of expressing this is to tax your neuromuscular system. As you do, your metabolic system will be taxed as well.
IV. As your NM system adapts to the stress and your skill/efficiency improve, two things will happen:
- 1 You will swim longer distances at faster paces, placing greater demands on your metabolism. It will grow stronger in response.
- 2 At the same time your NM system will be learning to perform the new higher-order task more efficiently - adapting to minimize the increased drag, adapting to recruit muscle groups more efficiently to overcome the higher drag more easily.

As both "stress adaptations" occur, you can increase the difficulty of your task - the level of stress - once more.

Such choices should also be governed by your motivation for swimming. Another TI maxim is that pursuit of improvement is the highest, "purest" motivation in swimming -- indeed in any endeavor.
Swimmers will typically set personal goals in swimming on three levels:
1) Swim to learn. I can't swim now. I'd like to be able to swim and not drown.
2) Swim to exercise. Swim far enough, with sufficient ease, that I can get aerobic and other benefits. The farther I can swim, the fitter I can be.
3) Swim to improve. At this level, the goal of all swimming you do, pure and simple, is to improve your swimming. As you pursue improvement, your endurance, your speed, your enjoyment, your self-knowledge all improve as a natural - almost inevitable - result.

The central goal of TI is to inspire all swimmers - not just competitive swimmers - to move from the first two categories to the third. When they do, the key lessons will be:
1) You improve by practicing the Art of Imperfection - or the Art of Making Mistakes. You need to make mistakes to improve. Mistakes get your atttention. They also reveal the "edge" where the task slightly exceeds your level of skill. You should be constantly seeking - and moving - that edge.
2) Learn from your mistakes; don't repeat them.
3) The key to improvement, to enjoyment, to self knowledge is to focus on training the brain and nervous system, rather than the heart and aerobic system. The brain is smart; it's the master of all thought and action. The aerobic system is dumb - the slave of the brain. Focus on the place where control and awareness reside, which is also the place where efficiency is developed.

For every swimmer in the world - even the Olympic champion - trying to swim a mile as fast as you can at this moment MUST be an imperfect swim. The key question is whether it's an exercise in survival or of mastering The Art of Imperfection.

Thanks, Eddie. I'll let this thread marinate a bit, then take the best of it and turn it into a blog post.
Terry Laughlin
Head Coach & Chief Executive Optimist

May your laps be as happy as mine.

My TI Story

Last edited by terry : 11-10-2009 at 12:55 PM.
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