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  #1  
Old 12-07-2010
terry terry is offline
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Default TI - yea, Swimming - as a Practice

I began writing a chapter for the new TI book about the distinction of "Swimming as a Workout" and "Swimming as a Practice."

In doing this I'm not thinking of Practice in the sense of "practice good technique." Rather in the sense of doing improvement-oriented, flow-state-seeking swimming as A Practice.

Because this Forum includes a large percentage of the most thoughtful swimmers in the world I'd like to invite your thoughts on this. I'll start with a definition of Workout and a limited definition of Practice.

Workout
Physical – The goal is to work heart, lungs and muscles for exercise or sports training.
External or Impersonal – Often dictated by someone else -- a coach who tells you what to do as you do it, then guided by a ‘canned’ program from web, book or magazine.
Dis-integrated – Often a box to check off or item on your to-do list.

A Practice is defined by a:
Higher Purpose – A practice is a vehicle for personal growth; consciously designed to help you live a better life – some would even say to “live life as a work of art.” Practice should provide insights that benefit other areas of life.

How else would you define a Practice? And please give an example of how TI has come to be more a Practice, than a form of exercise, in your life.
Thanks.
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My TI Story
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  #2  
Old 12-08-2010
PASA PASA is offline
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Default Practice trains the mind as well as the body

Swimming workouts, as defined here, are designed to work the body (heart, other muscles, lungs, joints, etc.) to achieve a physical health and/or performance benefit.

I would define Practice as an activity where exercising the mind is a very significant, if not primary, focus of the activity. This would include such approaches as swimming as a moving meditation to swimming as an exercise in learning and problem solving - how to train the brain and body together to achieve flow, grace, efficiency and even speed, or how to continually improve on aspects of the activity that already seem to be in good shape.

This is not to say that traditional swimming workouts are not at all mental - I've learned from observing my oldest child's development as a distance swimmer that his sport is highly mental. But practice puts the mental aspects first.

In my own life, I use swimming as both a physical exercise to stay fit and also as a way to achieve a calm, peaceful state of mind, as well as a sense of joy. It's the best form of meditation I know. Background noises, if they exist, tend to blend into one another and disappear, and I can focus my eyes on the line under my face and my brain on a single stroke and a single stroke thought. I begin each session the same way - whether I'm planning a hard, effortful swim or a more relaxed endurance or skill session - by going to a quiet corner of the pool area and performing a series of slow exercises to loosen up my shoulders and hips. This puts me in a calm state of mind to get in the pool and focus only on swimming. I use my time in the pool to forget about everything else going on in life, and just focus on the particular issue I've chosen to address that day - better form, balance, propulsion, tempo, endurance, etc. I try throughout to remain relaxed, calm and patient with myself, and to enjoy the experience of swimming as fast or slow as I choose. One posititve about treating swimming as a practice instead of a workout is that if I happen to be physically tired from the day, I can choose to swim a long, relaxing session, focusing mainly on things such as holding a fixed stroke count for many laps, or mixing drills with whole stroke practice to improve my form. So even if my body is tired, I can still exercise my mind.

By focusing on one stroke at a time, one lap at a time, I never have a "bad" lap - even if I feel a bit slow, miss a stroke count or feel a bit out of balance - I just take in the data and adopt a stroke thought for the next lap that I think will help overcome the challenge. Because the TI method is so "effortless" when moving, I don't feel like I'm "working out" when swimming; no strains, soreness or breathlessness. Instead my thoughts are just about how I'm swimming, not about how hard I feel I'm working my body. In other words, swimming is more a mental exercise than a physical one. In reality, however, I'm really working both body and mind. When I finish a main set of something like 10 200s on 20 secs rest, my breathing is a bit labored and my heart is pumping pretty stongly, but not racing. And I don't feel worn out. Instead, I feel strong and refreshed both mentally and physically. It's a great feeling.
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  #3  
Old 12-08-2010
Grant Grant is offline
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Over the years my swimming has morphed into a practice. Before entering the water I take a short quiet time to visualize a mirror like calm pond which leeds to a still alertness that I take into the pool. By focusing on what I am doing or how I am doing it and not on why I am doing it, allows a very focused swim. If distractions arise I allow them to drift away and return to the focusing. Some days I do this better than others but the length of time I am hooked into the distraction is getting shorter. And over the years I am sure will continue to do so.
So the journey continues.
I have to admit I learned this approach in the 70's long before I got into swimming. However TI swimming has given me a very compatable vehicle to hone the minful skills and find that still alertness even while in motion.
A seeming paradox but one can handle that :o)
May we swim with ease at the speeds we choose.
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May we swim with ease at the speeds we choose.
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  #4  
Old 12-08-2010
aksenov aksenov is offline
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Default scientific definitions

We can take into account some scientific definitions, related to the issue:
Physical activity. Any bodily movement produced by the contraction of skeletal muscle that increases energy expenditure above a basal level.
Exercise. A subcategory of physical activity that is planned, structured, repetitive, and purposive in the sense that the improvement or maintenance of one or more components of physical fitness is the objective. “Exercise” and “exercise training” frequently are used interchangeably and generally refer to physical activity performed during leisure time with the primary purpose of improving or maintaining physical fitness, physical performance, or health.
Workout a series of hard continuous exercises that you do regularly in order to keep fit.
Physical fitness. The ability to carry out daily tasks with vigor and alertness, without undue fatigue, and with ample energy to enjoy leisure-time pursuits and respond to emergencies. Physical fitness includes a number of components consisting of cardiorespiratory endurance (aerobic power), skeletal muscle endurance, skeletal muscle strength, skeletal muscle power, flexibility, balance, speed of movement, reaction time, and body composition.
From: 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)
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  #5  
Old 12-08-2010
haschu33 haschu33 is offline
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So, what is a practice then?
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  #6  
Old 12-08-2010
jmsavi jmsavi is offline
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I think of a practice as learned joy (as opposed to joy caused by an external source), and mindfulness through repetition and being in the moment. At it's high point ,time can fly or not exist (flow state).Most of the time it's just an occasional "smile on the inside".
A workout ends in 1/2 an hour,1hr, etc.
A practice is continous or.....maybe.... on going is a better way to put it.
A practice is trying to improve the act.
jmsavi
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  #7  
Old 12-09-2010
terry terry is offline
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There's a book titled "Learned Optimism." I like the phrase "learned joy." About this time last year I wrote a blog with the topic of "Kaizen Happiness." By which I meant that we could gain better understanding of what really makes us happy, and by keeping our intentions and actions in alignment with that, achieve happiness more consistently. And by experiencing happiness regularly my right pre-frontal cortex, which activates when we feel optimistic and positive, gets more robust so my happiness quotient intensifies.

Here's the next part of the notes I made on what defines a Practice.

Core Truths – Practices have touchstones that can be conveyed in a few short phrases. The core truths should guide you to the answer to any question that arises. You should be able to find unifying aims and elements of any practice with any other practice.
For me a great example of Core Truths is from Michael Pollan's book "The Omnivore's Dilemma. His guides for eating well are
"Eat Food" (as distinguished from 'foodlike substances manufactured by conglomerates.)
"Mostly Plants.
"Not too much."

I love that
1) Perhaps unintentionally, he managed to put eating well in the frame of a practice.
2) Those three short phrases give you better, clearer guidance on eating well than many books with 100s of pages.

What similar phrases would you nominate as Core Truths of TI Practice?
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May your laps be as happy as mine.

My TI Story
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  #8  
Old 12-09-2010
terry terry is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aksenov View Post
Physical activity. Any bodily movement produced by the contraction of skeletal muscle that increases energy expenditure above a basal level.
Exercise.
Workout
Physical fitness.
From: 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)
Impressive definitions, but where's the higher purpose?
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Terry Laughlin
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May your laps be as happy as mine.

My TI Story
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  #9  
Old 12-09-2010
aksenov aksenov is offline
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Default higher purpose

Quote:
Originally Posted by terry View Post
Impressive definitions, but where's the higher purpose?
It seems obvious that the higher (primary) purpose of practice is happiness.
There are 3 levels (types) of happy lives
The pleasant life—where you experience a succession of pleasures that lose their effect with
repetition
The good life—where you play to your strengths and are “engaged”
The meaningful life—where you put your strengths at the service of something higher than yourself

Life satisfaction (happiness) correlates with engagement and meaningfulness but not with pleasure.

Practice of TI swimming in a kaizen way may lead most of TI followers to the good life (they are "engaged"), i.e. to happiness.
But Terry seems to put his strengths at the service of something higher than himself making his life meaningful. Thus he may be happier then other TI swimmers.

The secondary purpose of TI practice is health. Being healthy is not necessary means being happy, but there is no happiness without health.

I think that the best results can be achieved by combining kaizen practice with Positive Psychology.
Positive Psychology is an umbrella term for the study of positive emotions, positive character traits, and enabling institutions. Practicing positive psychology leads to Learned Optimism (Terry mentioned it above).

Last edited by aksenov : 12-09-2010 at 09:55 AM.
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  #10  
Old 12-09-2010
Mike from NS Mike from NS is offline
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Terry,

I'm learning to swim for the prime purpose of being able to simply swim. I enjoy time spent in the salt water much more than in the chlorinated water (due the the greater buoyancy the salt water offers. I also dislike the smell and skin drying effects of the chlorine.) That being said. I welcome the benefits of the physical activity swimming brings; but these benefits are simply side effects of the activity and not my main purpose. Therefore, I suppose (for me) time invested in swimming is time spent in practice. This practice is a study of my efforts and their results of the various focal points I may be using so as to become more competent in the water. Speed is only a factor when a bit of curiosity of my developing ability creeps in ~ or when there is someone in the next lane. I'm always up for an undeclared challenge! Practice in the sense put forth here is almost like a religion ... we practice our religion, we try to become better people from that practice for the purpose of hoping for a better eternity -- if we are believers of this. (I am.) Likewise we practice swimming to become more proficient so to be able to enjoy the experience to the fullest. Gaining new skills and recognizing improvement has a satisfying factor of accomplishment and this too offers enjoyment. Swimming is something I never tried to grasp in my younger years ~ and like skiing, I wish now that I had many years earlier. I'm very happy that I discovered Total Immersion at the very beginning of my swimming "journey".

Mike
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