In response to my post about appearing on the Mile High Endurance podcast, Marcus posted this comment: I enjoyed this podcast. It was very informative. It made me think about my reluctance to quantify my performance either with gauging how fast it takes me to swim 25 meters to how many strokes it takes me to swim the same length. My fear is that my subjective assessment might not match up to what the quantified results say. I think that my TI practice is still in its budding stage and I fear I might become discouraged if I quantify it. Still, I do see the merits of quantifying.

Marcus, I totally understand that reluctance to measure performance, lest it fall short of the expectations you may have at the moment.  Dr Carol Dweck of Stanford wrote about two groups of young students. One group shied away from taking difficult tests, fearful that test results might reveal them to be less smart than others thought they were. A second group looked forward to difficult tests because their self-image was based more on their willingness to tackle difficult challenges, than on an external perception that they were smart or average. The former group was said to possess a Fixed Mindset; the latter a Growth Mindset.

Your reluctance to time yourself for 25m does not mark you as having a Fixed mindset. Indeed the result of your time trial could be known only to you.  And I strongly support TI swimmers whose values are strongest on swimming that feels and looks great, without needing to quantify that with a time.

However, I also encourage such swimmers to consider getting a mathematical measure. Not just time, but time plus stroke count, or time plus tempo. Time plus another measure is far more meaningful. Since you do sound inclined to overcome this reluctance, I’ll note that the way to defuse ‘performance anxiety’ is to think of the measure you use as simply a piece of information. It’s not inherently good or bad. It does however give you a starting point for measuring your improvement in a mathematically specific way.

Coincidentally, when I read your comment I’d just finished writing something about another TI swimmer who did choose to time himself for 25m. I used his example as the opening of a guest chapter I wrote about aging healthfully through movement. Here it is. I hope it encourages you to overcome your reluctance.

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How many individuals do you know who—nearing 70 years of age—are striving to achieve personal bests in a sport measured by time and distance? And how many people–in any age group–do you know who are pursuing improvement by regularly and rigorously analyzing what they do, seeking weaknesses, and trying to convert them into strengths?

Such behaviors are quite rare in the world at large—even among those in their 20s or 30s, let alone four decades older. However, they are surprisingly common, at all ages, in the community of Total Immersion swimmers.

The day I began writing this chapter, I received an email from Wayne Britton, 68, of Pembrokeshire, England. Wayne described himself as a ‘recreational’ swimmer, but his message made it evident that a more accurate description was Kaizen swimmer–one devoted to thoughtful self-examined, pursuit of continuous improvement.

Wayne learned front crawl from a traditional (non-TI) coach shortly before turning 60. Five years later, seeking more refined technique, he attended a Total Immersion Effortless Endurance workshop. At the conclusion of the workshop, Coach Tracey Baumann counted his strokes and timed him for 25 meters. This gave Wayne a set of ‘baseline’ metrics—25 meters in 32 strokes and 46 seconds—data from which he could track improvement.

Over the next year, Wayne improved to 42 seconds and 26 strokes. Seeking to boost his progress, Wayne attended a TI Smart Speed workshop. While there, coaches Keith Lewis and Mike Weedon persuaded him to focus on developing a more streamlined stroke—and to let gains in speed be products of that, rather than being overt goals. Since then he’s improved his 25m stroke count to an average of 20 SPL (strokes per length) while swimming 50m repeats in 78 seconds.

At the present, Wayne’s focus is on feeling more consistency in “moving through the water with a relaxed, graceful, no-splash stroke.” Wayne has also begun working with a Tempo Trainer, which allows him to increase tempo in precise increments of .01 (one-hundredth) second at a time.

May your laps be as happy and purposeful as mine.