Swimming Paradigms and Important Changes

Part I

It’s time to question what you value, while you try to improve your swimming performance. When you think about what activities you are doing to elicit positive change what are they? And while physical activities and movements are important, we are talking more about what you think, as the critical component. These articles are hoping to challenge a few common paradigms that shape our thoughts and activities.

As an athlete and coach, the use of blanket statements can get oneself into trouble and create a reputation of willful ignorance. So, while these common paradigms are discussed here, bear in mind that any technique, new or old, that can actually be useful to ones improvement should be explored.

The short list of paradigms to explore over the next few articles:

Right v Wrong  a pervasive use of this specific verbiage and how it can be altered to effectively influence your desired outcomes

Life v Death— primal brain function that is a primary driver in aquatic performance issues

Rubber Raft v Kayak — boat structure, tonal qualities, shape and their impact on performance

Water V Land —- aquatic improvement can happen faster with land based training

Paradigm I: RIGHT v WRONG

First  it is important to understand the circumstance in which this applies for our conversation. To this extent, please consider situations in which you are a student, a teacher or any situation in which you would be an avid listener. Maybe a swim clinic? Or a work meeting? Really, any situation that involves some level of conflict and challenges you. What words do you first think? Then what words do you hear and/or say while learning or teaching an activity?

The language we tend to use in our daily interactions has a strong influence on how speak to ourselves about the change, conflict and improvement aspect of our daily lives. Over time with specific awareness about this, you will find the blatant overuse of the words “right” and “wrong”.

How do you think about a response when a coach makes a statement? What words do you say when listening to someone with whom you generally find yourself in agreement with? and what do you think and say when listening to someone with whom you tend to disagree?

These responses have become pervasive enough for me to notice it in my own teachings/learnings as well as observe the negative impact it can have on my athletes’ ability to improve on an athletic front in the aquatic environment.

The context of  this “right” or “”wrong” paradigm, while having its uses in some educational environments, has wormed its way into our analysis, actions and our vocabulary when we consider athletic improvement. Sadly, in most cases, we are taught to avoid what we might consider “wrong”. Conversely we can over-value what we consider to be “right”. This can have a devastatingly negative impact when applied to the concept of becoming more athletic.

Allow yourself to spend a day listening to others, and pay attention to how people respond to one another with those tw words.  It happens quite a bit, specifically in a coach/athlete relationship. In fact, by this far into this article you may already be saying to yourself; this guy is WRONG! Ha

So what should we strive to achieve with our new awareness?

When considering alternative training and performance solutions, work to not classify things immediately as right or wrong. Rather, openly experience these opportunities and decide for yourself if they are EFFECTIVE or NOT EFFECTIVE for your desired outcome! Here is an aquatic example using another common aquatic paradigm called DPS or “distance per stroke” as a measurement of ability/improvement.

DPS is the thought and execution of an aquatic performance marker that simply states: “if one can swim down the length of the pool in 45 strokes then they are a better swimmer if they can do it 40 strokes (and maintain the same time or be faster).”

How did you respond to the above? Is that statement already ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ to you? If so, this article should be reread now. Instead, one should try the activity and understand if it actually is having a positive effect toward the desired outcome (of swimming faster and more efficiently).

There are many more influential factors that will actually dictate if this activity will be effective for you. Much more often than not, this DPS paradigm is accepted as ‘right’. So then it is taught and practiced as ‘right’. But when analyzed in the framework of asking about it being ‘effective or not’ for swimming faster and more efficiently,  the outcome is almost universally that this paradigm is ineffective at helping one swim faster and with more ease. In fact, most of the outcomes from this paradigm being accepted as ‘right’ are trips to the physio for a swimming specific syndrome called ‘swimmers shoulder’. Sadly, in many cases, ‘burnout’ follows and ultimately avoidance happens. Let’s consider that ‘non-effective’ on almost every level.

So, ultimately, don’t let your almost automatic response to something dictate your outcome. Listen, explore, ask questions and try every avenue possible to find improvement or at least be self educated enough through deliberate practice to know what is effective or non-effective for swimming faster and easier.

Good Luck