Monday, December 10, 2012

Intestinal Fortitude Audit

All day I have been brain-storming about blog topics.  I did not want to just wave "it finally snowed!" around like a white flag of inspirational surrender, and it's hard to see washing your bike in the garage as a ground-breakingly humorous activity.

And then I went to the pool tonight in a fog of frustration and cognitive dissonance, and fit of good ol' scientific experimentation and brute-force problem solving.  Good luck and timing smiled on me (or so it seems now; ask me again in a month) and when I left the pool, a plan was in place for the next few weeks.  Only one question remains now that I'm back at home: do I have the guts?

If you've ever tried to rework your stroke you know just how much of a mind-fuck it can be.  The new physical and mental cues are so discombobulating that movement patterns could be better, worse, or the same, and you would swear that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.  The more focus is put on any one part, the faster all the other parts come apart at the seams and we should definitely all be wearing tin foil helmets to protect ourselves from the aliens.

See what I mean?

At the pool tonight, still lost in my fog and fit, I ran into my friendly, local masters coach.  She started all of this, and for good reason, because after surreptitiously filming me, she gently broke it to me that I don't look like Michael Phelps when I swim.  Which obviously is the most disturbing conspiracy of them all. 

I explained tonight that I had lost the swimming stroke plot, and was about to lose my own plot if I kept doing drills by myself, no matter how often or dedicated, with no feedback, or tried to dovetail a stroke change with swim practices at regular speed.  I joked about wanting to learn how age-group swimmers do, practicing technique every day under the same coach's eye, getting repeated and immediate feedback. 

And long story short, that is exactly what is going to happen.  For at least the next two weeks I am going to swim (during regular practices, but not partaking in them) under constant and watchful eyes.

The "do I have the guts" aspect is taking a total leave of absence from structured interval training, or really non-technique based swim training of any kind, for, well, kinda however long it takes. 

I know this technique change needs to happen.  The "total leave" is only one way to bring about that change.  But is it the best one?

I think that this kind of (short-term) arrangement is probably what my body needs to have the best chance at learning something new/better.  I want to give myself the best possible chance to swim faster/better/more efficiently/easier (take your pick), but at the expense of endurance and intensity and forward progress - not to mention sanity?  Two steps back to take ten steps forward?  Maybe ten steps forward only requires one or none steps back?  Can I feel like I have a better handle on the situation if I let go of the handle a smidge?

Jordan Rapp posted a blog several years ago (of an article from several years before that) which speaks to this issue: Call Me Ishmael.  The fact that his post is also about swimming is purely coincidental.  I have referenced and sent this post to friends and athletes numerous times because I believe the underlying message of "having the guts to make the risky decisions to do what needs to be done to change the things that need to change" is important.  I even re-read this post when I come up against similar decisions and situations because it comforts me to know that someone else has been there and survived the consequences, be they good or bad.

Jordan has already made the decision in his post's timeline of events, but he writes about it and the process with such assuredness.  It is not always that clear-cut or easy!  Sometimes we don't make the risky decision until it is the last possible choice.  Tonight I actually told my mom "I've thought about doing this before, but I've never had the guts."  

The potentially right way can seem decidedly wrong (or crazy), but also strangely right, in an indescribable way.  [I know there are people out there thinking "two or three weeks off structured swimming is a risk?  Puh-lease.  Of course you choose to dedicate 100% to your technique, it's a logical investment."  Easy for you to say - on your own blog.]  Chances are these times are exactly when the phrase "my gut just tells me it's right" gets used.

Our gut leads the way, but do we have the guts to follow it?

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