While swimming a workout, have you ever spent the entire time planning out the rest of your day or the upcoming weekend? Finished a workout and not remembered what you swam? I’ve swam countless laps with a certain song stuck in my head or replayed previous races. Although this is great for getting through that workout and pounding out the yards, problems appear when the habit of mindless swimming leads to sloppy technique. If you aim to improve your strokes or get more out of your workout then mindful, not mindless, swimming should be your goal.
For example, you may want to improve your underwater dolphin kick in order to drop time in your freestyle, backstroke, and butterfly races. The goal is to make not only the kick more efficient but to extend the underwaters off the walls.
First, swim a workout and pay attention to how many dolphin kicks you do off of each wall. Do you do the same number of kicks at the beginning and end of the workout? At the end of a hard set? If your habit is to do zero or one dolphin kick off of each wall you have a starting point to work from. For all future workouts, be mindful about the goal of extending underwaters off of walls and starts. You would like to increase that number to two or more dolphin kicks. Mindful swimming would require that you do a minimum of two dolphin kicks off of each wall every time you leave the wall, no matter how fast or slow you are practicing, or how tired you may be. You must be conscious and in the moment during each turn to make sure that these kicks are performed. You must be mindful throughout multiple practices for these two dolphin kicks to become habit and your new normal. You must retrain your muscle memory so they become automatic.
Changing any aspect of your stroke takes mindful swimming but also takes time. You have heard the saying “you have to crawl before you can walk”. As an example, let’s take your new normal of 2 dolphin kicks. You want to make those kicks more efficient by kicking both ways, up and down. Improving your efficiency requires many practices of slow, mindful swimming by working on the different aspects of the underwater: pushing water in both directions as you kick, not using any part of that kick as a recovery, finishing each stage of that kick. Improving efficiency requires slow swimming and making sure you are doing the technique correctly. If you have access to a coach they can give feedback to ensure that you are performing those kicks to the best of your ability. Have patience and take your time as swimming at speeds too soon may make your new technique revert back to the old bad habits.
Mindful swimming will help you improve any aspect of your swimming from a better streamline, to improving high elbow in a stroke, to simply get more out of each workout. New habits will form with repetitive, mindful swimming. Improving individual strokes or certain aspects of a race requires that you be present in your swimming. Mindful swimming requires that you are actively engaged in your training putting forth your best effort. Making a conscious effort to review and improve each aspect of your stroke and race is the best way to improve your technique, making your swimming become more effortless. Even elite athletes in the sport work constantly to improve efficiency in swimming. We set goals, shoot for time standards, and/or tackle certain events that we thought impossible. Mindful swimming will help you achieve these goals.