Efficiency comes from more than swimming laps

When writing my book, I originally titled one of my two rules "If At First You Don't Succeed, QUIT." It referred to the principle of using only efficient strokes and thus, to stop when any stroke wasn't performed as instructed.

In doing so, I hoped that swimmers would not waste their time swimming mostly inefficient laps. Why further ingrain a bad habit? My intent was correct, but my choice of phrasing was not.

When I sent a draft of my book to a trusted old friend, he blasted me (which is what true friends can do) for using the word "quit." It's the last thing any instructor wants a student to do. I thanked him and began re-writing by changing the rule to "Develop Quality Over Quantity."

I was reminded of this because, as I write, the Bluffton Pool is closed for ceiling repairs. Wondering how I would swim for fitness and competition, people asked me what this meant for my regular swimming.

I told them I would be trading quantity (such as it is) for quality. An old coaching maxim goes, "It's not the yards in the workout that counts; it's the workout in the yards."

Thus, I now swim in a smaller pool at my apartment complex. I've been focusing on developing my kicks and on getting the most from my strokes.

As my book teaches, I stick to a single stroke cycle or two at most. My efficiency is measured by how far those one or two strokes get me. I can experiment with and tweak various aspects of each stroke that might get me farther.

The message I am trying to get across here is that one cannot swim better simply by doing lap after lap. This practice can further develop inefficient habits. Changing habits takes practice - exact practice.

My other rule, "Make It Different," is important, too. There has to be a clear difference, real and-or perceived, between the old and the new stroke aspect.

And these changes, one at a time, need to be made only briefly, at first. Otherwise, swimmers tend to lapse back into their old habits.

My message one more time: You won't swim better by just doing laps. It is well worth "sacrificing" lap swimming for brief periods in order to develop improved, more efficient strokes to be used for the rest of a swimmer's life.

Dr. Bob Colyer of Bluffton is an actively retired college professor, coach and author of "Swim Better: A Guide to Greater Efficiency for Swimmers & Instructors," directed primarily to non-competitors. bobcolyer@yahoo.com


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