Traditionally, there are two goals for training that have sometimes been viewed as being in conflict with each other:
A) To achieve higher performance (a certain distance or time or speed).
B) To achieve a certain state of enjoyment (bliss, peace, injury-freedom, pain-freedom) in swimming.
If you have not encountered this truth already I would like to tell you that, in fact, these two go together perfectly. They do not need to be in conflict with each other. It is based on this idea – the human body wants to do awesome things, and the body is really smart and will guide you in how you should go about this, if only you will learn to listen and cooperate. More than ever, science and crazy experimenting humans are proving that you have not even come close to tapping your injury-free potential with your own body.
You don’t have decide between one or the other in your training. Actually, you need both. If your main goal is to simply achieve a more wonderful state of experience while exercising (what we call ‘Flow State’) then measuring with distance, time and speed are important parts of improving your ability to reach that state, improve the quality, and sustain it over longer distances and in a wider range of conditions.
If your main goal is to achieve a much higher level of performance then you need to read the signs up pain which indicate you are heading in the wrong direction – and read the signs of pleasure which indicate you are heading in the right direction.
If you are truly using your body better to generate power and move with more efficiency, you will feel it and it will feel good.
Note: We make a careful distinction between ‘good’ pain signals of a body working well under intensity and ‘bad’ pain signals of a body breaking down under intensity.
Sandwiched between both of these concepts is an INJURY-FREE swimming zone. And when I talk of injury I am referring to both physical injury (hurt the body) and psychic injury (hurt the mind). Both of those goals work together to keep you in this zone.
One of my physio-therapy heroes, Dr. Kelly Starrett, said this in a presentation on Youtube (at minute 11:56)
What we’re finding is that this is really not a conversation about performance or maintenance and pain-free. What we find, and this is an important concept is that (I’m a clinical doctor in physical therapy), and there is never a compromise between being in the safest position and being in the best position and having the best joint congruency, and the best tissue loading and tissue health, and going the fastest.
In my view, both performance and pleasure can be boiled down to this physics and biology (and even spirituality) concept – it is a matter of how well you are using energy in your mind and body. When you use energy well you get both performance and pleasure. When you use energy poorly you feel terrible and get injured eventually. A truly more efficient, higher performing body will feel more awesome. A truly blissful body will simply swim with more energy available (which translates into distance and speed).
So, no matter which one seems to be more important to you, you need to train for both of them together. Allow one to support the other in your training and things will go better than ever.