Subdividing Your Performance System

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    Mat Hudson

    To simplify our approach to deciding which system is weakest, which needs more training attention, let us divide up your whole ‘Performance System’ into four sub-systems to help you organize symptoms:

    Metabolic System

    The Metabolic System refers to how much energy you can supply and how long it lasts. Think, ‘Energy Supply’.

    When you are facing metabolic weakness you are just running out of energy, without necessarily any particular muscles starting to protest. You can feel that ‘the fuel tank is low’, so to speak. 

    Muscular System

    The Muscular System refers to how much power your muscles can produce and how long they can keep up that power. Think, “Produce Power’.

    When you are facing muscular weakness you are losing the ability to move certain muscles so well. They are getting sluggish, slow to respond. They have burning sensation. They ache.

    You can see how much fitness can be defined in terms of your metabolic and muscular systems. These describe your ability to make energy available, to remove waste, and to generate power. This is all about how much energy you use.

    Motor System

    The Motor System (or neuromuscular control) refers to your ability to make your body do what you intend it to do – to achieve best position and movement patterns and sustain those consistently. Think, ‘Smooth and Precise’.

    When you are facing motor weakness you cannot hold your body in its best position or you cannot create movements with as much precision as you know you should.

    Mental System

    Lastly, the Mental System refers to your mind, your ‘pilot of the vessel’ and how well it can identify where attention should be and to hold attention on that point (or points).

    You can see how much efficiency can be defined in terms of your motor and mental systems. These describe your ability to direct power with precision, to protect superior position and movement. This is all about how well you use precious energy.

    These are all deeply intertwined, of course. But when you pay attention to the nature of your fatigue or discomfort when you get into difficult sets, you can start to describe features of that fatigue using these four categories.

    When you experience fatigue or distraction – both internal conditions – you will notice their affect on other parts of your swimming:

    • internal features like ease or precision
    • external products like your stroke count, your tempo, your time, your distance, etc.

    This is how you discover the relationship between qualities and quantities and train to improve the way your body works with these. The key is to notice the sensations of fatigue or distraction before they effect internal and external performance and train for better responses. That is what all our training is for!

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