I used to only be able to swim 2 lengths of the pool (50m) before almost drowning in a panic exhaustion and suffocation.
Last year I completed my first 70.3 Ironman which required a 2000m open water swim.
As a part of my training I was regularly swimming 80 lengths at my local pool non stop (1 length = 25m).
So, what caused the transformation?
It wasn’t a case of swimming harder, gaining muscle strength or building endurance but employing a simple principle of aerodynamics that can easily apply to running your Barefoot business – splash less.
Take a look at this video of Shinji Takeuchi and his son swimming side by side. Pay attention – I’ll be asking questions after the video!
Now check it again and see how little these guys splash. You see, 90% of your energy swimming is expended pushing water. That’s why you could be pretty fit and/or strong but deplete your energy within a couple of laps. I bet you were like me, generating lots of bubbles and waves when you were at it too.
Total Immersion Swimming teaches the principle of using the minimum amount of energy to achieve maximum results. It’s a principle that underpins most of my Barefoot Ideas for 2013. Although I’m in no way expert, I’ve learned a lot from TI that reinforces the need to do less to achieve more in other walks of life like our careers, business and learning. Consider these TI ideas:
- Most of what they teach us in swim school at a young age is wrong: We are taught to swim on our chests and kick hard with our feet. But take a look at the design of any racing yacht and you’ll notice the keel is never flat. If you’re a barge yes, but barges are built for slow speed and tugging strength. A racing yacht never races flat, almost always on a leaning keel. Rather than swimming on our chest, we need to be counterintuitive and swim on our side. Consider how much advice we’ve received about our careers, that like swim school is just plain misguided. Counter-intuition means a lawyer can earn $70,000 a year while a comparatively uneducated author can earn $2 million a year. In many cases, you gotta leave the map behind.
- TI teaches form over strength: I used to think that upper body strength was key to fast swim times. Sure, if you’re an Olympian racing the 100m freestyle, but for the rest of us we want to be swimming more than 2 minutes. That means we need to develop a stroke that uses the minimum amount of energy. The measure of a good TI stroke is one that feels the same after 2000m as it does after 20m. Good TI form includes keeping your head down and your legs high. Rather than look forward, look to the bottom of the pool. You should aim to swim with one eye in, one eye out of the water. Barefoot is to business what form is to swimming. Barefoot and TI underpins much of what we know about learning: so much of our business advice teaches strength and power over form. These concepts are simple and help us focus on a simple task at hand (monotasking) rather than complex, energy reducing techniques. Learning a language, for example, is never about mastering as many words as possible but focusing on the basics and trusting in our innate mechanisms. Consider the example, the need to raise funding for your startup. In many cases, startups would be more efficient without funding. Funding, therefore, would be a later stage consideration to compliment an efficient form.
- Energy versus Speed: When I first started training triathlons I would enter the first leg, the swim, and bash out as fast a swim as humanly possible. I’d then wobble out of the pool and haul myself onto the bike, legs already depleted of energy. In any triathlon, the swim is the shortest part of the race. In a simple sprint race, your swim leg will be around 15 minutes. You’ll then have 1 hour on the bike and about 40 minutes on the run. Now, if you’re an Olympian or ITU professional, 30 second gains on the swim will be the difference between gold and no podium at all. For the rest of us, however, 30 seconds is of little consequence. So consider this, where do you want to exert yourself – on the swim or where it counts? And in many ways, I see triathletes go full out on the swim and then pull up on the last 2 disciplines. I’ll usually come in around the 50% mark in the swim field and then make up the time in the bike or run because I’ve saved myself. And business is the same, it isn’t the guy who goes out the fastest but the guy that goes out the longest that wins. You can’t necessarily win the race on the swim but you can certainly lose it here.