Courtesy of Charles Hartley
You can do all the 100-meter butterfly sets you want. You can do 50-yard freestyle sprints. You can do the 400-meter individual medley. You can do 50 or 100 laps per day.
You can do doggie paddle or use the kick-board and kick up and back, lap by lap. You can take three breaths per lap, or a breath every stroke, or try to go the length of the pool underwater without coming up for air.
You can do all that.
But you won’t have as much fun, or enjoy being in a pool more, than if you do in the pool what I have for the past few weeks. Squatting like a baseball catcher in the shallow end, I push and pull through the water with my arms, back and forth, counting, meditating, thinking about the gloriousness of water, how great pools really are if you use them correctly.
You don’t have to worry about getting tired and needing to come up to take a breath because your head will already be above water. This drill takes the stress out of swimming. It takes pools back to their roots. You never even have to get your hair wet.
Squat, push, and pull.
Count each one. Stare at the pool wall. Lose yourself in thoughts of nothing but the coolness and low-resistance that water offers. Just push and pull, back and forth. Imagine that if you do this motion 500 times per night, three times a week, for the next five years you will have sexy shoulders.
All you have to do is push and pull, back and forth. Get into the rhythm. It’s like slow dancing with yourself. Several years ago a Harvard professor wrote a best-selling book titled the Relaxation Response.
It’s all about teaching yourself how to relax by meditating. The idea is to slow your racing, random and rambunctious thoughts and lower your heart rate. This is about getting quiet, deliberately.
You will use mental techniques learned in that book while doing the push/pull swim shuffle. One of them is to stare at the pool wall in front of you. Think about that wall. Study its color and texture. Really investigate that all. Wonder about it. By fixating this way, you won’t be able to clutter your mind with scattered thoughts.
You will be at peace. Just you and the wall.
Back and forth. Feel the water. It’s so easy to do. Back and forth.
You think to yourself “this is what swimming was meant to be. Not racing, but wading, pushing and pulling, nice and easy.”
All those times you have gone to the pool and swam laps have been good for you — no question. But you don’t always have to swim laps, which gets tiring and tedious after a while. So many thoughts while swimming turn towards: “how many laps do I have to swim so I reach my daily goal and can go home?”; and “I don’t like butterfly because it’s so tiring”; and “freestyle takes so much out of me that I have to breathe every stroke.”
Notice the anxiety in those questions. Yes you are improving your body’s muscular tone and cardiovascular system by swimming. But at the same time you’re usually thinking stressful thoughts or just wanting to end the drill because it’s boring or exhausting.
None of that happens when you do the “Relaxation Swim.”
Just squat and slowly and simply push and pull your arms back and forth. It will feel almost like a circular motion. Picture a circle in your head. Think about that circle, what it looks like, why it looks so complete.
You will feel better doing this type of swim than anything else you have ever done in a swimming pool.