At this morning's group swim with Coach Tom (pic above is a few weeks ago), I was feeling decent in the water, not awesome, but fine. I was thinking about my head position, reaching long, finishing my stroke - doing the mechanics of the things he reminds me to do. About 1000 yards into the swim, on the final 25 of a 200, I felt something click into place. I felt more force of the water and held it longer. It felt more connected and effective, stronger and faster.
I came up at the wall and said happily "I finally found my stroke on that last 25!"
Coach Tom immediately nodded and grinned saying he had noticed too, and was about to say something. I was surprised to know that what I felt was observable (oh, the trained eye!).
It was at that moment that I realized this catch-all word of "technique" that is firmly associated with good/fast swimming is so much more than mechanics. It encompasses nuances and subtleties of feel and feedback of the water.
I have long been confusing "mechanics" for "technique".
Swimming was so frustrating because I thought all I needed were the optimal arm angles and body alignment and gears. I was thinking like an engineer (probably since I am one). And while mechanics are important, I finally understand that swimming is far more, it's also art in a way - kinesthetic art - or "feel".
I see now that while we work on the mechanics, Coach Tom structures the swims to allow us to discover the "art".
Descending sets, drills, intervals, dropping stroke counts, long easy continuous swims, sprints, various paces....they are all opportunities to interact with the water in different ways and learn. Like an artist, we have to be willing to try things and get messy. Then it's up to us to feel and interpret what results (along with seeing what the clock has to tell us).
Now that I see swimming more along the lines of learning to dance or paint, and less like learning to drive a car, I understand my role and the process a little better.
I can't say enough about the benefits of swimming with a well-coached group. It's turned my swimming from frustrating to rewarding.
I think I will stick to doing my "art" in the water and learning to swim more like a fish, rather than trying to paint them (from May).
I know, I could probably pass mine off as a real Matisse...unreal how similar they are.