total immersion

Total immersion is a swimming technique. I learned about it two summers ago when I signed up for my first YWCA Women’s triathlon. The basic premise is this: everything you learned about swimming when you were a kid is wrong. We were taught to motor ourselves through the water with pounding arms and legs. When, if you look at other animals that swim, the most powerful way to move through the water is by rotating your core and gliding. The phrase the swim coaches use is HYDRODYNAMIC. If you are doing it right, your arms and legs do less work. Proper technique actually conserves energy.

On Sunday morning my neighbor and I drove over to the Y to start up lessons with a TI swim coach again. I am so out of habit that I forgot both a towel and goggles. Luckily, I brought my suit and enthusiasm.

I remembered why I love this practice and how you can apply the principles to everything. I actually think of the coach’s voice in my head when I’m doing ordinary things like getting kids ready for school, tackling a list of to do items for my business and collaborators, and as I prepare for our upcoming move.

Practice just one thing at a time.
Swim deeper through the fear, so you don’t drag your own weight.
Keep your head at center.
Breathe from your belly button.
The slower you move, the more graceful you are.
Stop kicking so hard.
Notice how your body feels and respond accordingly.
Soften your focus and relax your reach all the way to the tips of your fingers.
It always feels awkward and counterintuitive until it becomes habit.

There are so many areas of life where it is helpful to have someone on the side of the pool who can actually see what we’re doing. Who can point to a slight adjustment that might save us energy or move us closer to gracefulness. Or, even at the more basic level, to have a friend who will hold us accountable to our practice. Pick us up at the door and make sure we remember our goggles, stand next to us on the beach right before we do something that is slightly horrifying, but that might also be exhilarating. When we’re not quite sure we can, but we’ve decided to try. I believe this is the heart of collaboration. Finding the right people to support us as we continually learn fearlessness and move towards those things we really want.

In my work at Table Fort, I try to do all three things. I try to help my collaborators see what is working and where they might make a tiny change towards being more hydrodynamic. I remember my swim suit and jump in the water with them. I also keep looking for new situations to don goggles or a hardhat or a helmet or bring my passport or my boots.

The truth is: we are all so afraid of looking foolish or getting hurt that we stop trying new things. When looking foolish and getting hurt is EXACTLY the way that all humans learn.

It feels awkward and counterintuitive until it becomes a habit.
Soften your focus and relax your reach all the way to the tips of your fingers.
Notice how your body feels and respond accordingly.
The slower you move, the more graceful you are.
Stop kicking so hard.
Breathe from your belly button.
Keep your head at center.
Swim deeper through the fear, so you don’t drag your own weight.
Practice just one thing at a time.

3, 2, 1. Swim.
Keep going.

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