Jumping from the Plateau


Yesterday I experienced a jump in productivity. It had nothing to do with work, but instead it occurred in my swimming, which I found to be instantly improved.

In some recent posts on the topic of mastery, I shared how I have been working to improve my swimming technique, mostly through the use of Total Immersion. In this particular approach, drills that are designed to improve one’s form are the order of the day.

Yesterday, I was drilling away, doing a drill called “Skating” when all of a sudden I realised that I could kick my legs differently and get more propulsion. I tried it a few times and found that if I focused the kick from my hips as opposed to my knees I could produce a more fluid movement with less effort.

I decided to try out full swiming and thought that I was indeed going faster and not working as hard. I was taking less strokes on each length.

So, I decided to should check it out, by repeating an exercise I do to track my progress in swimming freestyle. In this exercise, the objective is to minimize not just one’s time, but also the number of strokes that are used. A formula is used to combine the two measurements into one by adding them together, and attempting to minimize the sum.

For example, over 50 yards:

45 strokes + 35 seconds = 80
40 strokes + 40 seconds = 80
55 strokes + 25 seconds = 80

In the exercise, these 3 efforts al lreflect the same performance because the sum is the same. Increasing speed is meaningless unless there is a decrease in the sum of the two, e.g.

40 strokes + 25 second = 65

Well, I had a breakthrough of sorts last night:

I went from
50 seconds + 86 strokes = 136 in April
35 seconds + 86 strokes= 121 last week
15 seconds + 65 strokes = 80 last night!

For my swimmers: my kick is now linked into the rotation of my body whereas before it was disconnected — I think!

Now, all I need to do is to keep practicing this new kick until it becomes a new habit, ingrained into the way I swim without having to think about it.

This is what happens when one is on the road to mastery… practicing over and over again until something happens and it all comes together to produce a jump in performance. Between May Jun and last night, I had seen no improvement — and by drilling I found some new way that my body could move that I had read about before, but enver experienced.

So there I was, cheering myself in the pool… happy as anything. I am still very, very slow compared to others but the pride and joy I felt came from making progress in something so small that only I could care about it (in the moment at least.)

This feeling is there for anyone who wants mastery, in any area of their life. From my plumber, to someone delivering front-line customer sevrice, to a CEO — it is fully available to all.