A detailed swim diary will help you improve
Whether you are a competetive swimmer or a fitness swimmer consider adding the following New Year's Resolution to your list: "In 1994 I will start and keep a swimming diary."
A swimming diary is a notebook you use to help you keep tabs on where you are, what you are doing and where you are going in the sport of swimming. Get into the habit of taking notes on a workout by workout basis.
If you've never done this kind of thing before you might start with simple, easily quantifiable items like total yardage for the workout, stroke counts, fastest times, T-30 performances, heart rates etc. As you get used to jotting down a few notes after each workout you might include comments on other things - your emotional and physical states, what you've been eating, amount of sleep, resting heart rate, stress level at work etc. Include your perception of how these relate to that day's workout or your performance in competition. Put down your goals and make notes on your progress toward those goals.
"Why would I want to do that?" you ask. "I spend more time than I can afford at this swimming thing as it is," you say.
Quite simply, it will make the time you spend in the water more productive. This happens for a number of reasons:
1. You will be more aware of what you are doing in the pool during every workout. Things that were barely on the periphery of your consiousness in the past will come sharply into focus if your goal is to gather useful information. You will find that the mere fact that you will write something down will make you more alert to it - that's half the reason you were drilled to take notes in school.
2. Abstract concepts become clearer. Concepts that you have a marginal grasp on will tend to sort themselves out when you have to verbalize your thoughts. This typically ellicits questions you need further input on. Write the questions down and then make a point of cornering your coach to get the answers. Write the answers down. It is a natural fact that people learn more rapidly if the information they get is in response to questions they have have asked.
3. You will leverage your time. If you learn something valuable during a workout, a meet or a conversation with your coach or another swimmer, write it down. Then read and reread your diary regularly. It is a hundred times easier to recall a hard learned but deeply buried lesson by using your diary to pry it loose than it is to re-learn that same lesson by undertaking another round of trial and error and countless hours in the pool.
Some hints on starting your diary:
>Get a medium sized notebook - small enough that you don't endure undue physical hardship in bringing it to workout every day. It should have pockets so you can conveniently store good articles, entry forms and other useful or important swimming papers (like your USMS registration card.)
>Store it in a heavy duty Ziplock bag or similar waterproof container.
>Buy several pens with water proof ink. Perhaps include a highlighter pen.
>Start simple, build slowly, express yourself and ask lots of questions.
>Remember, there is no wrong way to keep a swimming diary save for not keeping one at all.
This Article first appeared in Schwimmvergnugen, the monthly newsletter of H2Ouston Swims.
Emmett Hines is Director and Head Coach of H2Ouston Swims. He has coached competitive Masters swimming in Houston since 1982, holds an ASCA Level 5 Coach Certification, was selected as United States Masters Swimming's Coach of the Year in 1993 and received the MACA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002. His book, Fitness Swimming (Human Kinetics, publishers), is in its third English language printing and is also available in French (entitled Natation, published by Vigot), Spanish (entitled Natacion, published by Hispano Europea) and Chinese (entitled Jianshenyouyong). He can be reached for questions or comments through his web site www.H2OustonSwims.org where more of his articles may be found.
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