If your muscles are tense and working hard do you go faster? Here at the swim school we occasionally have to speak with parents who are concerned that their child has spent a significant portion of their class floating or practicing submersions. We believe in teaching comfort under water, floating and breath control before we add in propulsion. There is no point in swimming across the pool if a student gets there exhausted because they were holding their breath and just struggling to survive. They are working too hard. Tense muscles do not make them go faster!These issues apply to life as well. When you are having a discussion that escalates to an argument do you notice that voices rise in volume, gestures get exaggerated and faces get red. People are so wound up, they stop breathing and cannot focus on the issue at hand. Wanna drive someone crazy in an argument (maybe your kids) work hard to keep your breathing calm, your voice soft and minimize your gestures and just focus on listening. Respond calmly and you will take control.
What does all of this have to do with swimming or athletics in general? The New York Times just recently quoted one of our favorite coaches, Rick DeMont, assistant head coach of the University of Arizona Men's 2008 NCAA Swimming Championship Team in a great article on the role of relaxation in life and sports. He is quoted as saying "It is a paradox of athletics. Tension is slow, tension is inefficient. You need to be relaxed". In an analysis of Michael Phelps phenomenal performance in Beijing, Rick notes that when Michael Phelps raced, his stroke count on each lap (i.e. the number of times his arms rotated through the water) remained the same. Faster turnover does not lead to faster swimming or running.
So the message of the day is to relax and enjoy the ride. You WILL "get there" faster and probably enjoy it a whole lot more.