Paint The Floor, Cat Off The Bed, Kill The Spider, Shifting Paradigms
The sun hadn’t yet cracked the horizon, but I’d been in the pool for 20 minutes swimming the day’s workout with three of my teammates. My coach on deck tweaking, correcting, encouraging and in a small way entertaining the four of us.
I was still trying to settle into a rhythm when he stopped me at the wall to adjust my pull. From my lane, I looked up at him, listening as he bent over, arms out straight, mimicking how he wanted me to adjust my stroke. “It’s like scooping the cat off the bed. The way you’re doing it, you’re not scooping that cat with any kind of conviction. GET THE HELL OFF THE BED!” He said as he mimed the correction he wanted me to make. If I had been fully awake, it would’ve been hilarious. But I wasn’t. And because I wasn’t fully awake, thus not processing, when I got back to the wall after the next set of not making the proper adjustment, he tried another approach: “paint the floor with your fingertips when you pull,” message delivered in the same bent over swim miming stance.
I swam the next set and got back to the wall, and he told me to get out of the pool. He led me over to exercise bands attached to the wall just above my eye level and had me use the bands to make the biomechanical adjustments he was asking me to execute in the water, placing his fingers on my upper lats to give palpable cues of where I should be pulling from. I got back in the water. Did what I was supposed to for a couple strokes, then fell apart. I got back to the wall and he tried yet another approach…something about spiders and being like a spider, or maybe killing a spider…I dunno…
These last few weeks have been interesting for me. There has been a shift of sorts in my triathlon paradigm. A shift from doing the workout to get it done, to doing the workout to get stronger/faster, to deepen my endurance reserves at higher levels of performance. I’ve spent a lot of time in my head thumbing through the catalog of guidance from my coach, checking and adjusting, ever cognizant of the effort I’m exerting. Thinking through each one of his examples of what he wants me to correct biomechanically and working to make that correction. I do well for a few seconds/minutes, then I lapse back into old methodologies, then I catch myself lapsing and make an adjustment. And that cycle has become my reality during workouts. Eventually new habits will replace old and I will be able to return to auto-pilot except with new habits.
Last night, at track practice, coach had us run six 800s at our 10K pace. To me, that’s an easy ask, as I know how my body/lungs/cadence should feel at that pace. I consistently hit within five seconds of my targeted pace every repeat. I made adjustments to hit those splits, sometimes I over adjusted, but I never came in too slow. I was wicked consistent and wicked proud of it. That ability came from listening to coach and adjusting and readjusting according to guidance given. Eventually my swim auto-pilot paradigm will shift, like my run has, delivering more efficient form with little to no thought on my part. Until then, I’ll keep myself busy scooping the cat off the bed, painting the ground with my fingertips and thinking something or other about spiders.