The Complacency Catch

Did you do better than last year? Does that mean you rock? Does that mean you master what you do?

This is a story about complacency. Here is how I painfully found out about having become complacent twice during the course of a few years – and this only with regard to my swim training. Complacency is the loss of self-awareness and critical judgement in exchange for convenience and grandiosity. The pitfall we are all facing is to stop aspiring the wisdom of knowing what we can change in ourselves and in our environment. With this blog I want to bring you up to Speedo about my findings in the Arena of swimming, which you might as well apply to life in general.

ACKNOWLEDGING A PROBLEM

It was a long and hard training for me to become the brilliant well-built fast eel-like and humble swimmer that I am now. It’s only due to the gift of great selflessness that I don’t earn money with my swimming but leave this to other younger talents who are – of course – more in need than I am.

My knees gave the signal for a necessary change with increased pain due to my ambitious frog-legs movement. I swam only breast stroke for most of my life. Which constitutes for the first complacency. Two years ago I surprised myself with switching to freestyle quasi over night. This was faster, more elegant and put no strain on my knees. In hindsight I regret a bit not having had realised much earlier how smooth and beautiful the freestyle really is. 

I literally flip turned the script of my swimming in the public pools of Hong Kong. I had a good feel for the water since I was young and always felt in my element – never afraid of going under. I was not concerned about the strokes and the kicking. The biggest challenge for me was to get the sideways breathing right. Breathing unilaterally on the right hand side only I swallowed some of Kowloon’s finest while trying to catch air every second stroke.

LEARNING AND CONFIDENCE

Online videos helped me to understand movement and timing. I learned flip turn and soon was also able to breath on both sides. I forced myself to learn left and right hand breathing, because I understood that an unbalanced strain on neck and spine increased the risk of injury and neck deformation. Then my lungs developed and I switched to bilateral breathing, which greatly improved my speed and steadiness.

Since I became faster and fitter I swam longer distances and enjoyed variations of intervals which increased my confidence and stabilised my performance. I became the fastest swimmer in Lai Chi Cock during the afternoon sessions (amongst other swimmers often 20+ years older than me). Now it was time for a video analysis over and under water. I longed to see my metamorphosis into a dolphin and was convinced that the world – including my wife – deserved to witness the athletic resurrection of a 43y old caucasian male.

VALLEY OF TEARS AND MOVING ON

I found Dominic of Fastlane Swimming – a certified Swim Smooth trainer – who was prepared to capture my waterborn glory on a memory stick. Little did I anticipate how sobering my performance would be. I ticked all of the common mistakes and bad habits a freestyle swimmer can produce.

Hands diving in with thumbs first (bad for the shoulder), crossing over with my hands (inefficient style leading to a wiggly line), tilted body line with a turtle neck (slowing down and ugly), wide scissor legs to compensate for over-rotation, which in turn over-compensated for shock breathing (as opposed to continuously breathing out under water), straight arms in catch and pull (again,horror for the shoulders) and no sign of body-roll. The list was endless and painful. Endlessly painful. A quantum of solace was Dominic’s genuine confusion about how I could still swim so fast in spite of all of the above.

I was devastated. Instead of reassuring my grandiosity, the video revealed an underwhelming performance and an abundance of room for improvement. However, a few days later I was surprised with how much humour I could actually talk about my experience with the freestyle footage. After all, there was relief. I had not yet developed shoulder pain, my wife praised my butt cheeks and upper body on many occasions and I did enjoy swimming more than ever before. There was no reason to resign.

I now had something to work on. Myself.

REFLECTING AND KNOWING

It has been four month now since the video analysis and I introduced many changes to my swimming and to my life. At first my performance became lousy and I sometimes thought about reverting to my old but fast style of swimming. I didn’t. Now I am already faster than before with much stronger underarms due to an improved catch and pull from the elbows – amongst others.

The whole experience made me think ‘How often do we become pleased with ourselves based on improved performance or based on just feeling good about ourselves?’ In other words: Are you complacent right now, right there where you are? And in which area of your life are you complacent right now? Because you are. We all are.

Do you feel good about your sport or physical exercise? Your spiritual development and your social circles? Do you feel confident in your job, your profession your calling? Do you think you perform well in your other roles as a member of your society, partner, lover, colleague, friend or parent?

It is easy to become complacent when you measure efficiency as increased performance. You are faster, have more money, shuffle more emails and slapped out more of the same. As seen in my swimming, this is not sustainable and there is no increase in quality. My view was narrowed to efficiency and discounted effectiveness. I did not do the right things. I became complacent. In addition, for a long time I was not prepared to ask for help.