Years ago, (17+) while a university student and aspiring Olympic distance triathlete I occasionally experienced a level of performance in my training season that was euphoric.
One cycling season back then, I had put in considerable winter mileage (kilometers) then began the summer with a 4-day, 650 km bike tour/friendly race around the Olympic Penninsula with some triathlete friends. That kind of build-up, then a special trip with thrilling, long-distance intensity ushered me into a new level of riding. I recall going out for a training ride through the city a few days later, whizzing by slow rush hour traffic realizing I was cruising up and down the hills with far more power and far less fatigue than ever before. My legs felt like smooth pistons carrying my crank-arm around the full spin- with high cadence, and consistent force. I remember so well how pleasurable that sensation was and how it motivated me to maintain it.
I had this same kind of experience in those years with running, at certain times. After enough early season mileage, and then with some expanding efforts and challenges I noticed how I started to feel even better, even lighter on the second half-hour of the run. I would be soaked, sweaty, tired in the legs or whatever, but my body and brain just wanted to keep going. At some point in my run, at some point in my running life back then, I crossed a line, or maybe it was more like I left the ground… I felt like I was ‘flying’ along the road or trail and it was awesome.
I don’t ride anymore (for a host of reasons, but I really miss it). I run here in the winter, but not enough mileage and not enough intelligence to get close to that kind of ‘flying’ feeling again, just yet. (I am now taking my TI mentality back into my running- to run smarter not harder! since I am a family man with limited time). It is unfortunate, but perhaps it is the nature of the physical universe that when we start to exercise it HURTS. The body and brain need a lot of time and repetition to adapt to a new exercise and begin to specialize the structure and systems to support it. In other words, new runners and weekend warriors suffer the most. I enjoy so little pleasure while running these days because I don’t give my body enough time and consistency (and intelligent guidance) to break into a new plane. But I am working on it. I am not giving up finding my middle-age way back to that sensation again- even if I don’t reach my college-age velocity.
However, I realized this morning that I do swim in a higher plane, a much higher plane than ever before. I have been swimming there for several months now, maybe several years since I have been working with TI exclusively. But particularly this year, with so much time spent in well-focused training, and for increasing distances, I now find myself ‘flying’ in the water the moment I slip into it. I don’t have to wait a half hour to get ‘loosened-up’ (an advantage of the no-impact environment compared to the pounding of running). And not only do I start feeling myself gliding along immediately, I feel like I could go for hours- literally. And I only feel stronger as I go. I don’t want to stop.
For this kind of pleasure it does not matter how ‘fast’ I am going, although total balance, streamline body position, and efficient propulsion are essential to reaching this plane, and will naturally make a swimmer faster. It is the acquisition of these features in my stroke by intelligent swimming (rather than by force) that have made it possible for me to reach this plane, I believe. And moreover, what is encouraging about this discovery is that this higher plane of swimming is available to me for the rest of my life, regardless of whether I have ‘speed’ worth noting or not.
Age and gravity will make sure I eventually give up land-based, joint-pounding activities. But those two nemeses can push me down into the water all they want; I will just slide under the surface and spit water back in their face, as I keep gliding along.