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Don't be a Grup

(or or Cavort Yerself)

The following is adapted from a response I posted in the H2O discussion forum about the value to a "pure freestyler" of doing things "not freestyle" and first appeared in Runner Triathlete News in 2005.

Ever notice that kids around and in a swimming pool behave in a completely different manner than grups*? They jump, they bob, they do flips, they do cannonballs, they sit on the bottom, they make up seemingly silly games, they dunk each other, they, they, they.... Kids play.

Grups do laps. Well, not all grups - some just sit on the corner steps, filtering beer into the pool, but we'll just ignore them (at least till the water starts to taste funny). Given the opportunity, most grups do the same thing every time they come to the pool - same number of laps, same strokes, same pace, same equipment, same lane, same thoughts, same, same, same... Grups find a comfort zone and stay well within it. Very little learning takes place when one never does anything new or different.

So, when you see kids out at the pool playing and cavorting, realize that they are reaping great benefits from the gift of innocent play. You too can reap those same benefits in the same way. You haven't lost the ability to play - you just think you have. I challenge you to do something "different" in the water every day, perhaps something that you've never done before, perhaps something silly. Play! Cavort! Your brain and your body will both learn a lot in the process.

Swimmers often erroneously think that doing anything other than "their" stroke is a waste of pool time. To the contrary, time spent expanding one's aquatic skill base in any form is beneficial. A freestyler can "play" by simply adding other strokes or stroke drills to each workout. Adding greater variety through games and/or random cavorting is equally, perhaps more, valuable. You will become more comfortable and relaxed in the water. You will have more confidence in your ability to learn and execute new skills. You will learn these skills more rapidly. In the long run, you will be a better swimmer and you'll have more fun.

If you are one of those stodgy grups that simply can't bring yourself to Play or Cavort then you can think of it as "practicing improvised aquatic skills" instead and you can pretend that you aren't having any fun doing it.

*Trekkies will recall from the "Miri" episode in Star Trek's first season that "grips" is short for "grown-ups".

© H2Ouston Swims, Inc. 2005

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Emmett Hines is Director and Head Coach of H2Ouston Swims. He has coached competitive Masters swimming in Houston since 1981, was a Senior Coach for Total Immersion Swim Camps for many years, holds an American Swim Coaches Association Level 5 Certification, was selected as United States Masters Swimming’s Coach of the Year in 1993 and received the Masters Aquatic Coaches Association Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002. He recently overhauled his popular book, Fitness Swimming (Human Kinetics, publishers) and the second edition was released mid-2008. Fitness Swimming has been published in French (entitled Natation, pub. by Vigot), Spanish (entitled Natacion, pub. by Hispano Europea), Chinese (entitled Jianshenyouyong), Portuguese (Natacao Para Condicionamento Fisico, pub. by Manole)  and, soon, in Turkish and Italian. Currently Coach Hines coaches the H2Ouston Swims Masters group in Houston, TX and works privately with many clients. He can be reached for questions or comments at 713-748-SWIM or via email.

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