Swimming, Bilingualism and Perfect Stroke

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Mar 6, 2012

Swimming, Bilingualism and Perfect Stroke

Globalization of our world is increasingly becoming the standard, so there is no wonder that efforts to raise bilingual children are nowadays close to being a norm (or they should be). Did you know though that learning a second language as a child gives you an unprecedented advantage over the rest of the unilingual world? You might say, "duh, I know one more language than everybody else", but this is not what I am talking about. According to Princeton Neuroscientist Sam Wang, if you are bilingual from very early age, your mind is more flexible and is able to quickly unlearn previously learned rules (resolve conflict cues). Fascinating. Too bad, my bilingualism is not from very early age :(.
Bilingual swimming sign

So how does this relate to swimming? Well, quite a bit in my opinion. While bilingualism focuses solely on your mind, swimming targets your body. However, as you have heard me say many times, swimming blindly up and down the pool rarely gets you the results you desire, so proper swimming stroke is only achieved by employing your mind in conjunction with your body. Unless you have learned to swim with the correct swimming technique at a very early age and let's face it majority of us have not, so you need to utilize your mind as well as your physical agility to re-learn or unlearn previously learned concepts. As bilingual children can be flexible in adapting previously learned concepts to reshape their way of thinking, you will need to unlearn the flaws in your swimming stroke which make you gasp for air at the end of the lap or which give you shoulder or neck pains. There is no room for having an inflexible mind in efficient swimming as you need to relate different body movements to different stroke analogies and constantly update your understanding of how your body behaves in the water. Of course, this is just one side of the story. The ability to actually perform the body movements highly depends on your physical ability which has nothing to do with the mind. However, assuming you have no physical restrictions, without the mind involvement in the process, you might spend years learning to swim and never be satisfied with the result as you are unable to cope with and understand the "conflicting" rules in swimming. By conflicting rules, I refer to the many aspects of proper swimming you need to coordinate and think about at the same time when learning to swim, some of them being even counter intuitive (such as breathing, head position, arm movement, kick, hip rotation, front arm position while breathing etc. etc. etc.).

Your swimming styles should become shaped and re-shaped again and again with every swimming instructor or swimming resource you follow and if your swimming program does a good job, you will break down the stroke into individual parts/drills and focus on mastering one of the parts first before moving onto the next.
As in learning a new language, first starting with the alphabet, numbers, simple words, short phrases, grammatical rules, sentences etc. etc. Without mastering the numbers, you cannot articulate the date or the time. Without mastering the proper head/body position and hip rotation, you cannot learn how to breathe easily and efficiently.

We all know that the mind is a powerful thing and our brains allow us to do quite amazing feats. Apparently, if you are bilingual from early childhood, more power to you and congratulations, you are supercharged for success:). I will leave you with this after thought: please use your mind to help yourself succeed in swimming whatever your goals may be, watch swimming videos, read swimming tips articles, visualize, adapt, try different things, know how it feels to do it the wrong way, have fun and most of all never stop shaping and re-shaping your stroke. Every stroke you take should have a meaning, be it relaxation or stroke improvement, otherwise you are just wasting your time in your path to a perfect swimming stroke.

Be seen, keep your stuff dry and take a break when needed.


Kenny Montgomery said...

Swimming is great for people of all ages. Just make sure that if you are in the swimming pool with children to keep a eye or them and they know the safety rules.