Again this year, I’ve hit the road for my birthday. Just me and the dog.
It’s a big year for me, so the trip is proportionally epic. In honor of that other totally immersive July event, I’ve dubbed it my Tour de 60.
So for most of July, I’ll be driving. From Denver to Mount Desert, Maine. A few ocean and river stays to see friends and hear music. Then I’ll cross through Canada, camping all the way home.
From the road, I’ll be working. Proving to myself and to clients that I can still string words together and turn them in on deadline. And that from the rumple of clothing and damp towels in the back of my car, I can still properly dress for a meeting.
But the best part of my trip is the swimming. Lots and lots of swimming. I do love Denver, but some days my soul feels parched.
For this Florida girl, swimming is refreshing. It’s meditative and necessary. It’s an act of total immersion.
Terry Laughlin, founder and head coach of Total Immersion Swimming, spent decades of his life in the water. He coached elite athletes and was one himself. About 20 years ago, I watched his videos and met him socially. In 2017, he died of cancer, at the age of 66.
His New York Times obituary says, “Laughlin studied the motions of the best swimmers, along with hydrodynamics, kinesiology and ship design, to develop a better way to swim…With time and effort many swimmers learn to move more like a dolphin than a flailing Labrador.”
Swimming, Laughlin said, is all about “effortless endurance.” The stroke, the glide, the momentum.
So is living joyfully. And yet, some days we thrash around. We get sucked into the swirl of unconscious reaction.
Why not try it Laughlin’s way?
Minimize drag—Streamline underwater for most of each stroke cycle; spend less time at the surface. As a writer, I think this means write sloppy, fast first drafts. Best not to get distracted looking up facts or correcting our spelling. On first pass, it’s a creative drag to try to get every word right.
Conserve energy: Return to the surface by ‘catching a wave’ of buoyancy and momentum. With friends and lovers, we might accept what is, rather than working so hard to fix what appears to be broken. Take a moment to float.
Avoid waste: Pull and kick with smaller strokes that greatly reduce drag while producing highly effective propulsion. Say no to extraneous distraction. Spend time on things that matter.
Maximize momentum: Swim barely above and below the surface. Breathe with a stable and aligned head. When something feels right, go with it. But if it’s wrong, put on your big-girl Speedo and buck the current.
In a week or so, I’ll be heading back to land-locked Colorado. Rather than mourning what I don’t have there, I will resume the practice of regular swimming that I’ve had for much of my life. I’ll be intentional about traveling to bodies of water when I need them. Maybe I’ll have a few shells, tattooed on the tops of my feet. And sometimes—I’ll just imagine myself, floating on my back in the sea.
Because I’ve decided: Landlocked is just a state of mind.