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The Challenges of Swimming

In: Social Issues

Submitted By JackWeb
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The Challenges of Swimming Most everyone has been swimming at least once in their life, but competitive swimming is more than just floating in water. Competitive swimming, from the inception in 1896, has greatly evolved to the sport it is today. It includes four strokes which are; Front stroke, Back stroke, Breast stroke, and Butterfly. Swimming is one of the hardest sports in the world because of the mental and physical attributions. On the mental side of swimming, there are many factors that can make or break a swimmer. One factor is how focused you have to be to swim not only well, but outstanding. A swimmer has to clear their mind completely before entering the water. Mental toughness is defined as “having the natural or developed psychological edge that enables you to: generally cope better than your opponents with the many demands that spurt places on a performer” by Jones, Hanton and Connaughton, three authors (Jones, Handto, and Connaughton. 2002, p209). These three authors conducted research on thirty elite swimmers and concluded that “mental toughness” can be categorized into four dimensional framework, which included one general dimension, (attitude/mindset), and three time specific dimensions (training, competition, and post competition) (187). A swimmer’s attitude and mindset can control how they will do in the competition. If a swimmer is feeling low or terrible on how they will do in a race, the swimmer will actually do poorly because they aren’t in the correct mindset. On the other hand, if a swimmer thinks highly, or like they will be triumphant in the upcoming race, they will generally be great because they were thinking that way. Training is also a time for swimmers mental side to be used. During training, swimmers must remember everything they learn, such as what they did right and what they did wrong for future practice and meets. At practice, all swimmers have to realize what they’ve learned because they will need it later on. If they do something wrong, like flip turning too early, or breathing too many times, swimmers have to keep that in mind to correct it immediately and keep it corrected. Competition and post competition are the last of the four dimensional frame works of “mental toughness”. During competition, swimmers have to stay focused and remember their training. Without their training in the back of a swimmer’s mind they can forget seeing the gold medal. Likewise, past competition is just as important. After competing, swimmers record their time and take that into consideration for their next practice. Getting a better or worse time means a lot to swimmers. By getting a better time, it makes them more motivated to get an even finer time, while getting a slower time can deteriorate a swimmer’s confidence. To get a better time, a swimmer must forget everything besides their training. In contrast to the mental side of competitive swimming, the physical attribution is just as important, if not more. Swim training, trains every muscle as opposed to dry land sports, which don’t. Shinichi Demura from Kanazawa University writes, “Muscle gains of swimmers differ from those of general competitors on dry land (1250). In the same manner, Trine Karlsen from sports magazine says, “swimmers have a high respiratory capacity mainly related to elevated living volumes and enhanced pulmonary diffusion capacity compared with non-athletic peers from any other sport” (538). This basically means swimming over any other sport, trains your lungs harder, stronger, and more often. When I first started swimming, I could barely hold my breath for three strokes. Now I can go the whole length of the pool without taking a breath. Learning how to do all four strokes is just the beginning. “Butterfly” is a stroke in competitive swimming that is considered the hardest stroke to master. It is done by having both arms raised out of the water at the same time, lifted forward together and in sync with the legs, which are in a “dolphin kick” motion. In order to complete this stroke successfully, a swimmer needs to get their arms and legs perfectly in sync with one another. Compared to butterfly, all the other strokes are easier, but still difficult to master. “Breast stroke” is another stroke, which is done with a “frog” kicking motion and a similar motion of the arms. This stroke also has to be perfectly synced to be done well. “Front stroke”, also known as “Free” is probably the easiest, but still difficult for non-swimmers. This stroke doesn’t need to be synced together because the arms and legs are not co-dependent with each other. Although it doesn’t have to be synced together, swimmers still have to be cognoscente of their breathing and turns because if they do it wrong, they will waste time and energy. The last stroke, “Back stroke” is very similar to free by not having to be synced together. Swimmers also have to be knowledgeable of their breathing and turns, like front stroke. Learning the strokes is only the beginning because swimmers then have to learn how stroke length, stroke rate, and the energy they take all relate to each other. Karlsen says, “Swimming velocity is the product of stroke length and stroke rate, and both factors should be optimized for maximal performance” (144). One of his studies showed that the more length in each stroke, the less cost of energy exerted on the swimmer (fig.4). The same study showed the more strokes in a given time period, the more energy being wasted. These studies show that swimmers need to understand not only how to do the stroke, but the perfect ratio for each stroke. That’s why if a swimmer does a stroke only a little wrong, they will be wasting more energy than they can afford. Although most people have been swimming, some people know competitive swimming is much different than just taking a dip in a pool. Because of the mental and physical attributions, swimming is one of the hardest sports in the world. All swimmers know how difficult it is and now more people will realize how demanding swimming really is.

Works Cited
Shunsuke Yamaji, et al. "Comparison Of Strength Values And Laterality In Various Muscle Contractions Between Competitive Swimmers And Untrained Persons." Health (1949-4998) 2.11 (2010): 1249-1254. Academic Search Complete. Web. 13 Oct. 2013.
Aspenes, Stian Thoresen, and Trine Karlsen. "Exercise-Training Intervention Studies In Competitive Swimming." Sports Medicine 42.6 (2012): 527-543. Academic Search Complete. Web. 13 Oct. 2013.
J. P. Vilas-Boas, et al. "The Influence Of Stroke Mechanics Into Energy Cost Of Elite Swimmers." European Journal Of Applied Physiology 103.2 (2008): 139-149. Academic Search Complete. Web. 13 Oct. 2013.

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