Tuesday, January 15, 2013

 “Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.”
Zig Ziglar
The “Process”

The word process is listed in the dictionary as a noun, verb and sometimes an adjective.  The word itself is defined as:

            Proc-ess  1.  A systematic series of actions directed to some end: to devise a process                                              for homogenizing milk.
                             2. A continuous action, operation, or series of changes taking place in a definite                                    manner: the process of decay.

For the sake of our needs I want you to think of “process” as a noun.  So in this case I hope you will think of “the process” as a state or quality of action; a series of changes that take place in a definitive manner to achieve a given end result.  Consider the Apollo 13 accident on April 14, 1970.  Briefly, here is what happened to Apollo 13 and the three Astronauts, James A. Lovell, Commander, John L. Swigert, Jr., Command Module Pilot, Fred W. Haise, Jr., Lunar Module Pilot.

Approximately” 56 hours into the mission, at about 03:06 UT on 14 April 1970 (10:06 PM, April 13 EST), the power fans were turned on within the tank for the third "cryo-stir" of the mission, a procedure to stir the oxygen slush inside the tank which would tend to stratify. The exposed fan wires shorted and the teflon insulation caught fire in the pure oygen environment. This fire rapidly heated and increased the pressure of the oxygen inside the tank, and may have spread along the wires to the electrical conduit in the side of the tank, which weakened and ruptured under the pressure, causing the no. 2 oxygen tank to explode. This damaged the no. 1 tank and parts of the interior of the service module and blew off the bay no. 4 cover.”

If you remember the events as portrayed in the movie,  after this explosion on Apollo 13, the Odyssey was sent in to a wild ride that the three astronauts struggled to control in an effort to accomplish their mission of landing on the Moon and exploring the Fra Mauro highlands, surveying and sampling the Imbrium Basin.  Unfortunately for the three Astronauts their mission had to be altered as the explosion created a new set of circumstances.  The most important circumstance was to get the three men home safely without any loss of life.  The explosion created an entirely new focus for NASA and the three Astronauts.  The focus now became one of survival.

In an effort to get the Astronauts back to earth safely NASA engineers and the Astronauts had to work together to implement and follow the “process” in completing their new task.  On the ground NASA engineers were feverishly working on “processes” to bring the Odyssey under control so the Astronauts didn’t bounce off into space.  The NASA engineers were also working to provide the process by which life sustaining oxygen would continue to flow in the craft and CO2 would be reduced.  Still another process was to help the Astronauts have the needed electrical power to re-start the on board guidance computers, heating systems and activate the parachutes on re-entry to allow a safe landing in the Pacific. 

During an intense period of time the ground crews developed the processes that would get the Astronauts back home, while on the Odyssey the Astronauts were meticulously following, and implementing the processes so that they could return to earth. The Astronauts, using their training and skills followed every process as outlined by the NASA engineers so that they could return.  The end results were that the three men on board Apollo 13 did as directed and they returned safely home touching down in the Pacific several days after their initial take off. 

For you as swimmers the “processes” that you need to follow are all those things that will help you achieve your goals.  In freestyle the “process” would be:  1.  Head and body position, 2. Hip/Shoulder Rotation, 3.  Early vertical forearm (EVF), 4.  Breathing with the rotation, and 3.  Distance per stroke.  As for your races a sample “process” would be: 1.  1-4 above, 5.  Great start with tight streamline off of dive., 6.  Fast, tight tucked turns and streamlined push-offs with three fly kicks of all walls., 7.  Use of legs at the right time-“the build”., 8.  Breathing through your races-you need to be able to adjust this as the longer the race the more you need to breathe., 9.  No breathing on finishes-flags to wall., 10.  Building the tempo through your races and being stronger at the end-1-5-4-3-2 (avoid the spikes).  

It is hard to focus on these things all the time, BUT if you will use these things in practice sessions they will become easier in competition settings.  It takes effort and discipline on your part to do everything just right all the time.  Your body will always want to take the path of least resistance.  DO NOT LET IT! Instead of focusing on the pain of training or competing, focus on the process.  Remember the three Apollo 13 Astronauts in the movie?  In the movie Commander Jim Lovell asks his crew mates, “Gentlemen, what are your intentions?”  Then he pauses and responds, “I’d like to go home.”  The crew of Apollo 13 then went to work and focused not on their circumstances, but on the process of returning home.  They could have all rolled over and languished in self doubt and sorrow for their circumstances, but they didn’t.  They rolled up their sleeves and went to work doing what was necessary to achieve their goal.  You are in similar circumstances in training to swim fast.  It is hard and takes a great deal of focus on your part, but you CAN DO IT!  Let your actions reflect your desire to achieve your goals.  I believe that you CAN DO anything you want to do as long as the mind is willing to over ride pain to body by focusing on the “process”. 

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