I spend a lot of time watching people swim. Recently, I shared a lane with a woman who was in the middle of a four hour (7 miles in total) workout, tirelessly raising the arm, burying the arm deep in the water, rolling to breathe. She was training to swim around the island of Bermuda.

Mostly, though, it’s everyday enthusiasts with wildly different approaches to getting across the pool. Some smooth operators carve and glide their way across, making barely a splash as they hunt the fast lane. Other less gainly swimmers smack and attack the surface, as if they could stun the water into submission. The water in their lane seems thicker than that of their speedy neighbor. It’s not their fault. They don’t know how to swim.

How is it that some people seem to move through life with grace and poise when for others it’s an uphill slog with uncountable affronts? Obviously, life isn’t as simple as swimming, but there are parallels.

  • The good swimmers relate with the water and use it to their advantage – understanding buoyancy, streamlining, and how to use the strongest muscles in their body. Spazzy swimmers just overlay their movements on top of the water. They aren’t feeling the feedback of the water (or don’t know what to make of it). If you relate with the dynamics of water, you swim better.


  • If it feels like the going is really tough, like struggling all the time, maybe it’s worth reevaluating your approach. There might be more harmonious ways to move through the water.


  • What looks natural can be learned. The smooth specimen in the fast lane at one point didn’t know how to doggy paddle. She took lots of lessons and logged many hours with not so great form. She learned.


  • Lastly, don’t automatically make the fast lane your goal. I often move to the medium lane because I don’t want to feel pressure to keep up with someone who takes their recreational swimming too seriously. I just want to swim and unwind. Also, FWIW, the kindest and happiest folks are often the ones swimming elementary backstroke in the slow lane.

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