Friday, March 27, 2009

It's easier to do it right

This is my latest revelation. It happened at my swim workout.

I have been making a lot of corrections to my swimming as various deficiencies have been pointed out to me. One of the last ones that came up is that I am kicking too much.

I have noticed that my flutter kick doesn't really get me very far so I have been kicking like mad to get more power. But apparently that's wrong. So on Wednesday, I tried kicking less. What a difference! I was actually gliding through the water faster than when I was kicking more.

The other thing I recently learned is that you are supposed to exhale continuously underwater and not hold your breath and let it out in little spurts. So I tried that too. I could not believe the difference. Breathing was so much easier and soon I was breathing every fourth set of strokes instead of every two or three. Of course, when I first started, I went backwards a little. But, much sooner than I expected, it was entirely natural to breathe that way and I was, again, faster in the water.

Which led me to this thought... it's easier to do things correctly. At least in sports.

So, if it's easier to swim the right way, does that mean it's easier to live the right way? To eat the right way? It seems like it should be.

I know that, when I exercise, I feel better and, when I don't exercise, I feel bad. So, in a way, exercising -- doing it "right" -- is easier than not exercising. Even though it doesn't feel that way when we're sitting at home thinking about how much energy it's going to take to change our clothes and grab our bikes and go.

Likewise, I know that when I eat low carb, I don't crave carbs and, when I eat more protein, I have more energy. I also know that sometimes I tell myself I have to have carbs, that I'll be deprived without them. Or that I couldn't possibly have one more protein shake today -- I'll gag. It's too late at night. I feel fine, so how bad could it be to skip it this time? Do I *really* need 120 g of protein a day?

Which leads to another question: why do we often times do things incorrectly and then whine that doing them correctly is sooo haaarrdd? Because, admit it, we all do that.

Part of it is probably the steps back. No one likes going backwards and it's harder when you don't really believe that you'll end up better off than you started. I see this all the time when people are trying to correct their form in sports. They can't accept the temporary loss of skills, so they go back to their old way convinced that they "tried that and it didn't work."

This happens whenever I try to up my protein. It always throws off my carefully constructed routine, leading to bad consequences. And that makes me whiny and convinced that I should just go back to my old ways. But if I persevere, I get a new routine and then all the benefits of doing it "right" accrue to me. Like not being as hungry and having more energy for my workouts.

But another thing that I think happens is that people convince themselves that the bad thing isn't that bad and/or the good thing isn't possible. Kicking like this makes me go faster; if I slow down my kicking, I'll sink. I must have chocolate every day or I'll feel deprived and, anyway, chocolate has anti-oxidants so it's really good for me, not bad for me!

Which reminds me of a song by The Killers:

"When everyone else refrained
My Uncle Johnny did cocaine.
He's convinced himself right in his brain
that it helps to take away the pain.
Oh Johnny."

Now, I've never convinced myself that taking drugs would make my life better. I have never been one to think that food was going to take away my pain, either. But I convince myself all the time that things that are bad for me are actually good for me. Or that doing it the "right" way is just too hard. Like right now when I'm writing this blog entry instead of writing code.

Of course, it's easy to see these things in hindsight; it's harder when we're in the middle of the choice. But I am going to add my experiences learning to swim with good form to my mental stockpile. If singing alone with The Killers doesn't remind me that eating too many carbs is not a good choice, maybe the image of gliding through the water faster with less energy expenditure will do the trick.
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