Semi-Charmed Life



One thing that I've realized about learning to swim at such a late age is that my approach to learning is very analytical. I was talking about my swimming progress to a friend of mine and he said he found it odd to think of swimming in such a technical manner because swimming is so natural to him. I'm willing to bet that many people who learned at an early age probably feel this way. It's like trying to look at walking or running in a technical manner. We don't do it because it's second nature to us and does not require much thinking on our part to perform.

The private lessons I took this past summer were great, but honestly I think I will be able to do a much better job teaching an adult non-swimmer how to swim than they can. Sounds a little pompous, especially considering that I can't swim competently yet, but I've had 3 different instructors and I found all 3 instructors to be very lacking in their teaching methods. The methods are probably more suitable to teaching young children as opposed to adults.

One bad habit I've built up is my reliance on swimming aids like kickboards. I think the use of these swimming aids have not taught me how to develop proper balance in the water, which is essential to swimming.

I've been browsing a lot of Youtube videos and I found one particular channel to be especially excellent:

 Swim without stress

THIS is the proper way to teach and learn in my opinion. He also offers a lot of insight in his youtube comments. I'm very excited to try out some of the things I picked up from his videos. I especially recommend the breast stroke video. FANTASTIC video that will be beneficial to you even if you already know how to do the breast stroke. 

His relaxed method of teaching in incremental progressions is great. I can't wait to hit the pool this weekend to practice. Eventually I want to become lifeguard certified and become a swim instructor.

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Two weekends ago, I competed in an event called Warrior Dash with a bunch of my fraternity brothers. For a bunch of old guys, I think we all did pretty well! The race is structured as on obstacle course but the obstacles were a joke. Hands down the most difficult part of the race was the uphill portion in the first half. I'm not accustomed to running on an incline and thought it was absolutely grueling.

Competing in the event motivated me to sign up for a 5k in November. I want to start running on a more frequent basis and I figure if I sign up for an actual race, it'll motivate me to run more. 5k is also the perfect distance for me because it's long enough to give me a good workout but short enough that it'll spare my knees and ankles. It's also a lot easier to fit in a half  hour run into my schedule instead of an hour.

I've come to realize that running, swimming and jiu jitsu are as much mental endeavors as they are physical.

Will Smith said in his award acceptance speech that running is one of the keys to life.

. . . because when you are running, there is a little voice in your head that tells you that you should quit. It says you’re too tired, your legs hurt, your lungs hurt. If you can learn how to defeat that little voice in your head, then you can learn how to not quit when things get hard in your life.

It's so true. There were a few times during the Warrior Dash event where I felt like I should just quit or slow down. Within the first minute of the race, I felt like I was in over my head and my body was already telling me that I would not be able to do it. Ignoring that voice telling me to quit was difficult but I'm glad I did.

Swimming is another mental hurdle for me and possibly the hardest thing I've ever had to learn. After 8 lessons with a private instructor and several practices in the pool, I'm still not a competent swimmer. It's very frustrating to learn something which most people picked up easily when they were younger.

My lessons have already ended, but I've been going to my local gym once a week to practice. Swimming still has not clicked for me, and sometimes I feel like an idiot for having spent all this time in the pool already and still not able to swim competently. But I believe that with enough practice and time in the water I will learn how to swim for sure. I refuse to believe that I am incapable of such a seemingly simple skill, and will put in as much time as it takes. My friends think I'm joking, but I want to be as good as a lifeguard some day.

Similarly, jiu jitsu is another sport where mental fortitude is a must. Unless you train bjj, you might not understand how demoralizing it is when you have one of those days where it seems like everybody is just wiping the floor with you. In a sport where your goal is to display physical dominance over another person, it's difficult sometimes to not internalize these gym losses and to tell yourself that it's just training.

A lot of guys who train say to "check your ego at the door." I completely agree, but in the end we're only human and are susceptible to some ego bruising every now and then. Just like in real life, a lot of it stems from comparing ourselves to other people and using them as a benchmark. I think the key is to focus on your own progression. People progress differently, and it's important to remember that. Each journey is an individual one.

I mean, if I've been training for 3 years and get my ass kicked by every new guy in the gym, that's a problem. But if I get worked by some guy who has trained less than me, that's not something I should take to heart. Sometimes it's useful to compare yourself to another person to see where you stand in order to improve, but it's useless to compare yourself to every person out there because there will always be someone better than you in whatever you do. I think there's too much of a focus on being the best rather than being your best.

So on those shitty days, you just have to march on. I'm not sure if this quote is specifically attributed to anybody in particular: "A black belt is just a white belt who never quit." When things are rough, you just have to believe that if you keep going, you will succeed.

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Belief in Possibility

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Learning from “The Wire”

I wish I could have taken a course like this when I was in college. It's such a shame that to this day there are still so many people that have not checked this show out.

Why we're teaching 'The Wire' at Harvard

"The Wire" is fiction, but it forces us to confront social realities more effectively than any other media production in the era of so-called reality TV. It does not tie things up neatly; as in real life, the problems remain unsolved, and the cycle repeats itself as disadvantages become more deeply entrenched. Outside the world of television drama, sociologists aim to explain what causes certain social conditions and then assess the merits of competing theories. The solutions, however, are usually less clear. "The Wire" gets that part right, too.

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Just Do It

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