Little Things

When expecting improvement, frequently we look for the big differences. I am learning that the little things are really what makes the biggest difference. Tweaks here and there can significantly alter direction. For example my direction in the water. I am moving through it more efficiently and as a result faster. By slowing my stroke, reducing drag, and working on a flutter kick in just two weeks I significantly improved my pace. Two weeks ago I did an endurance workout on my Wednesday 3,000 meter workout with a main set of 19 x 100 meter repeats. I spent most of my time swimming the intervals between 2:09 to 2:18 minutes per 100 meters. My arms were spent half way through and I was breathing heavy. Today I did the same workout and I was swimming 2:03 to 2:04 on all but a few. Two were at 2:05, two at 2:02 and one, the eleventh lap, at 2:01. I was not exhausted and my arms were not sore. I did my Superman kick drill too, and I was able to cover 25 meters on my last length in 2.5 push offs. Again, it is a shorter flutter kick that is making the difference and I don’t have to kick fast either, just consistently. To say I was encouraged when I finished was an understatement. I was thrilled.

This afternoon I was delayed in getting my ride in. I had already decided to ride my stationary since scattered storms were a threat, which never came, and it was still in the 90’s at 5:30. I became distracted trying to set up a new DVD player on a TV that is only seven years old, but “old” technology. I still don’t have color on the screen and I am determined to figure it out. I am sure it is a little thing too… I did get a short ride in this evening on my trainer, it felt good to get my legs turning over on the bike. I did notice that my right IT band is acting up a bit, so I was glad I was at home and made sure to stretch it afterward. A modified, shorter workout was probably best today.

Making little changes – a modification in swim stroke, a change in workout plan – often can yield big results. I find it ironic that sometimes making little changes requires a big leap in faith. To swim fast you should move your arms and legs faster, the vast majority of swim instruction adhere to this. For shorter distances, I agree. For endurance and for me, that is not working. Modifying my cycle workout this evening first caused a feeling of guilt. If I had worsened the stiffness in my IT band on a long ride outside, I would have regretted it. Running slower to improve my aerobic base and ability to burn fat as fuel is a simple, little thing to do. Knowing I could run faster and not look so slow is a big thing to overcome.

So it is the little things that all too often go overlooked but make the biggest difference. I researched “little things” and found a few I want to share. We all know the popular ones like a friend’s smile, a rainbow, puppy breath – but here are a few others – a smile from a stranger, receiving a hand written letter, a smell that brings back a memory, doing a secret act of kindness for someone, and my personal favorite – when you and a close friend (and training partner) are mistaken for siblings. Look for the little things, they may make a world of difference.

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