"The Art of Swimming: In a New Direction with the Alexander Technique"
by Steven Shaw and Armand D'Angour
Reading history and reviews
Finished on 31st May 2009I've had this book for a few years now and while I've dipped in and out of it at various times since I first bought it, this is the first time that I've actually read it from cover to cover.
The book itself outlines a way of applying Alexander Technique principles to swimming, not just technically in terms of stroke improvement (which actually isn't covered much at all) but also encouraging the reader to approach swimming more mindfully in general. Part of the idea is to try and think about swimming as more than just a physical activity (the classic example being the fitness swimmer who effectively tunes out while doing a set number of lengths), and to find ways to engage with it mentally too. By being more aware swimmers can enjoy the experience more, swim with less effort, and reduce the risk of injury (one of the chapters examines the myth of swimming as being "injury free").
For me the most valuable parts of the book have been dealing with the fundamentals of being in water, and the importance of being comfortable in a medium that can hold fear even for experienced swimmers. In particular understanding how we adapt physiologically to being in water and how to breathe with confidence are key.
Aside from that, a big attraction of the book has always been the beautiful colour photographs that accompany the text, and which have kept me coming back to it over time - where the text talks about the joy of swimming, the pictures offer a wonderful visual accompaniment and are worth the cover price on their own.