"Total Swimming: How the Perfect Exercise Can Offer Rewards Both to the Body and to the Inner Self"
Reading history and reviews
Finished in 2008I can't remember when I got this book, but it must have been a couple of years ago now when I was really getting into swimming and I bought some new goggles from Swimming Without Stress. I guess I was intrigued enough by the recommendation on the website that "if you love swimming or want inspiration to swim, you must read this book." Of course it then proceeded to sit on my bookshelf, next to all the other books I bought on swimming that I have yet to read properly.
I love swimming, but towards the middle of this year I found myself starting to enjoy my swims less than I used to and this began to bother me. Then, flicking through the introduction to Ian Cross' book "Swimming Without Stress: Lessons for Land Lovers" I read about how Ian had found himself in a similar position with regard to swimming, and how reading "Total Swimming" had given him a new and fresh perspective. So I decided that I would take it with me on my trip to New Jersey in July, with the hope that it would work similar magic for me.
It's a very interesting book. The author (writing in 1981) describes how he came to swimming at the age of 37 and how he quickly felt like it's the perfect exercise for everyone - he's like a swimming evangelist and he wants the reader to see the light and be converted into a born-again swimmer themselves. To this end he quotes a lot of research and a lot of figures and it's good stuff, although I wasn't always convinced that this meant that swimming was the "best" exercise. But that didn't bother me - I'm already a swimmer, after all.
Where the book started to engage me though was when Harvey Wiener starts to make a distinction between competitive and recreational sports, which was something I'd never really thought about before. Why are you swimming? If you're doing it competitively then your aim is to go faster, further, longer and so on, and there is plenty of advice out there to help you with that (including some of the aforementioned books still on my shelves). But if you're not competing, if you're interested in recreational swimming, then perhaps you need a different perspective - one that focuses on how it feels to be in the water, and that values experience over achievement. To me that's a genuinely novel insight (and one that could be applied to many things, not just swimming). It was this dimension of the book that was most interesting to me, and I have to say that since finishing it I have a new attitude when I'm in the pool and I've started to enjoy my swimming a lot more again.
There are other practical details in the book, including tips on things like technique and pool etiquette and so on. A lot of this was interesting to me too - for example his advice on eating before swimming addressed some of the things that I'd been wondering about in this regard. I feel it's a book that will reward repeated reading in the future, and I think that it's a real shame that it's now out of print - I'd really recommend getting a copy, because it's a really wonderful book. To quote the Swimming Without Stress website again: "It is not a book about how to swim faster or train better but it may change your life."