Four months ago, swimming above that big blue line on the bottom of the pool felt more like a disciplinary sentence than an enjoyable form of morning exercise. My last triathlon at the end of August served as my starting line for a race designed to improve my swimming technique. It’s been anything but a race.
After a couple of weeks of delving into the YouTube world of swimming videos, I realized I could watch every single one of them and come away with what I SHOULD do, but have no idea of what I was doing. A friend recommended I visit Annie Warner, a professional triathlete who knows a considerable amount about swimming (among other things!), to start my off-season swim training out on a better foot (or should I say a better stroke?)
She tore my stroke apart. I had no idea you enter the water thumb-side down and come out pinky-finger up, a single part of the freestyle stroke that one can break down into about 20 different components! Enter here, bend your wrist, now your elbow, keep it high, fingers down, hit your thigh, push back, now flick your fingers out of the water. That may have seemed possible except that was only one arm. What the heck am I supposed to do with my second arm while I’m thinking my way through the stroke with the other one?!?
If my stroke wasn’t awkward enough, then my breathing was an entirely different animal. Instead of looking up at the ceiling, I was to concentrate on keeping my eyes on the edge of the pool. Perhaps that would have worked if I didn’t suck in water with each breath. To think there is an exact angle my head should be positioned to make breathing more efficient still baffles me, but after four months, I can finally say it’s true. Keeping my mouth close to my armpit really does make breathing easier. Thank goodness for pool water to keep body odor at bay.
During my third lesson with Annie, the almighty flip turns came up. “Would you like to learn?” she asked. I proclaimed I really did want to learn, and looking back, my first few attempts must have looked ridiculous. In fact, if there was one component of my swim I wished she would have videoed for educational purposes, I wish it had been my flip turns. Pure entertainment, I’m sure. Nonetheless, I made it through that first lesson of flip turning with nothing more than completely eroded sinuses and a head full of water. From that day onward, my mornings and well into the rest of my day consisted of constantly blowing pool water out of my nose, much to the dissatisfaction of my classmates in school. In fact, several people who sit near me have come to know when I’ve been in the pool each morning simply by the number of times I blow my nose.
Now that December has arrived, four months have passed and I can confidently say spending 4-5 days in the pool each week has netted me some significant improvements, several of which I list below:
- Consistent flip turns that have helped shave seconds off my split times.
- Increased speed, demonstrated by cutting nearly 30 seconds off my 100 yard split time.
- Stronger upper body strength that has improved the efficiency of my pull.
- Increased endurance to make one and a half hour workouts achievable, whereas 30 minutes of swimming used to be my maximum.
- Keeping up with people I once thought I’d never swim with.
I have many to thank, including Annie Warner; a good friend from school, Kari Budd (a collegiate swimmer); Michael Bergquist, who leads my Master swim group each Sunday; Loran Rogers-Kerrigan (my morning YMCA swim partner); and everyone else I swim with each Sunday that help motivate me to swim a little stronger, a little faster, and with a little more heart.
Tomorrow I have my last lesson with Annie so she can tweak all the bad habits I’ve developed since our last lesson. But first, I have a swim workout to conquer at the Y. Just keep swimming!