Girl in a Swimming Cap

I am working towards becoming a triathlete.  For around the last 8 months of last year, what with devoting so much time to running and cycling to work so often, I was declaring that 2014 would be the year of the swim.

I love cycling and, after a certain amount of practice, running was not necessarily a nightmare, but swimming seems to be me vs. the water in an epic battle for custody of my lungs.

None the less, against my better judgement, I have started swimming.  My triathlon club run coached sessions on Monday and Wednesday evenings at local pools and, on the advice of my boyfriend, I have started accompanying him to the Monday night sessions where the coach is excellent.

And Coach S is wonderful!

I briefly tried swimming last year, for a couple of weeks, and didn’t like it.  The coach kept telling me additional things I was doing wrong and, as I concentrated hard on trying to remember and incorporate all these new things into my stroke, I would suddenly realise I hadn’t taken a breath for nearly half a length, turn my head and inhale half a lung of pool water.  This would, predictably, send me into a fit of coughing, treading water, holding up everyone else in my land, flustering me into forgetting everything and exhausting me.

Coach S gives me only one pointer a week and I spend the rest of that session (and any practice session I manage to fit in) focusing on that one tip while I do the other drills so that by the next week it’s part of my stroke and I’m ready to move on to the next pointer.  My legs are now straighter, kicking from the hips with my toes touching as they pass; my fingers are now clear of the water as they move forward for the next stroke; my core is now tighter, keeping my body straighter.

It’s helped me recognise my way of learning too.  Coach S was away this week.  The stand in coach gave me an excellent piece of advice: don’t look forward while swimming, look straight down.  Rotating the body while keeping the head still is easier when you look straight down plus lifting the head to look forward a little affects the angle of the whole body, sinking the legs and increasing the drag against the water.  It’s an excellent piece of advice and helped hugely, increasing my speed while decreasing the energy it took, eliminating the feeling that I was fighting the water.  When the coach seemed poised to offer an additional piece of advice I snuck in with a comment about how it was so effective that Coach S only gave me one point of focus a week and he seemed to change what he was about to say, instead reminding me about looking down and elaborating on the reasons.

I am in serious danger of enjoying this swimming lark…

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3 Responses to Girl in a Swimming Cap

  1. Rainy Writer says:

    A swimming coach …. hmmm … my wife had one … but I have resisted to day. But reading your post here is making me rethink that. I too am ‘trying’ to become a Tri person … I’ve yet to enter an event because I fear my running and swimming is unacceptable at the moment. (New runner here.)

    I have to rest a LOT when I go to the pool. I can do up to 20 laps (1000 meters) … however, I have to rest between EVERY lap. So I don’t think I am ready yet.

    My wife was telling me that when I have calf cramps while swimming it’s because I am not kicking with my quads … and instead I am using my lower legs…which is consistent with your ‘kicking from the hips’ comment.

    I really like that hint about looking straight down … I will try that the next time I go to the pool. (I have been trying to swim 2 or 3 times a week.)

    • Hi Rainy Writer,

      When my boyfriend went to triathlon specific group swimming lessons he let me have a copy of his course material and was telling me what he was doing at the lessons. I tried to take a lot of that on board by myself (indeed, the coaches at the tri club tell me my basic style is good) but there really is no substitute for someone who knows what they are doing watching you and telling you at each session what is at that time the biggest limiting factor in your stroke.

      I will be posting each tip as I get it but these are the limiting factors to my stroke rather than anyone else’s.

      The swimming sessions I do are perfect for me because they are run for and by triathletes, maybe it’s worth seeing if you have a local triathlon club as I expect they will let you go to a couple of sessions as tasters free of charge.

      The coach at this evening’s Turbo Trainer session (which I couldn’t join in due to neck cramps today) did give me the following advice though, enter a triathlon. Just go for it. If you don’t, you have nothing to work towards. When he did his first triathlon he couldn’t even put his face in the water while swimming and I have to say, from your comments, we are both beyond that standard already.

      • Rainy Writer says:

        Hmm … …enter a triathlon. Just go for it. … my wife told me that a few times. In fact, there’s this guy at the gym that I talk to sometimes … he is OBVISOUSLY a Tri dude… he BUILDS road bikes. He runs and swims a LOT. He does ironmans. He told me the same thing. He also told me that we should enter one together.

        I think to myself … hey could he crush me in any one of the swim-bike-run portions.

        But what I am learning is that most people, this person included, are REALLY nice and encouraging. While he could surely whup me from here to next week … what he really is after is promoting something he loves … and being encouraging as hell.

        Hmmm … 3 months until a Tri here …. hmmmmm….

        (And I will watch for your tips….even if they are tailored to you … I am guessing I can use all the help I can get!)

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