On Swimming

Like the poster that was in every other dorm room: “I Learned Everything I Ever Needed To Know In Kindergarten”. I learned everything I needed to know about swimming on YouTube!

After I got back from signing up for the Ironman at 8 am on November 21, 2010, I went right to the pool. I haven’t been in a pool to actually swim since I was about 6 years old. Needless to say, I had no freaking clue what to do first. I was just concerned about staying above water. I had to stop midway thru the 25 yard pool to catch my breath. I’m lucky that it was only a 5 foot pool and that I was the only one there. I finished the lap and attempted to make it back across the pool, again stopping in the middle. My brain must have liked the fact that I was struggling and told me to ‘swim’ across again. This time I stopped every few yards. The problem I was having was that I was breathing in and out way too heavily. I went a total of 4 laps (lengths) and walked away from the pool, head held down, nervous about what I just committed myself to less than an hour before.

I was in Arizona and I had a whole year to figure out what to do. Well, time passed pretty quickly and it was spring and I still hadn’t been to a pool since that defeated day in November. I had nine months to learn, but made no movement to do so. Then one day I just decided to find a pool. There aren’t too many to choose from around here that aren’t crazy expensive. Here’s a plug for the one I go to now: Salvation Army and the Kroc Family (McDonald’s fame) teamed up to build state of the art facilities in areas that don’t typically have access to such things. I think this is their second such attempt and have plans to continue throughout the country. Well I’m glad they did. I now have a place to swim in a brand new pool that is only 15 minutes from me and is pretty cheap. The facility is under used and I sometimes swim with just a few other people in the lanes next to me.

The night before my first day of ‘swimming’ I was looking on YouTube to see if I could get some pointers on what to do the following morning. After ten minutes of watching goofy videos of nothing in particular I found the following clip from a seminar: YouTube Preview Image

I watched this and the whole seminar multiple times (and many time since). Thank goodness for this guy! I actually had a plan on what I was going to do in the morning. Before seeing this seminar, I had no clue what I was going to do. None. Except wear myself out because I was breathing to heavily and splashing around like a lunatic.

If you didn’t watch the video or the whole seminar, what I got from it was: to relax, make myself into a fuselage, make myself as tall as possible in the water, pierce the water in front of me in order to slip through the hole I just made and not be worried about pushing the water behind me, kicking only to make me more streamlined and practice unconventional techniques that are useful for muscle memory (my favorite thing is the unconventional).

Now I pay attention to the people around me and watch how their bodies move though the water. I watch how much they splash, kick, and circle their arms. I notice the drills they do and how their hands propel them. I’ve never been able to notice any of that before. It just looked like everyone swam the same, but that’s so not the case. I’m fortunate enough to see a few really good swimmers in the morning and try to emulate the good techniques.

When I’m practicing, I repeat in my head the following mantra to remind myself what I need to do in the water. Every time an arm goes in the water I say to myself, either, TALL, STRONG, or RELAX. Each one of those things mean something to me. TALL means to stretch as far as I can with each stroke, STRONG means to engage my core and become as hydrodynamic as possible, and RELAX just reminds me to breath easier.

Thank goodness for YouTube and Total Immersion: Perpetual Motion Swimming. I have no idea what I would have done otherwise.