Remedial Swimming

At our Tuesday meeting, my tri club voted funds to pay for coached swim sessions at our local Y.  The rationale is that we are, after all, a tri club, and of the three disciplines, swimming is the one most affected by form.  I, for one, was very happy about this development, because I'd like to do a triathlon at some point, and I'm well aware that swimming is my weakest area.  I'd had in my head that I was going to need to get some coaching/swim lessons, so the fact that my club was willing to provide them for me was a huge plus.

Until today, when I actually had to go.  I was decidedly unenthusiastic about the whole thing.  As I was groaning and stomping upstairs to put on my 10 year old one-piece suit, Jeff asked what was wrong.  "I really don't want to go to this," I answered.  I'm sure he was wondering what my problem was, since no one was twisting my arm to go.

So, the wardrobe thing.  I wear a two piece tankini.  It has a little skirty bottom, so my ass doesn't hang out.  It has a low-cut top, to distract from my flabby middle.  Ugh, my stomach.  Three children and years of being sedentary and eating crap have not been kind to it.  I used to think I'd get a boob job when we had the money and have everything put back where it started (gravity = enemy), but now I'd settle for a tummy tuck and just invest in plenty of underwire.  But I digress.

The point is that I'm not so comfortable putting on a tank suit that shows me in all my Buddha-like glory.  Oh, and I can swim well enough to not drown.  I can swim well enough to keep my youngest safe.  But I'm not a good swimmer at all, and going to swim with people who are reasonably good swimmers is intimidating (even if they're really nice people).  I don't like doing things I'm not good at...but Facebook wasn't having any of that.

My friends don't let me get away with whiny, wimpy stuff like that.  Not that I had any illusions that I'd get a different response...which is probably half the reason I posted it.

So, there I was, at the pool with three guys from the club and coach Denny, and I was definitely the slow learner of the group.  Two of the guys swim regularly, are triathletes, and participate in swim competitions.  One has been a club member since 1985.  And then there's me.  I think I might have been taking my last swimming lessons in 1985.  It did not start off pretty.
  • We started off with a drill.  I made it about halfway down the length of the pool ok and then my breathing was all messed up.  For the rest of that lap I had trouble keeping my face in the water.
  • Another drill.  Even less pretty.
  • Coach Denny decides to back up and just work with us on body positioning.  Thanks to Doug and Jim for their patience in reviewing all the stuff they already know and very gracious help.
  • Front float drill to work on finding center of gravity, keeping body straight in water instead of trying to swim "out of the water".  I hold my breath for about 8.2 seconds before having to take my face out of the water.
  • This sucks.  This sucks.  I can't do this.  But that's why I'm here.  So I can do this.  But it sucks.
Then it got a little better.
  • Side kicks--one arm stretched out in front of you, the other arm and shoulder out of water, head in water but face out, kick the length of the pool.  Switch arms for return length. This, this I can do! Seriously, that one ounce of success made a huge difference for me.
  • Side kicks again--I can still do it.  Yea...I'm good at something!
  • Oh,crud...I can't remember what this was called--Start off with side kicks, after 10-count (or whenever you're comfortable), switch over to the other side.  This, of course, necessitates putting your face in the water.  When you're ready to switch, first look down your outstretched arm, then pull up your trailing arm, touch hands, switch over to other side (sorry if that sounds too complicated...this part is really more for me to remember, anyway). 
  • First switch goes great; second I'm overconfident and end up totally screwing up the switch and breathing in water; third goes badly, too, but then I'm at the wall.  On the return trip, again, the first switch goes well and the next doesn't.  Coach Denny tells me I'm still trying to keep my face too much out of the water.
  • Work on stroke length (TWSS)--count strokes as you swim length of the pool (25 yards).  I feel pretty good as I swim, but halfway down I realize Oh, crap! I'm supposed to be counting! I count when I remember to for the rest of the time and get 17, but it's probably more like 34.  The most anyone else has is 16.  On the plus side, when I'm busy counting strokes I forget to freak out about my breathing.
  • We talk some more about really stretching out the stroke, then go for the return trip trying to do it in fewer.  This time I get 20.  I also notice that I'm not nearly as winded as I was the other times down the pool.
Some things I took away from tonight:
  • "Body position is more important than breathing"--says the man with his face out of the water.
  • "Slow is smooth, smooth is quick"--focus on doing it right, the speed comes with that.
  • The longer you make your body, the faster you can move through the water. 
  • Get the most out of your stroke length, pull all the way through to your thigh.
  • Get your face in the water.  Be flatter, not inclined. 
  • Breathe out while you're in the water so you can grab a "bite" of air when you surface and aren't wasting your time trying to breathe out and in (big problem for me).
  • Your stroke should pull you further in the water, not push the water away from you.
  • Be a speedboat, not a barge.
Overall, it was both just as bad as and a little better than I expected. I know the coaching will help me; there's just a long way to go.


  1. It is hard to know that. Don't be so hard on yourself....a little slack and look at the plus and it will better the next time.

    Hang in are way more honest than I could ever be!!

  2. Good girl!
    It is so hard. My first year I couldn't believe how bad I sucked. It got so bad at one point that I gave serious thought to paying to go to a pool where I could swim incognito rather than be seen doing so horribly bad in my group swims that were being coached (and coached well) FOR FREE.

    It was just PLAIN HARD!

    Three years later...
    I still think I suck compared to everyone else...but it's easier.

  3. You are brave to be doing this. I wish I was there because you would feel good about yourself. I don't even do rhymthic breathing. Soon we'll be reading about your tris and you will be doing great. You are out there trying while others (like me) don't.

    AND yeah I won't be the first across the line.No worries there. I just hope I can find the finish line as everyone will be so far ahead I won't be following anyone.

  4. I think you did great. The next time will be much better and easier. Keep it going!

  5. A little snort in the parking lot (I prefer tequila) makes the swim sessions so much more pleasant. Floating on a raft with a cold beer is even better but so many Masters swimmers are all serious and stuff so it doesn't always fly.

  6. In my opinion you did great. Very soon you will have learned the "lesson".
    On the contrary swimming is my "speciality" but in a tri it is almost pointless because I would lose my advantage during the run.
    Keep on swimming!

  7. Super Kate! BRAVE Kate!
    It will get easier with time.
    Shawn is very wise..of course he is , he is Canadian. Listen to him he is right.

  8. Took me weeks, long weeks, to get where I could just get 50 yards with out hacking out my lungs. Now I can go 100's of yards without stopping. It takes time. Don't quite.

    "Girl, you have to suck it to not suck"- Linda Torres (My Mom)

  9. Yep, swimming is definitely a humbling activity if you aren't a natural or didn't grow up on the swim team. I hear ya about the swim suit too, it adds humility to the humbling (at least for me).

    Those drills make me feel totally uncoordinated too, so don't feel bad. Hang in there and don't give up.


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