It’s nearly the end of January, and I’ve been working hard at my January challenge. Which has meant going swimming three times a week and working my butt off to improve my swimming technique.
I’ve learned an awful lot with the help of the Boyfriend’s sister, who is an excellent swimmer, and an incredibly patient coach. Here are just a few of those things:
1. It’s all about the breathing
I’ve never been a fan of putting my head under the water. It’s because I wear glasses, and I’ve always been terrified of losing them, but equally worried about not wearing them. I’ve never had that time as a child where you get comfortable with being under the water, so learning to put my head under for front crawl has taken me right outside my comfort zone. Timing breathing has been the most challenging part. I feel like I can do all the moves, and my technique isn’t terrible, but I just can’t get the breathing right. Which means at time of writing, I’m still unable to do a whole length of front crawl. I’m hopeful by time of posting, I’ll have cracked the breathing issue and be flying up and down the pool.
2. Movements are very minimal
I’ve always wondered how people can do lots of lengths, because I’ve always done one length of breast stroke and been exhausted. Then my unofficial coach told me to keep my movements smaller. She said that most Olympic swimmers keep their arms tight to their body, making small circles. Trying this was a revelation – I was going faster, further and expending less energy. I went from not being able to swim two lengths to swimming 20 consecutively in less than two weeks.
3. Lots of people swim very badly
I’ve always been envious of the people flying up and down the pool, particularly those doing front crawl. Now though, I’m amazed to see how many people swim really badly – not using the correct techniques, not putting their heads under the water, not conserving their energy through efficiency of movement. I’m by no means a good swimmer (see above point about not being able to do a length) but I feel better about being so rubbish when I see that so many of the people I would have thought of as ‘good’ are actually almost as terrible as me!
4. I actually enjoy swimming
I’ve never enjoyed swimming. Never. But with my prescription goggles and my improved ability, I’m really starting to enjoy it. It’s so boring going up and down the pool that I can really let my mind wander in a way I can’t do when I’m running, because I have to concentrate on cars and crossing roads and not falling over etc. There is a certain amount of concentration involved in swimming, but the more I do, the less this gets. A friend said on twitter that soon I’d be going up and down the lengths thinking of story plots and characters, and at the time I thought that would never be possible – due to my concentrating so fiercely on not drowning all the time. But already I’m starting to improve in confidence, which means I can start focusing on other things.
5. It’s a whole body work out
I’ve got a reasonable level of fitness – though the Boyfriend would say I’m painfully unfit – but while I have stamina, I don’t have a lot of strength. I can’t do pushups very well, and though I’ve worked on my core strength considerably over the last year, I’m still not doing 50 sit ups with ease. Swimming is really helping with all that. Rather than just strengthening my legs like running, my whole body is getting a work out. I know because I hurt in the most random places when I’ve had a tough swimming session! It’s also a very low impact sport, so the improvement isn’t coming with loads of injuries, which is great! I’m hopeful that the swimming will improve my running, as my overall level of fitness and body strength continues to grow. 30 minute 5k, here I come!