Saturday, January 17, 2015

Splish splash

I think it's been almost 2 years since I last went swimming - my old Dailymile account suggests it was March 2013, which was when I had my last swimming lesson. Looking at my old blog, it appears I made no notes about this last set of lessons although I remember them to have been the best I've ever had! Interestingly one of my early swim-related blog posts over there was also called "Splish splash." I am obviously the highly creative sort.

To save you the trouble of reading the relevant posts on that blog, here's a history of my swimming "prowess":
  • I never got the hang of swimming when I was little - despite regular attendance with the primary-school program, and also with additional intensive school holiday programs. I just didn't get it.
  • In 2006, I took up adult lessons while I was studying at Melbourne Uni, and I remember being able to do at least one lap of the pool by the end of the program. It felt like 50m, but was only 25m. In hindsight, I find this simultaneously hilarious and enlightening. 
  • I didn't get into the pool again until 2012, when I took on adult lessons with a community college. The best bit was that the pool was 50m long but shallow for its entire length! I started with the beginners and an instructor named Claire who I thought was going to be a fantastic teacher. But I was bumped over to the intermediate group (with a lady named Katherine) when it became apparent that I my aah! water! anxiety was nothing compared to the genuine fear others in the group had.
  • Later that year I took swimming lessons at UNSW, as the community college only had their lessons on over summer. According to a blog post, I found these lessons better than my time with Katherine. Katherine's "lessons" were more about building up fitness, whereas the guy from UNSW was far more focussed on technique.
  • But it's the lessons from early 2013 (again with the community college) that I enjoyed the most. This time I was "intermediate" and ended up with Claire for the entire length of the term, and she was a fantastic teacher. She was able to diagnose and correct problems in a way that just made sense, and I know that I'd be happy to seek out lessons with her if I was ever back in Sydney.  

So with Jantastic now including swimming (and cycling), I decided to get back into the pool last weekend. And it didn't go too badly. The water was much warmer than UNSW's heated pool (which in turn was significantly warmer than the heated outdoor pool the community college used), which meant I had no "cold shock" that usually requires time to settle down. Also, I discovered that the indoor pool's deep end was only 1.65m, which significantly helped to reduce my aah! deep end! anxiety.

I started at the deep end and decided I would only try to make it to half-way on the first return lap, i.e. in ~12.5m stints. After successfully completing that I went for a "complete" return lap, resting at the shallow end. I completed the first 25m easily enough. But the aah! deep end! anxiety kicked in at half-way. Which is silly as I already knew that the deep end was sufficiently shallow for my 1.81m self. It took me a few more attempts from shallow to "deep" until I could ignore the anxiety and complete each 25m length without stopping.

This is why I now find my second bullet point above interesting - despite not being in the water for over 18 months, I was able to complete multiple laps of 25m without it feeling as if it were an onerous task. I only ended up with 14 laps in total, and with breaks at each end as I could feel my arms beginning to tire. If I had better technique I may have persisted, but I thought it would be best to just get out rather than fight on and develop crap habits.

Once my anxiety subsided and I was able to pay attention to what I was doing I noticed that I would lift my head up while swimming, and also out while breathing. So #1 on my swimming-to-do list is to keep my chin tucked in. It's easy enough to do, and helps to keep the entire body and legs in line, but not yet a habit. I also noticed my elbows were low when out of the water, so that is currently #2 on the list. I'm also sure that my strokes were rushed and that my hip rotations was poor, although they're not things I noticed on the weekend as there were other things I was far more aware of.

I'll be back in the water this week because of Jantastic (it's a fabulous excuse, really), and hopefully I'll have less anxiety and more awareness of what my body is doing!


  1. You did well. Perhaps swimming is like bike riding - something you never forget? I hope so - I haven't swum this century! Did quite a bit in my brief 'tri' days in the '90s. You wouldn't like the AIS pool - 2 metres deep the entire length, and cool! I guess fast swimmers prefer a cool deep pool.

    1. I think it must be - but it probably also depends on how you've been taught. I don't think I'd be as aware of what I'm (not) doing if it hadn't been for that last set of lessons with Claire.

      Nooooooo... that AIS pool can stay far away from me right now! And it makes sense that fast swimmers prefer a cooler pool just like we prefer to run in cooler conditions. The deep water probably helps them feel faster too (and is the minimum depth required for Olympic and World Champs).