Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sink or Swim

Yesterday I had a one-on-one swim lesson with our Swim Coach Steve (It's worth clicking the link, I'll wait.) Now then, Steve is a good swimmer, and may be a good teacher, but I'm not a very good student. The problem is that whatever triathlon has done for me, I am still the same spaz I was 30 years ago. The only difference is that now I spaz out 140.6 miles at a time. Of the 3 tri disciplines, swimming requires by far the most coordination and is my therefore my worst leg.

Steve offered to give me some swim pointers because, well, it can probably be best explained by this exchange last night in the pool:

Steve: "Where did you learn how to swim?"
Me: "Um, I didn't."
Steve: "I kind of thought so."

I was never really "taught" to swim. And for the past 5 years on the tri team I've basically just been doing the swim workouts while reinforcing all of my bad habits. So Steve hopes to fix that.

Steve's big thing, what he tells everybody every week in our group workouts, is that proper head position is critical. If you can get that right, then everything else becomes much easier. And he has a simple exercise to determine proper head position: while standing up, raise your arms straight overhead, place one hand on top of the other, and have your arms cover your ears. That should be the correct alignment when you're horizontal in the water. Here's the problem: the bigger your arms are, the easier it is to line them up with your ears. My arms don't really touch my ears when I reach overhead without kind of pushing them inward and so I was always kind of guessing where the right position was. But Steve set me straight and now at least in theory I know where my head should be.

The other problem I have (well, the next of many) is my kicking. Someone long ago told me that "you don't really need to kick in a triathlon." The logic is you don't get a lot of propulsion out of your legs compared with your arms, and you're better off saving your legs for the bike. Since you're wearing a wetsuit, your legs should be floating up by the surface anyway so they're not dragging. I've just clinged to this philosophy ever since. Well, in Hawaii it will be too warm for a wetsuit so I'll have to kick my legs properly to keep them from dragging. That was Steve's lesson #2.

All in all, there was very little yelling and very few tears so I think the lesson went well. Even if I don't swim faster, if I can be more efficient in the water and less tired when I get out, all the better.


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