Since The London Triathlon in July, I have not swam once. I don’t know what happened. I guess I just prefer dry land. But with so much progress in the last year, this seems like a pretty shameful admission.
I learned to swim last year as a necessary requirement for doing my first triathlon. I could swim, but it was more of a splashy dog paddle. Front crawl was certainly out of the question. After watching various YouTube videos, I was surprised how quickly I was able to go from 25 metres of near-drowning to comfortably swimming 30+ lengths of the pool. I eventually made my way up to being able to swim about 2km, and completed the 1.5km swim portion of the Olympic distance triathlon in 36:23.
Originally, my goal for triathlons was to not drown. That seemed like a sensible objective. However, that goal has now evolved to getting faster and more efficient. Recognising that so much of swimming is about technique interests me. I wondered if small changes could yield big improvements.
Enter: Swimming Nature. Swimming Nature offers one-on-one or one-on-two lessons. Unlike large group lessons, Swimming Nature’s model is to deliver personally tailored, in-water instruction. Think of it as a Personal Trainer, but in the pool. While swimming lessons, or swimming tuition as they call it, is perceived to be best suited to children, there is such an opportunity for adults to learn or get better. Did you know that 1 in 5 adults in England can’t swim?!
I had the chance to do an introductory lesson with Mark at the Highbury Fitness First. After chatting about my swimming goals, we started with some basic lengths so Mark could asses my technique. He said I looked pretty good, with good body position and high elbows. Yay! He was also impressed that I could breathe on both sides. Watching all those YouTube videos paid off! However, he also said my kick had no rhythm and my elbow dropped too soon as I punched forward, largely ineffective for propulsion.
We went through a variety of technique-focused drills, spending a large portion of the class on breathing. I explained that I try to breathe the same way I breathe while running: slow, steady inhalations and exhalations. Sadly, this technique doesn’t transfer well to the pool. He explained that I should “challenge my intention.” Rather than focus on breathing, I should instead focus on propulsion and position.
We also practiced some kicks off the wall, trying out a new hand position for better propulsion, as well as some kicking techniques in an effort to get my rhythm more symmetrical.
Finally, and this was obviously the best part, we practiced the mermaid. While I think this was because Mark wanted to watch me make a total fool of myself, there was method to his madness. Because I always swim the same stroke, the same way every time I swim, the mermaid technique was a way to mix things up and try a new experience. I laughed a lot. I also got a lot of water up my nose.
Overall, this was such a great lesson. It was engaging, fun, informative and most importantly, inspiring. I feel motivated and energised to get back in the pool. Dare I say, I may even sign up for another triathlon.