Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Swimmin' With The Fishies

I think I'm going to like my new routine of going to the gym before work on Tuesdays and Thursdays. So far the pool has never been so sparsely populated that I could have my own lane, but the folks I've shared with have all been very good swimmers. In fact, I suspect that most of them are from the now-defunct 5:30 am Master's class, because they either bring their own drills in protective plastic covers, or they do the drills left on the board from the evening Master's class.

And why don't I go to Master's class myself, you ask? Well, I tried it for awhile, then went away and did some drills and went back again, but I could never even come close to keeping up with all those Michael Phelps wannabes and I was just in the way. Besides, it's probably not for the best that I spend my evenings hanging around with a handsome, built, Speedo-clad coach named Dirk.

'Nough said, I hope.

Interestingly, the best swim advice I've gotten since my lessons a few years ago came just last week from the fishie I was sharing a lane with. For starters, I knew this girl was good when I saw that she could backstroke and keep to her side of the lane. When she repeated the phenomenon breaststroking, I knew I was in the presence of a swim goddess, or at the very least a minor deity.

So I joined her lane and tried to just stay out of her way, which was a piece of cake, since she was so obviously experienced and although I'm slow, I don't tend to wander much-- I can keep my lane like an expert. I was taking a little breather at the end of the lane, when Fishie stopped and looked at me. "You're a runner, aren't you?"

Wow. Good call. "Is my form that bad?" I laughed.

"Oh, no," Fishie said. "Your form is great. But you're not getting much power from your stroke." She turned to face me sideways and ran a hand down her side, from shoulderblade to hip. "Are you pulling from here?"

I shook my head while a little light bulb turned on in my brain. We continued to chat for a few minutes and the way-too-extroverted-for-so-early-in-the-morning lifeguard strolled over and added his two cents, but Fishie's words had already struck pay dirt. When I hit the water again, instead of pulling with my arms, I focused on pulling with my lats, just like she had shown me.

A miracle! All of a sudden my roll happened naturally, I was gliding through the water on every stroke without having to think about it, and best of all my stroke count dropped like a rock! OMG! How could something so simple have eluded me in all those lessons, books and Master's sessions with *cough* Dirk?

Okay, so I'm not going to be giving the Thorpedo a run for his money any time soon, but huge improvements have been made with almost no effort whatsoever! I've got a long way to go before I can even consider joining the fishies for some training sets, but for the first time I see some potential here for me to be able to maybe tag along on a good day.

I think I'll skip Dirk's class, though.

Recent Workouts
Saturday: 15 mile run
Sunday: 2 hours bike-Spinervals 9.0 Have Mercy, 3 mile walk
Monday: 45 minute core and strength training, 5 mile run
Tuesday: 1000 meter swim, 1 mile run, 2 mile walk, 35 minute bike-Spinervals 1.0 No Slackers Allowed


Wil said...

Cool! I read this just in time because tomorrow I'm hitting the pool. My swim has been just depressing lately, so I can't wait to try this and see what happens! THANKS!

Okolo said...

You might check out Total Immersion at http://www.totalimmersion.net/.

You can get some hints from the free (short) videos they show online.

I was a swimmer in high school, but I've gained a lot from TI. It has made my stroke much smoother, and maybe even faster. Faster over long distances for sure.

Great workouts.

Okolo said...

Oh, the simplistic 5 second explanation of TI is that you keep your head in the water (totally immersed) and look down at the bottom of the pool.

This will help keep your hips and legs up, to prevent drag.

Your power comes from rotating as you mentioned in your post, then gliding, nice and smooth, arms and legs moving nice and slow.

At least, that's what I've gotten from it so far.

Pem said...

I do a masters swim class even though today we were doing every fourth 50 fast and I was doing 1:10 while the others were doing 39 or 40 seconds. A lot of the time the coach will tell the others to do sets say of 300 yards while I do 200 yards. It might not work if we were more than 2 to a lane, but as it is I feel like I am learning a tremendous amount. It does take a while--at first I thought I would never be able to breathe every three instead of every two but after three months suddenly I got it.