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Travails of a Non-Swimmer

Backstroke Basics

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Backstroke is easier to learn than freestyle because it’s simply easier to breathe with the former. Even when there is water going over the face there isn’t the need for as much (very) complicated coordination that freestyle breathing requires.

At least that’s what I think. I’ve read in forums how some people dislike the backstroke and find freestyle easier to do. My husband is one of them. I guess it’s different strokes for different folks.

Tonight after hitting the gym I made a beeline for the pool and did the Skating and body rotation drills in the Total Immersion Swimming: Perpetual Motion Freestyle in Ten Lessons DVD. It’s not fun drinking water through the nose, though I am more confident now in rotating to air by flipping on my back (at an angle in the Skate position).

By 22:00 there was no one else to share the practice lane with so I did some backstroke, going back and forth in the 25m pool doing two drills (Active Balance and Rotate with Recovery) from the Backstroke For Every Body By Total Immersion Swimming DVD. The DVD’s a real help because it tells you exactly what you need to be aware of while drilling. I then did the Finish-Up Switch drill and was able to backstroke very slowly for two laps (100m). Progress!

It’s the exact opposite with my terrible group swimming class. I have zero improvement here. The instructor, a woman in her 50’s, still teaches the traditional method of learning freestyle: staying as flat on your back as possible at all times (it seems she hasn’t heard of the concept of body rotation), drilling again and again with the kickboard, and kicking as hard and as fast as you can for balance and propulsion. It’s so awful! I hated the class today: it’s always more of the same (sh*t that doesn’t work). I can’t wait for the day my enrollment expires. End of March seems so, so far away. Sigh.

The only thing I look forward to with group swimming class is the wonderful 60-year old lady I made friends with. We practiced for 30min after the class. She’s really sweet. Athletic and fit, she easily gets this swimming thing and tries her best to explain to me what she’s doing to make it work (yep, unlike me, she can do freestyle breathing).

Still, after my progress with the Total Immersion backstroke drills, I’m really looking forward to the next session with my new swimming instructor. He seems to be more aware of new methods of learning/teaching. I had to move last week’s session due to my period so it’s going to be a “been a while” class.

Time with the Machines and Pool

  • Chest Press 4.5kg, 20x
  • Sit-up 20x
  • Torso Rotation 14kg, 40x
  • Lat Pulldown 11.5kg, 10x
  • Hip Flexer 5x
  • Abdominal 40x
  • Running 30min = 3km at 5.5-7km/h, slope 2.0%
  • Diet Trainer 5min @ 25
  • Pool – 60min of crawl and backstroke drills
  • Leg Press I forgot to do this!

Tomorrow night is gym and pool time as well. Looking forward to drilling on my own :) Screw the kickboard! (Feb. 13: Oops, Wednesday is rest day! Forgot…)

Notes to Self: Do

  • Keep your head-spine alignment when going back to stroking after breathing in the Skate position.
  • Clench your abs and glutes at all times. The floppy, bendy core is what ruins your form and makes you sink.
  • Keep your shoulders straight. No slouching in the water!
  • Point your toes when kicking. Don’t bend them toward your knees.

Notes to Self: Don’t

  • Raise your head to breath. Don’t practice desperation. Always keep the top of your head facing front. Better to take (a lot of) time learning to rotate correctly instead of imprinting the bad habit of raising your head high up for air. It’s freestyle, not breaststroke!
  • Raise your chin to the ceiling when floating on your back. Again, remember to keep proper head-spine alignment.


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  • slf

    What about using a nose clip?

    • beverlyclaire

      Nope, gotta breathe out (exhale) through the nose and breathe in (inhale) through the mouth during freestyle. Water gets into the nose when rotating because (1) I’m not breathing out strong enough to keep it out; (2) I tilt my chin too far back, breaking head-spine alignment and encouraging water to rush in. Using a nose clip encourages bad habits, I believe, like relying on a kickboard to keep oneself afloat.