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Travails of a Non-Swimmer

Going It Alone


Today I fired my new instructor.

Well, it wasn’t exactly as dramatic as that. I didn’t fire him. I simply decided not to sign up for another session. Thankfully, their system is not like my gym’s (wherein I stupidly signed up for a three-month, non-refundable group swimming course), so I was able to just stop.

Foam That Will Get You Fired

It happened in the middle of our third session. After doing some stroking drills he said “The next drill will use the kickboard…” and out came that blasted foam thing.

I hate the kickboard. I hate it with a passion. I rue the day I ever touched the thing.

So I refused to use it. He relented and resorted to towing me.

Listen, Mister Instructor. Using a kickboard during a one-on-one session completely negates the buddy (or in this case, professional swimming coach) system. Anyone can take out a kickboard and use it during self-practice. I did not pay you so that you can just watch me hang on to a kickboard.

Why I Hate the Kickboard

I know nothing about swimming but have figured out after ten sessions with my awful group swimming class that a kickboard is not just useless, it helps to imprint very bad habits.

First, the kickboard encourages the bad habit of pushing your lead arm (which is on top of the board) down into the water when stroking with your breathing arm. I can freakin’ breathe when one arm is on the damn kickboard. But since the kickboard is high up in the water I end up pushing it down with my lead arm. Take the kickboard away and I sink during the breathing stroke because I’ve imprinted the said bad habit.

Second, the kickboard is so high up on the very top of the water, so getting used to a hand position that high makes it more difficult to find balance when the board is not present. Without the board the lead arm and the stroking or recovery arm are nowhere near that high. Since my group sessions have so much kickboard drills I’m always thrown into confusion because the sensations with versus without are completely different and unrelated.

Third, since the kickboard allows you to float no matter how awful your head-spine alignment, it lets you get away with the bad habit of not constantly working your ab muscles and glutes because it does the floating/balancing work for you.

Fourth, the kickboard encourages you to achieve balance by kicking like crazy. And kicking at the knees instead of the hips. That’s why it’s called a kickboard. But then you should be able to balance yourself in the water first without kicking, otherwise you’ll end up relying on your kick not just for propulsion but also for balance. That’s a lot to ask especially from a complete beginner, who needs to concentrate on core balance, body rotation, head-spine alignment, stroking, streamlining and many other tasks before taking on kicking with a 2-beat, 6-beat or whatever flutter kick the instructor is partial to.

Not For Me

And so on and so fourth. But I did not explain all of the above to my instructor. It was a 30-minute session and I didn’t want to eat up the time telling him how I preferred to learn to swim (no flotation device whatsoever!). I just told him that using the kickboard hurts my back. Which is true, the bad form it encourages makes my back hurt.

I am sure the kickboard has its uses. And the reasons I hate it all boil down to me not using it properly.

But that’s not the point. I just don’t want to learn swimming using kickboards, buoys, fins, snorkels, float belts and other gear. These all have some good purpose, I’m sure, but not when you’re still finding your balance in and a feel for the water.

The Long Road Ahead

Anyway. So no more sessions at the city pool facility. The good thing is that the money I’ve allocated for that can now be put in my TI Japan Swim Salon piggy bank :)

I kinda feel sad, though, because I liked the instructor. It’s not mainly because he’s young and handsome with that to-die-for swimmer’s body. He’s a nice person. He means well. I just have a different idea of how I want to learn.

Perhaps someday, when I am able to teach myself freestyle, I can go back to the city swimming facility and show the instructor that yes, a middle-aged adult can learn to swim without the blasted kickboard.

Before any of that, however, I have to face the long, dark road of going it alone. TI style.

Postscript. On a brighter note, I put a half-hour practice on my backstroke. I’m getting the hang of it: I went across a 25m pool several times. But I need to work on a lot of stuff like speed and tempo and stroke-kick coordination. I’m learning backstroke by watching the Backstroke For Every Body By Total Immersion Swimming DVD. Hey, this self-teaching actually works.

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  • slf

    Don’t wanna try the other instructors and maybe explain to the next one how you want to learn so you can check if their teaching style meshes? But since it looks like you’ve already decided to DIY, go for it!

    • beverlyclaire

      Thanks! Yeah, I’ll go for it. I don’t think I’ll be trying out any other coach. I’m really happy with my progress from self-studying the backstroke so I think I can do it with the other strokes as well. Since I’m already sold out on the Total Immersion Swimming method I feel the only clinic that I’ll find satisfactory will be at the TI Swim Salon in Tokyo. But it’s expensive so have to save up for it (and convince hubby). Before going to one, though, I’d like to go as far as I can on my own. And then attend a clinic to fine tune and improve my swimming.

      As for the new (newly fired) instructor, I might use his help some other day, such as increasing speed or doing turns. But for the basics, I’ll go with the gear-free TI method.

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