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Travails of a Non-Swimmer

The 25-meter Surprise

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I’d been practicing the crawl at the gym pool at night, and for the 25m pool I find myself out of breathe about twice, meaning I have to stand or roll over once or twice before finishing the entire length.

But today, during my group swimming class, I did something that surprised me, my classmates and especially my instructor.

That No-Longer Elusive 25-meter Goal

Surprised womanAfter the others (four of them) did their crawl across the pool and were waiting at the other end for me to finish, the instructor came close by preparing to tow me, like she did last week. I told her I wanted to try to swim across on my own.

I did crawl across a 25m pool, non-stop.

My classmates were going “Oh my, you could swim already!” The instructor was very surprised. “You can breathe now?!? We’ll need to correct your form, but you are breathing fine…”

I kinda surprised myself as well.

For someone who considers herself to be a loner at heart, I feel that I’m not the kind who is susceptible to social facilitation. I could hardly care what others think of my swimming. At least, that’s what I’ve always thought. But today, like yesterday with the gym trainer, I found that I could push myself harder when there are 10 pairs of eyes watching (and judging) me.

Doing It Again

That night, at the gym’s pool with my husband, I told him I was able to do a 25m non-stop. Since the 25m pool was crowded we were preparing to practice at the 18m pool. He challenged me to swim across.

I did. No sweat. My husband was so surprised! :D

The 18m isn’t that hard to swim across. I guess it has something to do with the goal being nearer, so it’s easier to push oneself farther.

The Caveat

But I have one huge problem. Two, actually. Two very, very bad habits.

I’m still pushing down with my lead arm during the breathing stroke. My posture on land is terrible, and even worse in the water.

These horrible habits make me tire easily. I could muster to crawl a 50m, but I’d be so tired I couldn’t go on any further.

At night, after doing the rounds with the gym machines, I went to the pool and did some drills. The pushing-down-with-the-lead-arm problem could be solved by mastering the Skate-Breathe-Skate drill in Lesson 3 of the Total Immersion Swimming: Perpetual Motion Freestyle in Ten Lessons DVD. This drill reinforces the habit of using body rotation to roll to breathe while keeping the lead arm relaxed. I will be the first to admit that I did not do this drill enough. After I was able to roll to Sweet Spot to breathe (with both arms molded to the thighs) I just kind of zipped through the Skate-Breathe-Skate and went on to whole stroke.

Drills That Work

I need to be more patient with the drills. They work. I could tell they do, I have evidence, in fact.

During today’s class my kickboard-loving instructor made us do a new drill. We were to put one arm on the kickboard, and then in a breathing position kick across the pool. That means you’d have to be resting your face in the water (looking to your side) while the recovery arm is resting on your hips.

I was the only one among the five of us students who could keep the form.

I know why. It’s because Total Immersion Swimming has a similar drill (sans kickboard). So I didn’t find the resting-side-of-face-on-the-water strange at all. A common beginner problem is to raise the head while coming up for air, and it seems that those who have the habit of doing this struggle with the drill.

As for my poor posture…It’s been a problem for ages, on land and now in water. I don’t think there’s an easy fix for that. I need to drill more, keeping head-spine alignment and working my abs and glutes.

Mindful Swimming

I need to buy me that waterproof iTunes kinda thing that you can clip on to your swim cap. I’d like it not to play music but to give me constant reminders like: “Shoulders straight! Back straight! Abs clenched! Glutes lightly clenched! Head-spine alignment! Arms relaxed! Legs relaxed! Toes pointed!” :)

Terry Laughlin has talked about mindful practice, and reminds learners with the DVD to be consciously aware of what they are doing.

I’m fully conscious that I’m not swimming well, that is why I tire so easily. I know what I need to work on. Now all I need to do is to do it.

Easier said than done! But before getting discouraged, I need to remind myself that a month ago I could not swim at all. Now I’m actually swimming :)

Time with the Machines and Pool

  • Chest Press 4.5kg, 20x
  • Sit-up 20x
  • Leg Press 22.5+4.5kg, 20x
  • Torso Rotation 14kg, 40x
  • Lat Pulldown 11.5kg, 10x
  • Hip Flexer 5x
  • Abdominal 40x
  • Back Extension 10x
  • Running 30min = 3km at 5.5-7.5km/h, slope 2.0%
  • Pool – 60min of breathing drills
  • Diet Trainer Didn’t do this.

My homework:

Notes to Self: Do

  • Keep a good posture on land. Walk tall, straight, proud. Make a huge effort to stop slouching.
  • Breathe rhythmically while working on the gym machines. Keep mindful breathing until it becomes a habit.
  • Look behind you and not anywhere else when rotating to breathe.

Notes to Self: Don’t

  • Push. Down. With. The. Lead. Arm. Do the Skate-Breathe-Skate drill until it becomes second nature.
  • Stick out your stomach in the water, at any time, with the crawl and backstroke. You are supposed to clench your abs, not the other way around.
  • Be lazy with the drills. All athletes drill like crazy. Don’t think you can become even an average swimmer if you run away from the drilling.


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  • slf

    25m nonstop, yahoo!
    Go forth and drill!
    I’m actually running tonight because a friend asked me if I wanted to. I’m sure I won’t be able to keep up after not running for more than a month but I hope this will be the beginning of my weekly runs once again.

    • beverlyclaire

      Thanks! Today was rest day so no pool but tomorrow I’m all dying to drill :)

      Were you able to run tonight? I hope so! Were you so busy that you couldn’t run at all for a month? I do hope you can find the time to exercise. I don’t want you to become obese like me…

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