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Travails of a Non-Swimmer

Trying Out Mindful Practice

Man drilling

I had a good time at the pool tonight. I was able to hit the water at 19:45 and left at 10:15, so that’s 2.5 hours of practice.

The Single Arm Drill

As I wanted to fix the bad habit of pushing down on my lead arm, I did the single arm drill for more than an hour. At first I couldn’t find the rhythm and would end up standing after a few strokes, but after a while it become a lot better. I did both the left and right sides, again and again.

“All right, I got this keeping-the-lead-arm-relaxed-in-front-while-breathing thing. Now let’s do whole stroke.”

Eeep. Despite my “success” with the single arm drill I still fall into the bad habit of dropping my lead arm. Ugh! I decided to alternate between single arm drilling and full stroke, just to emphasize the need to relax the lead arm.

After a while, in my final whole stroke before needing to get out of the pool, I think I did a lot better with having a relaxed lead arm to support me on the breathing stroke.

But the thing is that I had to be incredibly mindful. As in concentrate. If I simply plowed along without thinking, the lead arm would drop. Keeping it relaxed out front took a lot of mindful effort on holding one thought.

One thing I did fully realize is that I could do my breathing stroke without dropping the lead arm.

What To Say To Myself?

When stroking I would count in my mind: “Catch, catch, roll; catch, catch, roll…”

I tried a different count: “Catch, catch, stretch; catch, catch, stretch…”

Wherein “stretch” meant I had to hold out my lead arm while doing the body roll to breathe. Since I am now able to do body rotation to breathe during whole stroke I don’t think I’d need to remind myself to “roll” but more to “stretch” out my lead arm.

But I like the word, “roll.” It’s such a great reminder to rotate your core in order to breathe. Maybe I could try “stretch roll” next time. Kinda too long, but worth a try 🙂

Aside from the dropping lead arm problem, one thing I noticed is that I am still clenching my shoulder muscle group a lot. I could feel how I am plowing myself through the water with the power of my upper arms. I think I’m rotating enough with each stroke but then later I unwittingly let my abs and glutes get flabby (ruining head-spine alignment) so I end up relying on my arms to pull me through the water.

I need to find a way to constantly remind myself to keep a torpedo shape and work my abs while in the water.

The Next Step

In the Unco drill progression that I talked about previously the next step would be the single arm drill but rotating to breathe on the stroking side while keeping the lead arm molded to the side.

Since I couldn’t use flippers in the gym pool I tried to substitute with a pull buoy, but like before I’m still unable to use it properly. The sensation of having your butt and legs so high up in the water is as uncomfortable as having your arms high up in the water when grasping a kickboard. I need to get used to the pull buoy somehow. Otherwise I’d never be able to do the Unco drill.

Gear-less Breathing Skill Drills

In the meantime, I need to review and incorporate the breathing drills in Lesson 3 of Total Immersion Swimming: Perpetual Motion Freestyle in Ten Lessons DVD during practice.

Key Breathing Skills

  1. Use spinal stabilizers to maintain a low-drag, aligned position during rotation;
  2. Extend the lead arm (and lengthen your vessel) as you rotate to air;
  3. Rotate to air with a weight shift not head turn.

It’s hard to drill when you have to share the lane all the time. But I think I figured out how I could get around this. Instead of the regular practice lane (which is two-way), I could use the one-way practice lane. While this would give me the entire lane to myself during my turn, I’d have to get out of the lane at the end and use the walking lane to go back to the start of the one-way lane. But still, better than the two-way lane wherein you’d have to be constantly aware of not colliding with the people going in front, behind or the opposite way of you.

Relaxing in Between

I just wanted to add that in between the single arm drills and whole stroke, I would relax by doing a lap with the backstroke. I love the backstroke! One day I hope to go to some tropical island paradise and backstroke my way up and down a big pool while looking up at the stars 🙂

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