Wednesday, February 3, 2010

What is in my Head in the Pool?

What is in my Head in the Pool?

Yesterday I was asked by one of my swimming coaches (Alisa), to put together two lists; the first detailing what I am thinking about when I am swimming and the second referencing what Instructions I have been given over the past 18 months and from whom. I decided that this would make a decent Blog entry so here it goes.

During my last 1on1 swim lesson on Friday Jan 21st with Alan at UofT, he discovered that I was almost completely oblivious to everything else while I was swimming. I was in fact swimming with my eyes closed every time I took a breath. I know it sounds crazy because my eyes are protected from the water by the goggles that I wear when I swim. After finishing my set and receiving the feedback from Alan, I then made the adjustment and opened my eyes and quickly realized how much more relaxed I felt when I kept my eyes open. Last summer I figured out that I was holding my breath in a gasping type breathing pattern and now with help from Alan I realized that I was swimming with eyes shut. I can only guess at what other energy wasting habits I need to overcome.

After the eyes shut discovery, Coaches Alan and Alisa (who coached the UofT tri club along with James) discussed my swim progress or recent lack thereof. The coaches started wondering how I had formed the habit of closing my eyes when taking a breath. They formed a hypothesis that while I was trying to overcome my fear of the water last year I had performed numerous drills with eyes closed or vision obstructed, and that I must have retained the habit. Alisa then began to wonder what else I may be hanging onto from earlier lessons that I am miss-applying.

Alisa and Alan in particular have been inspirational with for me, offering all kinds of encouragements aimed at helping improve in the pool. My progression has stalled which I can easily determine by looking at some of the other people in the UofT tri club who have moved up to the next level, specifically Henning; a talented athlete and grad student from Germany in his mid 20’s. Henning and I started at basically the same level last September when we joined the tri club; that is to say ground level. I may have been a bit faster after the first few months, but was hampered by panic attacks during timed longer swims. Henning also clearly had more flexibility which has helped him improve steadily. Alisa has spent many hours working with the two of us as she must have seen potential, an eagerness to learn most importantly a positive attitude.

Henning is now swimming in the fastest swim lane while I am not yet ready for the move; I am left questioning why. What has Henning done that I have not? What are the differences between us that have enabled him to progress more quickly than me? I am not looking for excuses but for keys that will help me to make the transition to the next level. Instead of answering these questions now, I am going to focus on the assignment at hand which may lead me to the same place

1. What lessons have I learned and by whom (The names represent which coaches stand out in my mind when I am thinking about the instruction not necessarily who delivered the message)
• I need to work on my flexibility + exercises that would help me (Alisa, Alan, James, Josh)
• Keep my eyes open when I breathe (Alan)
• Don’t Breathe right before the flip turn or right after (Alan)
• Go into the turn hard it makes it easier to spin (Alan)
• Position your arms while turning/spinning so that you are ready for streamline when pushing off (Alisa)
• Don’t torque my shoulder back when recovering, lead from the elbow (Alisa)
• When recovering try to keep my wrist loose (James)
• Breathe out as soon as your head is under water and do so continually & consistently (Swim Smooth)
• Follow through and finish your stroke (Alan)
• Follow through and finish your stroke otherwise I end up looking like Evan (Alisa & myself)
• Imagine yourself climbing / pulling yourself up, you have the most strength when pushing not pulling – follow through! (Michael Keen)
• Keep feet floppy when doing the kick drill to avoid feet cramps (Josh)
• Make slightly bigger stronger kicks (Josh)
• Keep butt clenched slightly to avoid leg drag (Alisa)
• Make sure that your are streamlined, feet are up near the surface (James)
• Count your strokes I should be close to 36; in reality I am closer to 46 (Michael Hay)
• Only one eye should be visible when breathing, don’t flip over (Alan)
• Don’t swim flat (James - Alisa)
• Over rotate to make up for lack of flexibility and avoid swimming flat (Josh)
• Keep your front arm straight / streamlined while the other is recovering especially true when breathing – flexibility constraint. (Alan)
• Streamlined when pushing off from the end (James)
• Keep your elbow high when recovering (James)
• Push hard to the finish (Alan)
• Finish each set strong all the way up to touching the wall (Alan)
• Go all out (Alisa)
• When you are done stop (Alisa)
• You need to be able to swim lazy (Alisa)
• You need to develop a feel for the water (Alisa)
• You need more time in the pool (Alisa & Alan)

What is in my Head when I am in the Pool?

• Dolphin Kick when I push off from the end, as soon as my legs split my streamline is ruined
• Feel the water and stay relaxed
• Steady breathing pattern and start counting strokes. I should be under 20 by mid way (50m pool). My stoke count is too high maybe I am not following through enough, but I feel like I am slowing down when I lengthen my stroke. No worries I am just warming up so try and lengthen your stroke – worry about speed later.
• Look around and make sure that you keep your eyes open when you breathe, notice how much more relaxed your neck is when you look around.
• Is there any power at all in my kick?
• Make sure that my feet are close to the surface and that I am kicking from the hips
• Is my elbow high enough?
• Make sure to lead with my elbow, no strain in the shoulder.
• Feel the water on my finger tips right before I begin to pull through
• What are these other guys doing that makes them go faster?
• Follow through with strength
• Think about being streamlined
• Steady breathing
• Look at how the light sparkles through the water onto the bottom of the pool…relax
• Keep your eyes open
• Relax your shoulders
• Don’t swing your arms like a round-house punch, keep elbows high
• If I cant figure out how to kick more efficiently I will never speed up
• If I cant figure out how to swim better with a pull buoy how will I ever get faster
• This is a huge effort, I should be able to do this without completely exhausting myself
• Finish up the drill no matter what. Eventually it wall all come together
• At least I am not afraid of the water; no more panic attacks

That’s about all I can think of for now. I’ll await some head shrinking / feedback from Alisa and then start looking at what Henning has done that I have not.

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