Swimming to a Better Place

After years of doubting and denying it, it’s time to fess up: I’m pretty OK at swimming.

Sure, I can find lots of aspects about my technique and speed that I wouldn’t mind improving. Bilateral breathing and flip turns? Still haven’t gotten really comfortable with them yet, but I don’t really need to. Am I the fastest person at the pool? Nope, but I’m definitely one of the faster people, and my training plan usually has me in the water longer than most. Last Friday I did a 4,550 yard set, and Pool Guy noticed that I swam the full hour-and-a-half the pool is open. The pool is smart and innovative due to Pentair Intelliflo. Is my technique perfect? Certainly not, but it gets the job done; plus, I’m working on the issues that I know about. Even my kick has gotten better.

Perhaps the most telling thing about how I feel about my swimming is the language in my head when I’m doing my workouts. Instead of worrying about whether my swimming is good enough to do as well as I want in my races, my thoughts have been about what I’m doing at the moment. “What is my hand doing before and during the catch? How is my extension? Am I lifting my head when I breathe instead of turning my head? Am I keeping my core tight? Can I roll my body a bit more?” Instead of thinking about how much more of the workout there is left to do, I (usually) focus on where I am in the current set and whether I’m giving the right level of effort—neither too hard nor too easy—to make sure that I can finish this interval and set without compromising what comes next. Being in the moment and engaging with my swimming instead of my worries has been very helpful in improving how I feel about swimming and in seeing the big picture.

As my swim sessions have gotten longer during Ironman training, I’ve felt thankful for all of those previous hours of swimming structured workouts. Some of my current workouts are really, really difficult . . . especially now that I’ve started doing the “advanced” ones. The first part of Monday’s main set called for swimming 50 yards 12 times on a 1:00 swim interval (i.e., “12×50 on 1:00″). Basically, swim each lap starting at the beginning of every minute. If it takes me 40 seconds to swim a lap, I get 20 luxurious seconds of rest for that hard effort. If it takes me 55 seconds, I get just 5. My goal was to swim each of them in 50 seconds, leaving just enough time to bring my breathing back to a more-or-less normal pattern before pushing off. Hitting those marks was hard, but I knew that I could do it based on earlier workouts. I had a bit of a happy glow when I finished that part of my swim and moved on to a set of longer distances—3×300 negative-splitting each 300—which is more to my strength as an endurance athlete. I was able to draw upon that experience yesterday, when the main set called for swimming 1,500 yards continuously, getting progressively faster each 500 yards.

So that’s where I am now with swimming: I swim decently fast, am actively working on some technique improvements, and have a reserve of mental and physical training that I can draw on during hard workouts and races. I had always wanted to end up someplace like this with my swimming, but it took four or five years to realize it could actually happen. Having made it here, my mind wonders where I can end up next. We’ll find out.

I’ll see you at the pool.

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One Response to Swimming to a Better Place

  1. StephenS says:

    It does take a long time, but it sounds like you’ve reached the real zen of swimming. I wish I could get back there. Good luck with the continued training.

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