We’re Not in Kansas Anymore
A year ago, I was in the pool when Shane was teaching a Total Immersion group. I looked at them and thought, “I could never swim that much” and “I would be so embarrassed to mess up in front of other people.”
Tonight after our dry land warm-up, Shane asked us to start with a 4-6 lap relaxed warm-up. The 10 of us took two lanes and off we went. After we went through the warm-up, he asked us to swim using a Pause Drill. We would pause at the poise point. This drill encourages many things;
- Patient Lead Arm – both degree of patience, and accuracy of placement
- Optimal Poise Point – shoulder/scapular articulation and elbow flex
- Long aligned spine
- Calm legs
- Optimal timing of all elements that constitute your weight shift
After we did several 50s he asked us to return to regular swimming without pausing.
Sometime during this swim cycle, a 3rd lane opened up, so my lane dropped to 4 swimmers. There was not much rest time, so not too much time to get cold or to think. I tried to stay focused on doing what Shane asked me to do and was a little more (well actually a lot more) successful with this than last week. I still spent too much time thinking about how slow I am and wondering why I am not getting more streamlined, but for much of the time I was able to shelve these thoughts, especially during the pause drill.
As Shane had us swim 50s and later 100s, there wasn’t much pause time. We were swimming a lot! I suddenly realized WE are that group I saw last year. The group that is swimming, swimming, swimming. I was not cold. I was not counting the minutes, and while my head is still getting in my way with negative talk, I am doing all that he asks me to do.
After this first part, we swam 2×50 with NO KICKING. We were supposed to keep our legs together and just use our arms. This meant that we had to stay in balance because our legs couldn’t help us compensate. I did well with this drill. In the natural swimming portion right before this I started to get back into my head wondering why I was so slow, and when I started this drill I was worried I’d sink. However, I found the challenge of no legs fun. Shane told me my legs looked better positioned relative to the water with this than when I was kicking.
After our no kick swimming, we moved to a dolphin kick followed by 2 beat kicking and back to dolphin etc. This was to help us work on minimal hip/knee flexion. When we finished our two 50s of this, Shane told me I was still firing only with my right leg. I so want to use that left leg, but it isn’t happening unless I put the fin on the “leg of opportunity” as Shane likes to say. He asked us how we felt and pointed out those of us who were seeing improvement in kicking. After this, we decided to mix up our order in our lane so that we could see different kicks as we swam.
Now it was time to put our tempo trainers to work. We picked a tempo and swam 50 with an easy kick, followed by a 50 with a medium kick and concluding with a strong kick all at that tempo. We counted our strokes with the different style kicks. I liked this. It was fun to compare BUT I did really struggle to define for myself what an easy, medium and hard kick felt like. I knew I was only using my right leg for kicking, so I had to decide whether to try again to use the left leg or continue to kick as I have been and do what Shane was asking. I chose to try the drill vs continuing to stress over which foot I was using.
When we first started counting strokes, I could barely swim and count. Now, it feels calming. In my counting I learned that the 50 using a medium kick gave me the lowest stroke count. The strong kick made me feel so tired in just a 50 that it felt unsustainable. The stroke count was only one up from the medium, but I don’t think I could have comfortably finished 100 this way.
And the Final Swim
Our final swim was … interesting. We still had 3 lanes available to use for circle swimming for the 10 of us, and Shane decided to group us by speed. He noticed that 4 of the 10 of us are a little faster and they gathered in one lane. Thankfully he’s a master teacher and he didn’t subdivide the remaining 6 “not as fast people”. I remained in my lane with 2 of the women I’d been with and one of them hopped into the middle lane. Again, we chose a tempo and swam at this tempo working on a sustained breathing pattern and a calm hidden kick.
At the start of this I had a flashback to my my swim in the lake with Jenny this summer. A week before the CLT we decided it was time to get into the lake for the first time of the season. In the one minute 15 seconds that we were in the water (before I had a panic attack) Jenny had seemingly swam a mile while I was mere feet from the shore. Of course I exaggerate, but as we started our final swim of the evening, I imagined the 10 of us lining up on shore and me losing the bubbles from their kicking in less than a minute. I quickly let that negative thought leave my head and started to swim. I got into a groove, relaxed and mostly enjoyed the 10 minutes. .
Shane noted in our weekly summary that most of us maintained longer legs which translated to a longer body line. I don’t know if I was in the “most” category, but I felt ok about my final swim. I finished it, my goggles didn’t leak and I felt hopeful. The pursuit of mastery will be a long road, but it is a road worth traveling.