After our 2nd class, Shane sent us some great videos and I practiced them in front of my computer at home. I also went to the pool to work on practicing in the water. I felt pretty comfortable with the land drills, and pretty ill at ease in the water. After two weeks of class, I was pretty excited to get back into the water for class #3.
As we stood there practicing our front quadrant walk, Shane helped alter my arm position and I remembered that he majored in Modern Dance in college. My daughter is a dancer, and she’s very coordinated. I needed Shane’s video to help me remember which arm lined up with which leg for the entire time I practiced the front quadrant walk. As such, it wasn’t much of a surprise that he needed to refine my arm positions!
Shane reminded us that his email promised to share the process of myelination. He went on to say that myelin is the fatty sheathing that covers nerves. Laying down more myelin on nerve paths will begin in about 2 weeks of consistent practice. I read more about the process and found a nice explanation. Everything I read talked about adolescence and the importance of laying down this myelin early in our lives. Shane didn’t talk about needing to lay down myelin decades ago, or tell us it was a loss if we didn’t yet know how to swim. Shane focuses on the here and now. A quick read of his bio will inspire anyone of any age to start something new. And if I can lay some more myelin in 2 weeks – well that’s fabulous news!
Painters, not farmers
We hopped into the lap pool, going from end to end practicing our newly learned stroke. Swim wide with gorilla arms, lead from the shoulder, and make sure to slide your arm into a sleeve with entry. Shane told us it was a layering exercise. We were going to start small and add steps until the house of cards fell apart. And it would.
Midway through the layering, I felt like I lost all forward momentum. On one of our last trips across the pool, Shane pointed out that my arms were literally plowing the water. I was leading with my hands instead of my shoulders, and my arm was acting like a brake. He smiled and said “remember painters, not farmers.” We did a couple more laps, and I watched as most of my classmates seemed to understand this principle. At this point in the class, I was freezing and struggling to keep a positive approach. But, I knew the warm pool was coming and I’d get to warm up in a few minutes!
Aah, the 89-degree warm pool! Shane began this portion with a great story about elite triathletes that he’d coached. He’d put them in an endless pool with a swift current and they’d swim really hard for 5 minutes. They’d stop and he would ask them how that felt. “Great!” they’d reply. Then it was Shane’s turn to use the endless pool. With no change in current setting, he’d hop in and in his very Zen way he’d swim. He was graceful and calm. He’d hop out and it was a revelation to these athletes that he was swimming as fast as them. “No!” they’d say and he would respond, “I didn’t change the current. It wasn’t pushing me backwards.” Hmmm.
Our class practiced putting our hand deliberately into a “sleeve” while stationary. Then, we added that to our stroke and circle swam around a woman exercising in the center of the warm pool. It was GREAT! We were slow and stealthy and it was mesmerizing. I, however, was still plowing. I mentioned that to Shane. He replied, “If you’ve always approached swimming with apprehension, it will take awhile to unlearn those habits and feelings. You will need to retrain your brain.” He went on to share with all of us that swimming was similar to sculpting from a large block of wood. We were unlearning all the bad habits we’d formed in our lives and what was left was our sculpture, our pure swimming.
Tense muscles sink
“If your muscles are tense, they vibrate. Your body will seek out the pockets in the water and fall into them. It sounds crazy but it is true,” says Shane. We have just learned the proper time to breathe along with how to roll our head to get air. I rolled my head but got water and asked why. My muscles are tense. I am nervous in the water. Always worried about drowning, I’m sure I’m the person who literally lifts my entire head from the water to breathe. Then, my back end sinks and the rest is history. I realize that I need to remove pressure from myself – I shouldn’t think that I’ll be a solid swimmer in 8 weeks. Just try to soak in what I can, practice and begin chipping away at the large block of wood to slowly reveal that sculpture.
And the next day …
Wednesdays are my crazy exercise morning. I begin with a 6 a.m. BodyPump class, followed by an hour long trail run and then an 8:30 a.m. spin class. Today, I added swim practice to the morning. It was time to begin adding myelin! In the warm pool, I worked on our drills and began my stealth swimming practice. The best moment was when another classmate arrived. She stood on the pool deck and stopped me saying, “I knew you had to be someone from our class by the way you were swimming!” And for me, this was what I needed to hear. Someone in my class could recognize that I was practicing what Shane was teaching us. My heart sang a little and I went back to my swim practice, trying to paint instead of plow.