Main image for First Swim of 2017 Time to Read: ~6 min

We joined the Ithaca YMCA

We've been at our gym in Ithaca for many years, but some things recently changed leading us to reconsider our fitness location. It has been almost a month that we've been "gymless" and that has been pretty weird! There are SO many ways to get fitness without a gym that we haven't really been suffering in any way. However, we do miss our friends from our group fitness classes and we need a place to swim. Thanks to my sister Sarah's generous Christmas gift, we're using Les Mills on Demand for home group fitness, I've started taking cycling at Wright Fitness and Cycling, and one of my friends is opening FLX Fit Club in Ithaca later this month. These ladies are some of the best group fitness instructors I know, and I can't wait to take classes from them again! Still, the Ithaca YMCA has a place in our lives for racquetball, some group fitness classes and the POOL! If we are going to do triathlons we need to swim! I love that the Y is so friendly to families in their pricing that we can all join for a reasonable rate. We're already having a blast teaching the kids racquetball! We played in college so this is a great chance to make it a family sport. Ironically, the Watertown YMCA was the first gym I ever joined. It was a perk of my first job at 14; working the SACC program. I credit that job and that membership as a key reason I'm a fit person today. Kudos to the Y for supporting our youth.

Before we get to that first swim

I've taken a lot of swim classes from Total Immersion Master, Shane Eversfield. During my time in his classes I went from really not being able to swim at all to swimming very comfortably, breathing bilaterally, and considering swimming to be a FUN workout. Those three things are cause for celebration all on their own.

However, I am still a very slow swimmer. Shane is concerned that my shoulders lack full range of motion, and shoulder mobility is very important for swimming. He suggested I try physical therapy to improve my range of motion. Of course I obliged and went to several sessions this past fall. I have a lot of great exercises that I've integrated into my workouts and daily life. I feel like I am on the slow road to improving their mobility.

Scott has been going to acupuncture every other month and he suggested that I try that to see if it could help me. In January I went to see his acupuncturist and she said that she thought it would be very beneficial to do along with the PT exercises. I've been seeing her every 2-3 weeks for treatments and it is helping me a great deal. She explains that the acupuncture opens the muscles up, making them more receptive to the stretching and strengthening that the PT exercises provide.

Let's go to the Y!

We came home from ski training and I was in my cake kitchen baking. My kids came running in, "We have an idea! What if we go to the Y and play racquetball????" We had taken them a few days prior to join and taught them the game. "Hmm..I thought. I played with Scott yesterday and my right arm is still sore." I checked the pool schedule and then said to everyone, "What if I finish up my baking and we head up there? You three can play racquetball and I can swim for the first time this season." We only own 3 racquets anyway, so this was a perfect plan! We did take a fun time lapse video of one of your racquetball games yesterday that I'll add here. One thing that is super cool about playing this sport as a older person is that I am a little less connected to the score, and a little less focused on getting cardio in during the game. I play with more focus on the game itself and had a lot of fun!

Time to swim

But this post is about swimming. After checking in and getting my swim band,  I hopped into a lane and just started swimming. I purposely left my watch home, but couldn't help looking at the wall clock. I think it was 2:35 when I started. They had lap swim until 3 and then 2 lanes of Open Swim when lessons started. It had been awhile since I'd been in the pool. I decided to take a break in the fall when I started PT. I wanted to work on range of motion to hopefully stop reinforcing the swim stroke that I currently have. So, I wasn't fully sure how far I could swim this first time out.

The first length was pleasantly surprising. The Y pool is deeper and longer than the pool at our other gym. It is also warmer. The depth was nice because I never really felt any desire to stop and rest at either end. I couldn't touch in the deep end, and the shallow end is pretty deep as well. My breathing was good and I felt like I was moving pretty well. I could feel my muscles engaging more than in the past. Pretty soon I had completed a 400 (the Tri for the Y swim distance) and headed into the next 400. As I headed into that next 400 I remembered my very first Tri for the Y swim. Oh I've come SO far! I'll have to write about that someday.

Tim Ferriss - Total Immersion

My husband introduced me to Tim's podcast and I'm completely hooked on his material. So, much so that I had heard him advertise his book, Tools of Titans on a podcast episode this fall. I considered buying the book for Scott for Christmas but hadn't gotten around to doing it. We were in Barnes and Noble one evening buying presents for people and I saw the book. "We should buy this book. I heard him talk about it. I really think we should buy this book!" Scott was oddly cagey about it saying that we really didn't need it. He made a strong case for not buying it and I recall leaving the store mildly annoyed. Christmas morning the book was one of MY presents from him. We both smiled when I opened it up. He apologized for being a jerk and said he had just bought it and wrapped it the day before we were at the bookstore. Of course he didn't want to give that away at the store.

Anyway, the point is that Tim Ferriss has done Total Immersion. Of course he took to it in classical Tim Ferriss fashion, making it a 10 day 100% focused swim effort. You can read all about it. One thing in particular stuck out to me.

For those who have rock climbed or done bouldering, it’s just like moving your hip closer to a wall to get more extension. To test this: stand chest to a wall and reach as high as you can with your right arm. Then turn your right hip so it’s touching the wall and reach again with your right arm: you’ll gain 3-6″. Lengthen your vessel and you travel further on each stroke. It adds up fast. ~Tim Ferriss

In all the time that I'd worked on swimming, I just hadn't understood the shoulder/arm extension thing. I have a very mechanical, non stretchy stroke and despite Shane's excellent teaching I hadn't made the connection of how to lengthen the stroke. I have rock climbed and this analogy clicked in my head. "Oh. I'm supposed to stretch my back/arm/shoulder and lean into the stroke." I practiced against the wall like he described and the muscle memory from rock climbing kicked in.

1600: Not bad for the first time out

I didn't count strokes. I wasn't ready to be potentially sad because my stroke count was too high. I didn't really time things, though I think my 1600 was just shy of 45 minutes. That is NOT fast. It is quite typical for me actually; about a 2:50/200 pace. One of my former swim classmates is on Strava and she was one of the slower swimmers with me when we took the class. She has been super dedicated to her swimming and has gotten really fast, regularly post posting 1:50 hundreds for very LONG distances! When I told Scott my swim time he said something about that not being fast. I said, "Yup, I know. It is almost off the pace chart on tri training plans even." I know this because when I looked at the Master's Swim pace chart last year I noted that the SLOWEST 100 pace on the chart was 3 min/100. My goal is to improve down the pace charts, though I'm happy that my pace is at least ON THE CHART. Note: there are other charts out there that go past 3 min 100s.

Thoughts fluttering in my head while swimming

  • I LOVE that all these different age groups are co-existing. Kids are in lessons, babies are in the small pool, moms and dads and kids are swimming together and adults are lap swimming. The controlled chaos around me felt energizing.
  • I miss swimming with friends. Back when we took class together there was a small gap when Shane didn't offer a class. Anne, Deidra and I met during the regularly scheduled class time and worked on our strokes. We went through Shane's TI progression and Anne always reminded us of the "patient lead arm." I could just see her now saying, "patient lead arm" as I switched sides for each stroke.
  • I am so grateful to Shane and his nudges to move me forward with my swimming. I am so grateful to myself for continuing this journey.
  • And acupuncture and PT - wow! What a combo together. I was thinking about both my PT and my acupuncturist while doing those final lengths. When I got out of the pool, who was sitting on the bleachers, but my acupuncturist. Her kids were taking swim lessons. It was neat to see her right after my first swim.
  • And Tim Ferriss. Well, that image of leaning in for rock climbing stuck with me for the entire swim. I also noticed that it was so much easier to do on my right side. Shane has told me I'm crazy right dominated, and I know this from my wear pattern on running shoes as well. So much to work on!