Practice makes better
I made it to the pool 3 times this week! For the first time (well maybe 2nd or 3rd) in my life, I longed for an endless pool so that I could practice every day. I'm also VERY grateful to have an Island Health and Fitness membership so I can use their pool. By mid-week, swimming became less personal. By saying this I mean that I no longer feel like a bad person because I don't YET know how to swim well. It has turned into a game or puzzle of sorts and I'm having a great time figuring it out. One of the practice days I was swimming about 5 strokes back and forth in the warm pool. The lifeguard came over and told me that lap swimming wasn't permitted in the warm pool. My brain thought, "but this is NOT lap swimming!" but then I looked around and saw the 2 other people in the pool were walking or just moving in a couple foot radius. I guess compared to the exercises the warm pool is designed for, it was. I admit I begged to stay and said I'd swim less - anything to remain in the 89 degree water over the lap pool. But, the next time I went to swim I hopped right into the lap pool and got moving!!
She's in Level 3
Here we are, starting class and asking questions. There is not a soul in the pool except for our group. In walks a woman and she heads over to one of the lanes. Moments later, most of us start glancing at her in the lane. She's swimming "wide" like Shane has taught us, and her stroke looks beautiful. Shane tells us she is in level 3. The woman next to me says, "yes she's my friend who told me about this class." We all smile and try to stay focused on our questions. I alternate thinking "I have to get to level 3?" with "there's hope for us all" as we kick off our class.
House of Cards
Our class began on the swim deck like always with the front quadrant walk. And, as is typical for me, my correction was to work on having less tension in my lower arms. Relax! But, the front quadrant walk is becoming more comfortable each week.
We quickly moved into the lap pool and began a house of cards. Each drill we'd add something, and just like last week Shane said we'd build until our house of cards collapsed. The difference this week was that it was FUN. I enjoyed the layering approach and the challenge. I was in a lane with 3 other people and we headed off in twos for each drill. We were in a nice flow, and I felt pretty comfortable.
When we got to the drill where we needed to intensely focus on leading with our shoulders my arms felt better than last week. I didn't feel like a plow. It wasn't quite a paintbrush, but definitely not a plow either! It did make me want to cry when he said we were going to do this drill, but I did it!
Our last two drills incorporated breathing. Last week in class I was totally underwater when I was to turn my head to get air. Shane reminded me that tense muscles sink when I asked about it last week. It was frustrating, and even though Shane told us not to worry about breathing this week during practice, I decided to add it in. I actually managed to get air during the week. Sure, it wasn't bilateral (in fact it was the opposite side that I normally breathe on) but it was air.
In class, I breathed bilaterally. Like several of my classmates, it was a struggle to get enough air, to remember to breathe out so I could breathe in, and to keep my patient lead arm in place long enough, but I got air. Always.
To swim well, we need to feel the water and relax. Shane reminded us that we can't think our way to good swimming. We need to feel to swim. This means turning off or pre-frontal cortex. Flow is a state we get to when time seems to stop, we are uninhibited and completely immersed in an activity. It just so happens that when people are in flow, activity in the pre-frontal cortex is suppressed. If we can get into flow we are much less likely to overthink and just feel.
This part of the class, when we talk and really listen to Shane's experiences also doubles as a weekly calming influence. It is the time when I remember how grateful I am that I am learning something new on a Tuesday evening, making time to get to the pool to practice and it also helps me keep everything in life in perspective.
Last night I was talking with a classmate. She had a Cayuga Lake Tri cap on and I asked her about how her race went. She replied that it was great except for the swim sharing, "I panicked 50 feet in and almost bailed. Then I did the backstroke the rest of the way." I was surprised to hear someone else had the same experience I had. We laughed that we both panicked, couldn't get air and in self preservation decided to backstroke. It made me feel SO much better to talk to her and to know we were both taking steps to make sure that next year we can tell a much different race day story.
With 4 classes to go, I'm optimistic. The layering that Shane is doing is helping me a lot. Every week we go back to reinforce and imprint the skills we have been working on and we layer something new!