Total Immersion Level 3 Week #1

Pursuit of Mastery

As I decided whether to continue and take level 3, I admit that signing up was as much about continuing to see my classmates weekly as it was about improving my swimming. One might argue that arranging a dinner out would be just as effective to hit the first goal, but alas it will not help the 2nd. As I entered this class, I was excited. Eager to continue. Disappointed by my practice session the prior week but not defeated; just disappointed that I have trouble keeping everything strong when I practice on my own.

Shane reminded us that there is no finish line in the pursuit of mastery, and I was grateful to be back.


We have a joke in my house that I am the salmon. I resist most any change in routine and insist on digging my heels in against even the smallest of changes. I’m working on it, but I still spend too much time swimming against the current of life.

I started class with a warm-up session in the sauna with 3 of my classmates. One woman had taken level 2 last year and was back for level 3, and the others were part of my group of Level 1 and 2. We wandered into the pool area and then we were 10; 7 from the fall/winter over the two nights of sessions and 3 people who had taken some time off and were back to continue the pursuit of mastery.

Session 2 had 4-6 of us in every class. There were two nights offered, each with 4-5 in the class, and we could go to what worked with our schedule. The classes mixed and mingled and we often had 2 lanes with 2-3 people in each lane. This was down from 10 people in each class of level 1 where we were 4-5 per lane. I spent much of session 1 freezing and whining about freezing. Oddly, in session 2, I decided that I had become a much warmer person. I wasn’t freezing and I didn’t whine. Tonight as we hopped into 2 lanes of 5 each, I realized I hadn’t changed; we were back at 5 per lane and I was freezing and either whining or thinking about it. I also noticed that the 3 people joining our class were better swimmers than most of us – well much better than I am. I was thrown off kilter by being cold again and having a big class again after getting used to a little class.

Time to Swim

Thankfully there wasn’t too much time to stay stuck in my head. Pretty soon we were swimming. We continued to work on our poise points and Shane further explained the delineation between the entry phase (toned and aligned forearm, wrist and hand) and the recovery phase with a relaxed almost dangling forearm. For the Recovery, the shoulder articulation is the most important factor and the initial source for Entry and Extension comes from the hip/torso. Shane reminded us that our goal was effortless power.

An interesting thing about being back in a large class was the opportunity to see different swimming styles and speeds. While I admit I wasn’t feeling that Zen; spending way too much time worrying about whether I was too slow for the person behind me, frustrated the the people in the lane next to me were moving effortlessly way faster than I was, and feeling cold, I was also learning. It happened that I often swam next to one of the women who had taken a break. We’d start together and then she’d zoom by, and in doing so I watched her core. She was really snapping. She had completely effortless power. I was not snapping. As Shane gave us tips to help make sure that the stroke wasn’t all focused on our arms, I realized again that my core wasn’t really fully part of this equation. Visually seeing it in the next lane was helpful; something that I could bring into my weekly practice.

Yin Yang

After we worked through all of our House of Cards focal points, we moved into the Yin Yang drill. During the last class of Session 2, my stroke count averaged 18. When I practiced during the week, I was back up to 23. I was a little nervous when we started the Yang part of this drill (working on minimal strokes per length) that I wouldn’t be anywhere near 18. I was pleasantly surprised to hit 18, and then shocked to hear another classmate had 12 SPL. Body length not withstanding that’s still amazing. We played with this a little; wide tracks, closed fists, open palms. I enjoyed all of the variations and found them useful. I wasn’t struggling and was able to focus on what he asked us to do until he had us do a 50 of the Yin (fast cadence). I still find myself out of breath and dragging badly on the last 10 or so. I love that he has us do this though because it used to be a real challenge to do a 25 with a fast cadence, so improvement is evident.

Goggle Trouble

My goggles leaked water all evening. This wasn’t especially awful as I had plenty of time to empty them and re-position when we stopped to check in, but I nearly lost my right contact on the last 50 because I didn’t stop to adjust. It was nearing 8:20 and I saw Shane getting the tempo trainers out and knew were were going to close class with a continuous swim. Generally speaking I’m not someone who would leave a class early for no overtly obvious reason. However, as I stood there freezing, thinking about Scott leaving for a business trip at 5:30 the next morning, and knowing that I would have to adjust my goggles after each 25 to avoid an eye catastrophe I decided I had to leave early. As a result, I missed the final set where I could have put all the practice into play. I am including what we were asked to do here so that I can go back and check. As I was leaving, I did hear Shane say that we were to keep our tempo trainers below 1.35. The fastest I’ve successfully set mine on is 136 SO I know that next week will be a challenge for sure!!

Tempo Trainer Set

  •  – 200 yards at “tempo x”
  •  – 100 yards at “tempo x – 0.05”
  •  – 50 yards at “tempo x – 0.10”

(For example: 1.30, 1.25, 1.20)

As we swim this final set, he asked that we work on a sustainable breathing pattern and maintain a 3 stroke per length range (ex 17-19 SPL). He reminded us that when we get to flip turns this breathing pattern will be very important; we won’t be able to catch our breath at the wall each time.

Final Thoughts

This will be good for me. Really. It is out of my comfort zone … again! I am going to have to work hard to stay Zen in Level 3. More people means more time to think and thinking while trying to just relax and work though the swim progression is not good (for me). This was the first time since level 1 that I did rather actively watch the clock. A combination of being cold, goggles leaking, and feeling like I was really not swimming well was a perfect storm for staring at a seemingly unmoving clock. I plan to demand an open attitude from myself for class 2 and I know that will be just a bit easier for this salmon now that I know exactly what to expect.

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