Our class met over spring break. It was a freezing cold week in Ithaca, NY and I was rather happy that Shane still held class. During break, there were no kid activities on the calendar so no busses, help from others, or rushing around required! For this simple reason, I arrived at class much less frazzled. Because of the break, many in our class were on vacation, so there were 6 of us. This meant 3 per lane, and a more casual feel to the class.
A Small Tweak
Over the week, during my practice I was again stalled out at 23 strokes for length. This was upsetting and confusing, and nothing I did in my own practice changed this number. Shane asked us to swim 150 lazily, and midway into this he told me to focus on not driving my hand so deep. Another classmate in my lane needed to work to drive deeper. I made this correction and sure enough I was back to 18 strokes. Again, the power of a coach! I was so happy he noticed this EARLY in the class, as it helped me imprint this proper technique for the entire class.
Shane has been telling us we’re going to learn to control our stroke count and speed and talking about “gears” for a few classes now. Tonight was the night to give it a try. He asked us to swim three 50s. First, we had established a baseline SPL (strokes per length). Mine was 18.
He shared the two ways to go faster; increase stroke length and # strokes per length or increase tempo. To increase our tempo, you just need to make your weight shifts happen more quickly, thus gaining time, BUT you have to work to keep your efficiency stable. To increase the stroke length you can increase the amount of time gliding, improve your balance or play with the pressure applied to the water. These are all really neat nuances, but since I keep falling out of balance on a weekly basis, I wasn’t so sure how I’d do with the gear thing.
Pretty soon we were swimming. For our first 50 we would swim at our baseline SPL. I was really jazzed that I managed to hit 18 both down and back! Then, we were asked to add one stroke per length. This felt pretty easy too. I nailed it. Then, for our last 50 we added one more stroke. Success again! I hit 20 SPL with ease. He asked us our strategy. Mine “I got tired.” It was true. I was rather winded by the end of the drill.
Then he asked us to reverse it! Three 50s starting at our highest SPL and dropping one stroke each time. I was sad to say that while I was able to start at 20, I held constant at 20. I think that my very last length may have been 19, but it wasn’t successful. I was tired and also felt more pressure for this.
We closed class with a sustained 300 followed by a 200 and then a 100. The class had done this before on the evening that I left early with goggle troubles. The pool was empty by the end of class, so we were able to spread out to two people per lane. I shared a lane with my friend Anne (she gave me my marvelous goggles) and we were off. I set my tempo trainer at 1.36. After my first length I choked on water and had to stop to catch my breath at the end, but pretty soon I was back in the swim. After the 300, Shane asked that we speed up our tempo by .04. I dropped my trainer to 1.32 and headed out again. When I finished my 200 and started to set my next one .04 faster, I realized that everyone else was done with everything. A couple people had lost count, and I hope I wasn’t really 100 behind everyone BUT there are some pretty fast swimmers in my class, so it is quite feasible.
Overall I felt really positive about this. I enjoyed the sustained swim, and felt successful. Shane would like me to work to get my tempos much faster, to 1.20, so I plan to work on that this week in practice sessions.
This was an excellent class for me. Shane’s small tweak to my form helped me for the entire class. The small group made it easier for me to feel part of the class and answer Shane’s questions when he asked about how a drill went. And, the goggles worked really well (after the first length. I hadn’t gotten them wet and they didn’t stick to my eyes for the first 50). One thing that I noticed is that with my stroke improves when I’m swimming right next to a very strong swimmer. I lined up with a woman in the next lane every so often and while she is much faster than I am so she zoomed right by me, I could feel my core snap improve and my gliding improve as she swam near me. I was able to see her in my peripheral vision very well. The few times that I swam near her were the same times that Shane noted positive improvements in my stroke. It ties into Shane’s suggestion to watch good swimming on video. There is something in you brain that makes it feel to your body like YOU are doing that.