Swim lesson #2 in the books

I had swim lesson number two this morning.  It went better.  Kind of.

My friend Jamie, who is a strong swimmer and who has previously taught kids to swim, helped me today.  She was extremely patient and supportive.  And I liked the fact that the first thing she had me do was find my “safe space”.  Basically she taught me a simple back stroke that I should practice that will be my default safety space if I’m ever swimming and I panic.  If I panic, I should flip over, float and do the “arms, chicken, plane” stroke. (I think that’s what she called it.)  This is a very easy and simple stroke, even more so than the one where my arms are windmills.  I can do this stroke without worrying about hitting other triathletes or even without worrying about balancing.  It will let me catch my breath and focus, all while keeping my head out of the water.  Smart!  Jamie definitely knows what I need.

She next had me do the side stroke.  She said this is a good stroke to learn that somewhat mimics the freestyle but yet I can do it with my head above water.  Well, she can do it with her head above water, mine was dangerously close to going under.  I asked her why my head was half in the water and hers wasn’t and she said because I’m not strong enough at it yet.  Huh!? Well, there you go.  Good to know.

As I was doing the side stroke and trying my hardest not to let me head dip under, I realized it was really hard and I was super tired.  And I swear, we only did like two lengths of the pool.  And while I know I’m not in “swimming” shape, I really couldn’t believe how hard it was.  Then after talking to Jamie a bit more about it, I realized I was making it way harder on myself because of keeping my hands flat as they are going through the water, I was basically using them as a mini “snow plow” instead and in essence, doubling my effort.  So as I tried to keep my arms and hands as she said, I could definitely tell the difference but holy cow, it’s not at all natural.  In fact, doing it properly was super hard and took a ton of concentration. I think I got two strokes in the correct way before I defaulted back to “snow plow”.  While snow plow (yes, I just made this up, but I’m going with it) is harder because of the resistance it was a bit easier mentally.  So that’s something I need to work on and can go back and do on my own.

I asked her to watch me do the breast stroke because I like that one better than the side stroke.  And that’s when I had to fess up and let her in on my crazy breast stroke, one legged kick.  The proper kick for the breast stroke is basically the “frog” kick.  If you can picture the way a frog kicks when its in the water, that’s what my legs should be doing.  What they are actually doing is completely NOT the frog kick.  Actually my left leg kind of sort of does a half frog kick and the right leg just hangs out.  When Jamie saw my kick, she actually laughed.  And no matter how hard I tried to correct it and do the proper, two-legged frog kick, I couldn’t get it.  It’s as awkward and unnatural as my trying to pat my head with one hand while the other does circles on my stomach.  Not happening.

So what I learned today was that my “snow plow” and “one legged frog kick” were probably created as coping mechanisms to keep me from drowning as a kid.  Because I don’t put my head under water and never learned how to swim, I just made shit up.  I did what I had to do to stay afloat.  When not drowning is your only goal, you never really learn proper hand placement or kicks.

So not only do I have to learn how to breath, I now have to un-learn bad form and technique in order to relearn it correctly.  Fabulous!

After more laps back and forth with various strokes, I wanted to try breathing again.  So I had her try to help me with that.  She gave me some more pointers, which I do actually think make me a “bit” more comfortable putting my head under water, but I still can’t breathe.  But I did put my head under water quite a few times this morning, which was super good for me.  She only busted me once for stalling!

But while I still can’t breathe, or should I say exhale under water, today I really felt I made some progress with just putting my face under the water.  Which is HUGE progress.

But as Jamie and I were talking about how to breathe, I realized that not only will I have to unlearn bad technique and form, but I’m going to have to unlearn how to breathe.  When I run, bike or do yoga, I take long, slow deep breaths.  When I’m stressed I also do the deep breathing thing to “reset”.  But as Jamie pointed out, swimming is shorter and quicker breaths.  The exact opposite of what’s natural for me.  This has me pretty concerned.  I don’t know how easily it’s going to be to relearn how to breathe.  Deep breaths are so natural to me and help me so much in other workouts or in de-stressing that I actually don’t want to stop.  But I’m going to have to find some hybrid breathing pattern that works for swimming but isn’t counter to the breathing in all other aspects of my life.

This should be interesting.  Yikes.

I left my lesson with Jamie more at ease and feeling much better than my first lesson with Abbey.  I think Jamie is a great teacher and I definitely have a lot more to learn from her.  And because she’s the mom of twin boys, she’s very patient and is used to explaining things so a 6 year-old can understand it.  Which is my comprehension level for swimming.  That works well!

Tomorrow night I have swim lesson #3, this time with Nicole.  Nicole is a close friend, strong swimmer and also a great teacher.  She had the patience to take myself – a self proclaimed math idiot – from an F in Statistics in college to an A!  She has the ability to speak my language and explain things in a way that I understand.  So I’m extremely excited (okay, that’s a lie, I’m not excited about swimming) to get in the pool with her.  I think she will have great tips and tricks to help me too.  Just like Jamie, I think she’ll be able to help ease me into this whole swimming thing and help me feel a bit more comfortable in water.  Which won’t be easy.

So here’s hoping!

Until next time,

Gotta Run (swim)



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