Friday, October 22, 2010

1,350 yards

On Wednesdays I have a 60-min training session with Josh, my swim coach. Except that last Wednesday I had too much to do at work and I cancelled my session. I also didn't do any swimming on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday of last week, nor Monday or Tuesday of this week either. Combined, I had not been in the pool for the 8 days prior to my training session and I was hoping this would not be obvious in my performance. It was not obvious. I swam well, and made great progress with my coach. I started off with a 400-yard freestyle warm-up that the coach has me do every session. Then he asked me to do five 100-yard freestyle drills with 20 seconds rest in between. Ours is a 25-yard pool, so it takes 4 laps to make a 100-yard drill. On the fourth lap of every drill, the coach counts my strokes. The aim is for me to concentrate on my form and decrease the stroke count with each drill. The fewer strokes it takes to do a lap, the more efficient the stroke is. With better stroke efficiency, I can swim longer and farther.
At the start of the drill, I said "You know by counting my strokes on the fourth lap, I'm more tired than when I start, so it's harder to keep the stroke count low."
Josh replied, "Yes, that's the point."

This isn't me, but it's someone I know.

"Yes," I agreed, and started swimming. Sometimes Josh just lets me swim, but on this day, he met me at the end of 100 yards and gave me some more instruction, encouraging me to straighten out my body. Apparently I've developed the bad habit of bending at the hips as I reach far in front to start the catch. I improved on my next drill but I was concentrating so hard on this, I stopped at 50 yards instead of 100 yards. It's a little embarrassing to lose count of my laps when the quantity (2) is so small! Realizing my mistake about 15 seconds later, I started up again and swam another 100. Then another 100, and another. The sum at this point was 450 yards, but Josh had lost count and suggested I do one more drill. I paused and said "Oh, I thought I had finished, but I can do another." Josh smiled. This was a genuine, unsolicited smile that showed he was proud of my response. When he works with his college-level swim team, he probably gets a lot of whining and not many people who say "Sure, let me do more than requested of me." Josh's smile gave me the encouragement to go on and do another 100 yards for a total of 550.

After the freestyle drills, we worked on my breaststroke (four 50-yard drills with 10-seconds rest in between each). He was very complimentary and said my feet and legs were producing a great kick. I asked if I was bobbing too far deep into the water after each breath, and he said no. He did suggest I point my arms more at the wall and keep my face looking down. This advice made me go faster due to the better streamlining of that position.

We still had 5-10 minutes left so Josh had me do four 25-yard laps of butterfly. I've been practicing this stroke for six weeks now, so even on my best day I don't quite have the hang of it. And this day I was already tired. I reminded him that I hadn't practiced in a week in an effort to lower his expectations. And then I flew like a butterfly through the water. I don't think I've ever done it so well and fluidly. It wasn't perfect, mind you, but it was my best showing to date. I don't know if Josh would agree with my assessment. But because my expectations were low, it was a great feeling to exceed them with this performance. There is more work to be done with reagards to all my strokes and I can't wait for my next lesson from Josh.

Oh, did I mention that I have never swam 1,350 yards in an hour before? I think my previous record was 1,250 yards. Competitive swimmers do at least twice what I can do, but I keep progressing, improving, exceeding what I think I can do. That's what builds character, raises my confidence, and builds my reputation. So 1,400 won't be too far to go.

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