Sunday, 6 November 2011

Having a Nice, Steady Stroke

I've been trying really hard recently to ignore the urge to try to swim quickly. I know the minute I try to power down that lane, all the good technique I've been learning will fly out the window. As coach Steve says, "get your technique right and the speed will come".

As a result, I've dropped my usual style of breathing every other stroke and gone exclusively bilateral; everything has slowed down and I plod up and down the lanes at a pace that allows me enough time to think about everything that has to happen to enable forward propulsion, and that is a lot of stuff.

I have felt however, whilst I've been going at such a slow pace, that my technique may be improving but that my swim fitness absolutely is not. Breathing definitely hasn't been getting any easier. In fact that's the main reason I haven't tried to go faster, I was starting to worry that it could possibly make my heart explode.

This morning at Steve's Sunday Morning Swim Smooth Squad Swim Session, I had a little epiphany. I was asked to swim 200m so that my stroke rate (number of strokes per minute) could be measured,with the intention of then working on trying to increase it. After 200m, Steve informed me that my stroke rate was "all over the place" and that they hadn't been able to establish any sort of discernible rhythm. I was given a wetronome: a bleeper that goes under your swim cap and told to swim in time with the bleep. Simple.

It should be simple, but I had a lot of drama just getting the thing into a comfortable position. Putting a small but chunky item under your swim cap creates all sorts of problems, first it was causing the edge of my goggles to lift up and water was leaking into one eye. I shifted it a bit but then I seemed to be getting a torrent seeping into my hat which I was sure was causing me excess drag. In the end I realised it was loud enough that it didn't need to be anywhere near my ear, so I stuck it right at the back of my hat, perfect.

I started swimming to the beat, and found it surprisingly easy to move my arms more quickly. Sticking to a regular rhythm actually kept my breathing under control and as I cruised in to the end of another 200m I realised I wasn't at all out of breath. By quickening the stroke it actually meant I was having to wait less time in between breaths and still managing to go faster - genius! We upped the rate by a couple more strokes and I was having a great time swimming up and down, everything had just become so much easier, I didn't even care about the snide remarks from my lane-mates, personally I think "Tick Tock" is a cool nickname, so there!

Of course, take the wetronome away and the whole thing goes to pot. But hopefully after a few more sessions of training with it, the new stroke rate will become natural. Until then,  I might start putting it next to me before I go to sleep so that I subliminally learn the rhythm!

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