Learning to swim again has taken more than a year. That’s because there’s a balance between developing form good enough to swim efficiently, and then building muscles and endurance to support the effort.
But there’s real progress happening now.
I’m writing about this because I encourage you to try it too. If you have not tried swimming in a very long while, it is an activity that you can add to and gain all sorts of benefits. It’s a whole body workout for one thing, and low impact at that. Two, you get to smell like chlorine and play in the water. Three, you can actually do a triathlon if you can swim. And that’s fun.
As noted, this has not been an easy experience. While I have not been tempted to quit, there have been moments where I stood in the pool with my face very near the water breathing hard while trying to figure out when it might get a little easier.
But there has been progress. And yesterday I had a swim lesson with Whitney, the coach with whom I’ve been working off and on the last year. Now we’re meeting every three weeks and she gives me assignments to practice between sessions.
Yesterday she asked, “Do you want to do endurance or sprints?”
Honestly, I’d never thought about it. Early on the most I could swim at one stretch was 25 meters. Then it was… stop, breathe, and start again. I wasn’t so much swimming as surviving from one end of the pool to the other.
Now, I’m up to 400 meters straight and haven’t yet tried anything longer. That’s coming this week. My relaxation in the pool is such that the idea of going long is no longer a threat. I can breathe on both sides now too, albeit still better on one side than the other. That will come with more practice.
Bu to test my stroke mechanics, Whitney gave me a workout of 8 sets of 50-meter repeats. 25 as fast as I can go, short rest, and back at a slow pace. We did sets of four and put some float swimming of 100 meters in between.
The 25-meter sprints were fun. I actually had never been given license to go as fast as I can, so I had never done it. Having the opportunity to let loose was a real joy. She asked me after the first couple, “You’re only breathing every fourth stroke. Is that feeling okay?”
“More than okay,” I told her. “It feels great!”
Fast or slow, learning to swim well is basically a task of being able to use your stroke mechanics to efficiently move through the water. If you can’t swim slower, it is very likely there is something wrong with your form or balance between kicks and strokes.
Three weeks ago, Whitney had me practice kicks with the focus of using my butt muscles to propel my legs as well. That engagement clicked in my head. I envisioned my butt making me go faster. But that’s just me. Some of us need pictures in our heads to make things work.
So it was fun to “feel the churn” on those sprint sets. I was under 20 seconds on each, so things are coming along. Each was 25 meters of joy.
On my next swim coaching session, it will be time to learn flip turns again. I did them as a kid swimmer and it should come back pretty well I hope. Once you get the feel, it’s a matter of practice.
I’m grateful to be learning something new like this. The challenges have been real, but the revelations have too.