There comes a time in every athlete’s life when it does no further good to offer up excuses why things aren’t happening like they should. When I started swimming three or four years ago, I could barely manage a couple laps in a 25 yard pool before grasping the side and waiting for my breath to return.
It seems so foreign now that I struggled so badly at the start. I kept telling myself, “You’ve always been a good athlete. Why can’t you make this work?”
The answer, of course, was that I was doing it all wrong at the start. It took quite a bit of time to 1) learn enough about swim strokes to swim efficiently and 2) build up enough stamina in swim-specific muscles to manage sustained efforts. All that takes time. Swim time.
Perhaps you’ve struggled that way in one sport or another. We all seem to have our weak spots in multi-sport competitions. Some hate running, or running on the track. Others fear time on the bike with all that traffic, not to mention the hills, and the wind. Bike time can be a killer.
Returning to swimming late in life was hard because there was so much for me to learn just to be able to do it at all. The fact that a basic freestyle stroke has so many moving parts was frankly confounding to me at first.
I’ve still got to work more on my catch position. My rotation seems good, and my elbows are coming out of the water high enough about 70% of the time.
And my kick? Sucks. So swim time still means working on some of the basics for me.
All that said, I arrived at the pool yesterday morning feeling more confident than ever. I swam some warmup laps and put on pool buoy between my legs and hand paddles on my mitts to do some strong pulling.
Then I swam a couple hundred yards and paused by the side of the pool to decide what my actual workout should be. It occurred to me that my near-term goal is to swim a half-mile (800 meters) without feeling stressed. That’s the distance of most Sprint triathlons, and it was time to just do that in the pool and not worry about it.
So I swam all 800 meters at my 1:55 per 100 pace and felt stronger as I went. Which also suggested that swimming a mile should be no problem from now on.
That’s my bigger goal: to swim a mile without stress with or without a wetsuit. Too many summer races are “iffy” as to whether they will be wetsuit legal and I need to feel confident to swim a mile in open water if conditions are reasonable. As in not insanely choppy or waves over two feet tall.
That half-mile I swam in the pool was swim time that I truly enjoyed. My form felt good and the pull of my arms underwater felt strong and secure. That’s genuine progress from the days when I’d clung to the wall between laps to save myself from drowning.
Swim time is finally here in my life. Now let’s see how much faster I can get, and how much longer I can go. That’s what swim time is all about.