Monday, August 26, 2013

It's all in the technique

I never had that much interest in swimming. I mean, I liked diving under water and having that feeling of floating as if I was in space. I also LOVED body surfing. In fact, now that I think about it, body surfing is probably the activity I love doing the most (which begs the question, why haven't I done it for about 3 years?)

As usual, I digress. But anyway, swimming was not really my thing - despite my high school phys-ed teacher telling me that with my form I "should be going much faster." Well, Mr. High School Phys-Ed teacher, I may have gone faster had you delved deeper into my technique!

You see, I do go for the occasional swim at the local pool. I do my laps, and then get out and feel muscular for a few minutes, while my chest remains pumped up from all that arm flailing and gasping for air.

The problem is, that often in the very next lane is an older gent - usually, shall I say, somewhat more portly than myself - who nevertheless makes me eat his dust (or water vapour). Yes, I get burnt off by the old dude. Alternatively there is the lady, about my age, that also leaves me in her wake. Okay, usually, usually I can keep up for two or three laps before I have no choice but to stop before my body explodes. And of course, they just continue on ... lap ... after lap ... after lap.

As I recover, I watch them. Metronomes effortlessly gliding through the water, they're arms and legs plodding along like a turtle across beach sand. In my meaner moments, I tell myself that "certain substances float better than others". But I have some of that substance too, and deep down I knew that all along, it was technique that allowed them to whip my butt.

I've known this for years. But last Friday I finally did something about it. I Googled "Freestyle Swimming Technique". Why did I do it now, at the age of 41, when I could have done it 10 years ago? Better still, 20 years ago when I was messing around in triathlons and coming out towards the back end of the field in the swim leg. I'm not sure. Maybe I've got smarter? More confident in myself? Or less pig-headed? Maybe I've got to that stage where I want to be the old dude that burns off the young buck? I know I'm certainly more willing to learn from others, and I'm certainly not afraid to fail anymore. By 40 you should have failed lots of times, or you're doing something wrong.

I have been going through a learning phase in the last few years. I suppose the difference between now and when I was at school, is I'm learning about stuff that I want to learn about. This year I've undertaken the 5-2 diet (quite effective), am half-way through my second Open University unit, written my second book, have been readings books on relationships (women really are from Venus), and am learning to play the didgeridoo (something I've always wanted to do). Maybe life does begin at 40?

But there you go, I've digressed again. Technique.

I tried what I'd read and watched over the internet. I pointed my toes as much as possible to limit drag and have more of a flipper effect; I breathed on both sides of my body instead of just one side; I didn't look too far forward as I swam and instead kept my head near parallel to the bottom of the pool; I breathed out "in" the water; and I allowed my body to roll from side with each stroke I took.

Because some of these things were new to me (especially the rolling, and the head facing the pool floor) I messed up occasionally, or forgot, but wow, what a difference it made. I could feel myself gliding through the water. My legs weren't fatiguing like they usually did, nor were my arms. I did the same amount of laps as I'd done the week before - but it was so easy. Instead of stopping after 4 laps I stopped after 8, before having a rest and starting again. In fact, I felt cheated. I still do ... a little. Does this mean I'm going to have to swim twice as many laps to get the same physical benefits?

Oh well, no matter, at least I feel confident that I'll be able to match it with the chicks and the old dudes from now on.

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Journey into Stuff by Jeff Bilman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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