Swimming Lesson #11

After an awful lot of weeks off, I went back to Swish today to start another set of lessons. As always, starting again is more challenging than you think: you’re confronted by the fact that you’re not as good as you imagine you are.

But this is at least an opportunity to improve.
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Swimming Lesson #10

Today was my tenth swimming lesson at Swish; it gives me pause to think how I’ve progressed from being incapable of submerging my face, to being quite happy as I slowly sink towards the bottom of the pool as I empty my lungs. Well, it is peaceful down there.

Today we concentrated mostly on my breaststroke kick, which I still have a lot of work to do on. Key from this week: I need to arch my back, and my feet should form an inverted V, heels at the apex, before I kick out. And, and I’m struggling with this the most, it’s not just a kick out and back: at max extension, your feet have to slap back against one another or else you don’t generate any thrust. Not so much a kick out, as a kick in a circle.

I’m a little sad that I felt I knew what I was doing a few weeks ago, and now I’m more conscious that I don’t, but learning isn’t a straight line. I’m moving from unconsciously incompetent to consciously incompetent, and though you have to get through that before you reach conscious competence, bridging the gap between the first two phases is the part that’s perilous for your ego.

Meanwhile, my freestyle needs adjustment. Simple to fix: when I pull my arm back and breathe, I need to keep pulling my arm back, and look backwards, not just up. More complex: my stroke is quite wooden. I pull with one arm. Then I pause. Then I pull with the other one. That’s a consequence of being taught not to just thrash – get one arm back in front before moving the other. But to do it smoothly there needs to be a subtle change in timing, so I start one arm’s stroke just before the other finishes. And subtlety and me are strange bedfellows.

And I have my first swimming injury- I bent back my little toe on my left foot while my coach was holding my feet to help me with my kick. Damn you, breaststroke.

Swimming Lesson #9

Today was a pleasant, sunny day, although I didn’t have a very good breakfast (heavy on croissants, light on good quality protein) and I was probably still knackered from yesterday, so I was far too susceptible to snacking. But the good news what that it didn’t rain, so there was no struggle getting a car to the swimming pool today.

When I got there, they had some kind of device like an aquatic vacuum cleaner inside the pool, for some young urchin had defecated in the water, so they were having to clean it. Fortunately, they have the indoor pool as well, and that’s where I went today.

Most of today we focussed on breaststroke again. With my freestyle right now it’s a series of smaller tweaks – things like doing a higher ratio of kicks to strokes – rather than the major remedial work on breaststroke.

I’m struggling with the kick. I think it’s several things -I don’t kick out wide enough, there’s not a dynamic enough whipping motion at the end to bring my feet together, I’m not kicking with my heels – but so many different ways to do it wrong mean I’m very inconsistent. I’ll get one good kick in, then multiple ineffectual ones. Plus it’s not quite symmetrical and so I start to veer off in one direction or another.

The arms should allow me to correct for that, but if I try that, I forget how to breathe. Honestly, if it’s not one thing it’s another, but I have to remind myself that less than three months ago I couldn’t get my head underwater. Everything is going in the right direction.

I also seemed to have very poor lung capacity today, or I couldn’t get from one end of the pool to the other. Perhaps I was tired and so more feeble, so I was taking longer and so my time underwater was the same, but I felt half as good as usual. Maybe I should have drunk more water. Or something. Or something.

And so, the long weekend approaches. Maybe I’ll get Destroyer to teach me instead.

Swimming Lesson #8

Today, breaststroke again. I think this is a vote of confidence in my freestyle, or an admission that while it’s scrappy, there’s more benefit to be had from.improving other strokes right now.

Today we started with kicking, which I got immediately, and then it turned out that was lucky coincidence and we spent half an hour trying to restore my beginner’s luck.

The thing that I’m really struggling with is that you kick back with your heels in a big circle, then pull both your feet back in as you glide forward, and then kick again. So it’s a stomp rather than a flick, and I’d keep forgetting and try to point my toes, and if you do that you don’t go forward at all, and then sometimes I’d stamp rather than point, and inexplicably I would make forward progress.

This is not to completely describe the multitude of incompetencies I displayed. There was the time I started off without breathing out, and slowly but surely descended to the bottom of the pool. I suppose that’s a good demonstration of bouyancy.

I didn’t drink much of the pool, but I also really didn’t get the hang of breathing. With freestyle I feel I’ve got more than half a chance of getting more air than water into my lungs when I need to. With breaststroke I forget to exhale underwater, and it’s only when the horrible sounds of things creaking in my sinuses distract me do I realise I need to come to the surface.

It’s not exactly amphibian grace with which I move, I’m trying to say.

However, once I tried putting the breaststroke and the kick together, we made some forward movement. If I could just get from one end of the pool to the other without needing to breathe in, this could actually be a calmer and easier thing than freestyle. Until then, there’s going to be quite a bit more gasping and spluttering.

Swimming Lesson #6

Thursday comes, and with it another swimming lesson. Today was my second attempt to master breaststroke, and also my first attempt to explain to my swimming coach why I’d had 14 different swimming teachers, without using the phrase "ice cold pool of dilute juvenile piss". (My 14 different swimming teachers is a terrible lie my wife is spreading; it was 14 years of swimming lessons with an indeterminate number of unsympathetic swimming teachers whose pedagogical technique was uniformly comprised of yelling and blowing a whistle.)
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