For the first half of the lesson, we just worked on kicking. Usually I warm up with two lengths of just kicking, and I always dread it – it’s much more exhausting than either using just your arms, or your arms and legs. Yet today, we were going to do oodles of legs only.
It turns out I was doing it wrong and that was why it was so tiring – I was making big, splashy kicks that were slow and hard work, when I needed to do faster, smaller kicks, first lightly, to get some smoothness, and then hard, to develop more propulsion. And wouldn’t you know, I started going faster, to the point I could do a length in 39 seconds or so (about as fast as I managed to do freestyle with arms *and* legs last week).
Then we incorporated arms again, this time concentrating on something else new: hands not going to the dead centre in front of you.
When I usually start a lap of freestyle, it’s with both hands together above my head, pointing together towards the end of the pool. Then with each stroke, my hand returns to that position and then the other pulls.
Well, it turns out it may be better to leave more space.
The cognitive cue is to think of a plank of wood stuck to the top of your head and pointing out in front of you. Each hand stroke should land to the side of the plank, rather than landing dead centre. This should keep you straighter, as its easier to overrotate if you’re aiming for dead centre.
We practiced this first with a float in one hand, and just pulling with the other hand. I found that for once, my brute strength conferred an advantage over my swimming partner, Vanessa, who is a small, light yoga instructor, but who (I guess) lacks the beef that an extra 20 or 30 kilos confers. Usually she vanishes in the distance when we swim, but I could actually go faster. If we’re both limited to using a single limb.
You can make this more difficult by moving your hand on the float, so you hold the edge opposite your other hand, which means the hand you move has to land even wider. And if that wasn’t hard enough, then you get rid of the board and try swimming a length with your eyes shut, trying to sense when you’re going off the line.
And then we tried sprinting, and my 20m time is down to 25 seconds. (I did one last lap, exhausted, at the end of the session and did a 25 second one then as well, so the combination of better kicking and a more forceful stroke is paying off, and I don’t feel so broken either.)
There was just enough time for a few lengths of backstroke, using the same principles, and again eschewing arms to begin with. I discovered I cock my head towards my right shoulder, which makes me veer right, and again, correcting that had immediate benefits.
So, all in all, a very pleasing lesson. Who knows what I’ll be able to do if I manage to practice a few times in the week?