The Swim

Whew! What a busy week! I started the week feeling like I was in a funk. My swimming felt down right awful—at least swimming as a whole did. I’ve got the whole kicking thing down, but add in the arms and breathing and I look like a fish with one fin swimming awkwardly having to gasp for air every once in a while. Who would have thought that swimming would involve so many elements! Many triathletes dread the swim. Some even fear it. For now I’m neutral, not really dreading it or fearing it, just frustrated with my abilities at this point. I’m very much a perfectionist when it comes to sports and form. (This stems from my many years as a gymnast and honestly if you aren’t a perfectionist as a gymnast you won’t be all that good). I also tend to sometimes over think things; this is never good. I am the type of person that just needs to do, not think.

Today though, when I was feeling exhausted and not at all feeling like going to the gym, I had a much better workout. I’m still over thinking and my swimming is still pretty labored and awkward, but my endurance is becoming stronger by the week as I continue to consistently make the effort to be at the gym swimming (or attempt to swim…).

So what are some tools that can help you become a better swimmer? My dad bought and used the DVD Swim Smooth. His swimming is looking pretty darn good! (I should mention that we will be racing against each other this July in a sprint triathlon. No way can I let my dad, love you dad!, beat me). Since this last weekend when we compared swimming notes and watched each other’s technique, I have also taken instruction from this video and had some success. Sometimes it takes seeing it multiple times and hearing the same techniques explained differently (my lovely swim coach versus the video instruction) for something to click.

Things I like about the Swim Smooth DVD system:

  1. The students are actually learning! These aren’t pros acting as the student and pretending to learn the skills, these are real students learning these skills for the first time. They aren’t perfect at every skill; they often drink half the pool and cough/hack (or mask the fact that they desperately want to cough) when they reach the end. This ultimately makes me feel better about my experience in the pool, that this is relatable, and that I’m not the only one gasping, coughing, and awkward when first learning to swim.
  2. The steps are simple and cohesive. The 10 steps progressively build upon the last without being overly complicated. One of the steps, and the one I’ve been focusing on this week, involves holding a pen out in front of you and swapping which hand is holding as you focus on your stroke. Another technique that I found helpful was the land instruction. This helped me to visualize what the movements of my stroke should look like by really being able to break it down while relating it to the ground underneath you (I know this sounds strange, but it honestly works!).
  3. Another great aspect of this system is that it comes with a handy waterproof booklet to take with you to the pool. Any variation of visualization you can get, in my mind, is extremely helpful and will guarantee you that “ah-hah” moment. The book is great too because you can take what you watched on the video with you to the pool. The Swim Smooth system can be found here:

Another tool I suggest you check out is this website: It also has a break down of steps, but overall this site is for those that are slightly more advanced in their swimming. Tim Ferriss does a great job in his descriptions of the techniques and skills to practice. The videos, however, showcase Olympic athletes that move way to fast and are focusing on way more than just the freestyle stroke. So use this site for the descriptions and skip the videos (if you’re a newbie like me).

Good luck at the pool the next time you go. I’m sure I’ll be getting strange looks as a swim with my pencil… You can also be sure that the whole time I’ll be praying that I don’t drop it in the deep end!

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