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: http://www.swimsmooth.com/learn2swim.html

Another tool I suggest you check out is this website: http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2008/08/13/total-immersion-how-i-learned-to-swim-effortlessly-in-10-days-and-you-can-too/ 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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Staying Motivated in the Winter

Today I want to talk about my struggles (not sure if ‘struggle’ is exactly the word, but let’s go with that for now) training for a triathlon as a Wisconsinite. I love working out in the summer, being overly hot, feeling the pavement under my feet running or flying underneath me while riding. But winter, here in the frozen tundra, there is no training outside (I am not about to be one of those crazy people running in -5 degree F weather, no way in hell. If you are one of these people, you’re crazy, but also brave!) I don’t even like to walk to my car, in the garage, in the winter. (See where I’m going with this?) So, getting myself to the gym takes one extra push of motivation each day.

One thing that gives me that extra push is having a training schedule. A training schedule keeps me committed to what I want to accomplish and I treat it just like I would a job, I have to be there, no excuses. Another push comes from my swim coach. (I have a swim coach because, like a lot of triathletes, my swimming is my weakest area. Ironic, considering I grew up on Lake Superior literally just a couple blocks down the hill). She gives me techniques and skills to work on that motivate me to go to the gym early in the morning and practice. Skills help me focus on one or two small things each time I go to swim. Without those, I wouldn’t feel like I accomplished much, that my time there was wasted not really knowing if I was doing it “right.”

But let’s dig deeper, why do I push myself even on those days (or winter months…) to train. It’s the finish line. It’s being able to envision myself crossing the finish line of Ironman Arizona 2014 hearing the announcer say, “Libby Becker, YOU ARE an Ironman.” So if you have a day when you want to quit, or just don’t feel like doing it, think of the finish line. Think of whatever it is that truly motivates you to get out there and train.

Please feel free to leave what motivates you in the comments below. Sometimes hearing what motivates others, helps to motivate ourselves.