Top Tips,  Training Sessions

Endless Learning – lesson 1

I’m in an endless pool and have been swimming on the spot against a jet stream. I stop, sip my cup of tea and look at the screen. This is my first lesson with Gill Kelly at Trinswimwell in Rochford, Essex, and she shows me what the video camera sees.
I’ve been swimming on and off for years and got more serious through triathlon five years ago. Now I want to be able to swim longer open-water races more comfortably. I don’t necessarily want to be a fast swimmer; I just want to swim well. Up until this point I thought I was pretty good, but now the camera tells me otherwise.

Five things I learnt… Lesson 1

 Unlearning bad habits. 

Years of swimming up and down in a pool have cemented my technique, which has become ingrained and feels natural. Now the correct technique feels wrong. With Gill in the pool to guide me, and the DVD to show me, I am starting to become more conscious of what my body is doing in the water.

Back to basics. 

Without a balanced body it doesn’t really matter what my arms or legs are doing. I thought my body position was similar to the swimmer in the demonstration video, but no, I’m snaking and rolling all over the place. I need to learn some control with my basic body position and build some core stability.

Heavy head

The position of my head affects my balance. I can now master balance with my body position in the water, but it all goes wrong when I try to breathe. I’m lifting my head out of the water to breathe, which means my legs drop and I’m braking. Now I realize that over a long distance this is slowing me right down. Now I’m learning to separate my head from my body so that they can move independently of each other. If I move my head to breathe, my whole body doesn’t need to follow.

From the hips

When Gill turns up the dial and increases the jet, my instinct is to kick harder. When I tire of that, I pull on my arms. Now I’m learning to propel my body through the water by rocking the hips instead.

Keeping the pace

I’m a lazy swimmer and was trying to extend the glide between each stroke to keep the stroke count down. But I was doing it too much, to the point where I was losing my momentum between each stroke. Gill times my stroke rate at 46 strokes per minute. She sets a beeping device to 55 beeps a minute, puts it under my hat and I try again. With the increase in pace, and concentrating only on the hips, I’m swimming faster and it seems easier.

Five things I learnt… between Lesson 1 and 2

  1. I can’t be given the ability to swim. Gill can guide me, but she can’t do it for me. If I don’t practise, I won’t improve.
  2. Life will get in the way if I don’t set aside time to practise.
  3. I need to get over feeling silly doing the drills in a public pool.
  4. Patience is a virtue. As is concentration.
  5. I need to do drills, drills and more drills. And then I need to incorporate it into my regular swim stroke. 

Stay up to date with The Dip, our free weekly outdoor swimming newsletter.

Outdoor Swimmer is the magazine for outdoor swimmers by outdoor swimmers. We write about fabulous wild swimming locations, amazing swim challenges, swim training advice and swimming gear reviews.