Thursday, 26 September 2013

Swimming lessons 2010-2013

In many places I have lived over the years I have looked for adult swimming lessons and was frustratingly never able to find them. I had it in my head that I wanted to learn to flip turn.

When we moved to Athlone in 2010 we discovered it was hosting the 2010 European Triathlon Championship 6 weeks after we came to town :-) Watching 2009 world & 2012 Olympic Champion, Alistair Brownlee win over the now current and three time world champion Javier Gomez was fantastic. Seeing regular people taking part was an inspiration for me to train and compete on the same course the following year.

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Discovering the Athlone Regional Sport Centre and it's instructors has been one of the best things about living in Athlone. I have done their advanced lane swimming classes which runs in 7 Thursday night blocks 5 times, twice in 10/11 in preparation for my first tri and 3 times in 12/13 while training for my second.

On my first night in 2010 I told the instructor Dave I wanted to learn the flip turn. He said there were a few things to learn first! I still can't flip turn! I had read some of the total immersion book, borrowed from my brother, over the previous decade while self-learning freestyle. I had used the book principally for learning alternate side breathing and had not dived into the rest of the book in detail. It had not yet sunk in how technical a sport swimming is.

In advance of competing in the 2013 Brian Boru tri I went over my swimming lessons notes.

The personal feedback I got from the 2010/11 sessions was:

  • Breathing too rigid: body must turn as well as head to breath, head should stay completely still, only break over water enough to just catch a breath.
  • Relax the shoulders
  • Entry
    • My left arm goes right over and enters the water outside my shoulder on the right, it should enter in-line with my shoulder.
    • Can see bubbles when I swim as air passing through fingers, keep fingers tight.
    • After 10 lengths, throwing my arms, which twist my legs, keep elbows high.
    • after entry catch water and push back when extending hand back to hip.
  • Legs
    • My legs are sinking & cycling in the water, straighten them and keep my knees down.
    • Feet are straight so the block water, be long in the water.

From the 2012/2013 sessions:

  • Breathing: I am over-inhaling, so I am working too hard to compensate. I am gasping each time, breathe should be normal, if you breath too hard it tells your body it should be "panicking" as well.
  • Entry
    • Keep fingers closed, together, be a spoon not a fork and knife.
    • Hand is entering too late, I should not stretch my hand at the top of the water before entry. I am entering close to wrist, it should be entering between wrist and elbow of opposite hand. As a result my body is not as streamlined through water. I should enter at right angles and then glide under the surface longer. After entry, the hand should extend about 10cm under water (find a point between the malleable top water and the deeper stuff), before stretching.
    • My left arm is pulling across and not doing a complete stroke. Imagine a centre line going through body and don't let hand/arm cross that.
  • Strokecount
    • I am only doing half strokes, I should extend my hands and then brush my hip when I pull back.
    • Normal stroke is one hand following the other but my cadence is too fast. The out of water stroke should be slower (no resistance) as it's slower under water.
    • I am not extending enough in the water, I am moving my arms too fast.

My ongoing issues I need to work on are:

Leg sinking

I have a big problem with my legs sink and I have not been able to improve that yet. The ideal is the ankles breaking surface and with some splashing.


I am still struggling with my entry, I know I am going in too later and I struggle going in earlier.


My stroke count for 25m still is generally 30-32. The best I have managed is 29. This is way too much and means I am wasting energy. I should be able to reduce this to 24 with improved technique. Swimmers with excellent technique would do perhaps 18 strokes per 25m.


I have breathing issues and mentally struggle keeping my head under water. Recently I read the Inner Games of Tennis, first written in 1975 it talks about switching off the thinking brain (self 2) and letting the body (self 1) uses it's memory muscles. It worked on switching off my brain to get through the Brian Boru mentally but in the long run this is no good for improving technique.

Back to reading the classic Total Immersion book and more lessons for me.

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