Swimming not drowning, volume 2 – relax (how funny is that)

Yeah, that's me ... not drowning yet

Yeah, that’s me … not drowning yet

At the beginning of March, I wondered if I was beginning to register my glutes taking part, in a small way, in my leg kick.  That would certainly count as progress. M’s programme has a big focus on getting strength into my legs. It’s really quite strange to think I can run all those miles yet my legs are effectively useless in water. I’ve not really had this feeling since, so my legs must be still pretty ineffectual.

In fact, the marvellous M did the old criticism/praise sandwich at right about the time I thought my glutes might have activated temporarily. I am so grateful for all his help. He was suggesting my technique was not too bad, but … while I work my legs in the leg drills (with and without float), when I put it together in the stroke, my legs go back to drifty, useless appendages (my paraphrasing) dragging along behind me.  I have thought about this concept before. I can pat my head and rub my tummy, so I reckon I should be able to do one thing with my arms and another with my legs. Shouldn’t I?

I’ve even bought a book about swimming. That alone elevates the subject in my mind to flipping serious. It was saying it’s ok to rotate my body on its long axis, 45° each side. It also seemed to be saying I should be beginning my breathe routine (my words not its) a little earlier. i.e. when my arm goes past my hip and starts its upward trajectory out of the water behind me, start rotating body and head for breathe.  This gives a nano-second longer.

It also said stuff about arms not crossing the central line. The marvellous M explained subsequently explained my arms shouldn’t come across my body in the water. Two-dimensional rotation, as near as is physically possible.

I had a bit of potential mind-shift in the middle of March, when a fellow swimmer remarked how quiet it was that morning, and how relaxing, in a different way, that made their swim.  This lady was not the first person to mention swimming and relaxing in the same breath.

This is complete anathema to me. Swimming is so far from relaxing as to not even being on the same planet. There is nothing, at all, really, nothing at all, relaxing about swimming. I’m on high alert, heart pumping, lungs straining, muscles agitated and powering (in so much as they ever ‘power’). Swimming is not relaxing. End of.

Intellectually I can quite understand it needs to be. If I didn’t panic so much, my heart might race less, therefore need less oxygen all round. I get the logic. Totally. It’s just emotionally none of makes sense.

I’m not sure if M partially gave up on me ever getting my legs to work. Actually he didn’t because he said I still need to do my normal drills, but he introduced me to paddles. Oorrggghhh. Said I should work on strengthening my arms as well as my legs. He said I’d be tired (I’m always tired after swimming; and famished. Why does swimming make me so hungry? Running kills my appetite – hate my force-feeding fuelling regime, have I mentioned that before?). Anyway the paddles were fine to use. Bit of a different hand rotation to get them out of the water. The interesting thing for me was that my stroke was slower, and this seemed to give me a bit more time for breathing. A good thing.

As to the technique, M says I need to relax into it.  There’s that word again. We both know all I’m thinking about is my breathing. Ah, maybe when I stop thinking about my breathing I’ll be able to the pat head/rub tummy swim-equivalent combo?

I did a few lengths with the paddles. Came to the end of the pool. Stopped. Looked at my hands, palms up, looking at these things. And did nothing. They’re paddles. They’re rigid. They cover your palms. The opposable thumb thingy that humans are so proud of has been incapacitated. How are you supposed to get them off? I assure you (defensively) this lasted only a split second before I fathomed a way to remove them (teeth, side of pool, calling helplessly for assistance had all passed through my mind). But it was long enough for M to notice and have a little chuckle.  It’s always warming to know I occasionally provide amusement value.  I know my place.

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