Thursday, April 30, 2015

Not According to Plan

So, the story I told myself was that I'd be dipping a toe in the open water starting May 1.

Yeah, right.   I took a look at the water temperatures of some of the larger local lakes.  Water temperature is still in the 40s.

I'm a beginner open water swimmer. Holy crap am I a beginner.   No, I'm not going to make my first open water attempts in water under 50F.

I'm basing this decision at least in part on an article on LoneSwimmer, called Introducing a precise open water swimming temperature scale.  The article is tongue in cheek, and funny, but it makes a point.  No, as a beginner, I don't belong out in the cold open water just yet.

Though I am getting concerned.  I have about seven weeks to get ready for a swim in Lake Memphremagog, and that water is going to be cold by my standards.  I need to prep for that and I'm not sure when things are gonna warm up out here enough for the beginner.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Flip Turns and Resistance in Swimming

I blew off flip turns for most of my freestyle sets yesterday and had something happen.

I enjoyed the damn swim.

*head scratch*   See, now I do swim for exercise and I do challenge myself to do hard things, but at the end of the day, it's something that's really meant to keep me interested enough to keep working out.  

Still, I can't really stomach the idea of completely blowing off flip turns as a training strategy.  Sure, sure, there are swimmers that do open turns and when I get into the open water in a couple of weeks (brrrr!) flip turns aren't going to be a factor.

Part of the reason I do this is actually professional.  No, I'm not a swimming instructor or coach (HA!) or anything like that.  But I am a teacher and I do teach adults.

I want to break through that Learning a New Method resistance and see how and why it's happening.  I work at a medical institution, and one of the biggest things I see in my job is resistance to changing how something is done in terms of computers and workflow.  

These are smart people I'm talking about.  A large portion of them do have to have ongoing education in their fields, so it's not like Learning a New Thing is even alien to their work.   But oh my word, can changing how something looks or works on a tool get the grumbling and even resistance.

So, that's a lot of my own motivation for not giving up on the flip turns.  I mean, I can do one (Did more like 33 this morning).  But it does interrupt that flow-- the zone I get in when I am swimming and love so much.  That's a lot of the resistance for me,

I figured out one that when pushing off for my first length of breast stroke this morning.  I love the feel of that glide, so I oughta love a flip turn, right?  Nope. A flip turn when I am swimming hard takes up so much air that I am gasping when I come out of it.

Back to that first glide as I started my morning swim.

It was shallow.  I mighta been a foot under the water at most.   When I do a flip turn, I'm more like two or three feet under water (depending on whether I am flipping at the deep end or shallow end).  I go way too deep when I do my flip turn.

So, I tried something this morning and did my flips a lot more shallowly (is that actually an adverb?)  Turns out that sorted out the breath issue. So now my flips are clumsy and off center.  Still, it was interesting to realize that might have been a lot of the problem.

My goal really is to be able to just swim and get into the zone as I'm doing it, so flip turns are going to have to be a whole lot more automatic before I do that.

This does help my empathy with students who really just wanna get into their zone professionally and resent the interruption of the changes in method with a tool.

Friday, April 17, 2015

90% of the Game is Half Mental

When you read about swimming you read a lot of advice about form, training techniques, and all that smack.

Obviously crucial stuff, since you have a physical body that is going to be doing an endurance thing. So yeah, your body needs to be ready.

But I'm noticing something about the people who are doing the really crazy and amazing stuff. They still talk about the physical and they talk about the training.

Then their voices get kinda low, thoughtful and quiet.  And they start talking about the fact that it's the mental stuff that really makes or breaks you.

It's true, of course.  Once your body is prepared, and you can't skip that, it's revolves around what's going on with your mind.

This is especially tough for swimmers.  We spend enormous amounts of time in our own heads. Our minds run all over the place.   If you have a good imagination, it can also be very freaky.

I have a good imagination. The movie Jaws came out when I was a child.  I'll never see it. Am I scared of sharks?  Yes, I am.  Seaweed brushing against me when I am body surfing makes me shudder.  The intellectual knowledge that I am never more than about 25 yards from a shark when I am playing at the beach is something I have to beat down hard, but I do because I want to enjoy being in the water.  I can tell myself that few are human aggressive, that I don't do many swims at twilight, that there are almost no shark attacks anywhere I am likely to swim on regular basis and the thoughts still come back. Shoot, I have found myself imagining all sorts of scary denizens of the deep when I am in the confounded pool.   This is not where your mind needs to be when you are swimming out in the open water.  So, I have to guard my mind and imagination carefully.

This has me mentally griping right now.  One of my favorite authors has just come out with a new book, and I can't read it.  Not if I want to do open water swims and not psyche myself out.  This is worse than being on a diet while training, I tell you!

Monday, April 06, 2015

The Comparison Trap and the Next Step

I may have overstretched myself doing that two and a half miles.   My shoulders were hurting for several days and I wasn't feeling too great.

That kinda scared me.  I have some ambitious swims I'd really like to do, and the idea that a piddly little two and a half mile swim set me back scared me for what I'd like to accomplish.

Here's the reality:

I got back into swimming seriously in October and it's now the beginning of April.  On top of that, it wasn't like I was getting back into swimming with a base of having been diligent about working out to support me.  Oh, no..

I hadn't really been working out seriously for two years.   The reality is that going from nothing at all for a couple of years to being able to swim two and a half miles in a span of six months is actually just fine.

The only reason it doesn't look fine is because I am comparing myself to world-class athletes.  I'm looking at my progress and comparing it to English Channel swimmers, for God's sake.  At my level, it's kinda dumb.

I need to stop thinking about the big events and stuff I want to do and concentrate on the ones I have scheduled next.  What I have scheduled next is a two mile open water swim.  The two mile part, I've got down pat.  What I need to start looking at is getting in the open water experience, and even that's got a few weeks before I need to worry too much about it. It's April, I live in Northern New England. I ain't puttin' a damn toe in open water until May 1, and I'm getting my husband to read the hypothermia chapter from Open Water Swimming Manual before then so that he knows what to do if I get myself in trouble. (Of course, I've already read it.  I'm gonna re-read it, too!)

What I need to do now is just keep swimming six days a week, stop filling my head with nonsense I'm not ready for yet, and get ready for what I have planned.  The only way to get there is to concentrate on the next step, anyway.