I didn’t realize I had reached Day 30 until I typed the title onto this post, and I guess I should pause to recognize this moment. When I first pitched this blog, I thought it’d be a 30-day project. Like MTV’s “Made” or something.
It’s turned out to be much more. I have plenty of learning left to do, and a few months of swimming left. I can’t believe it’s been a whole month, though, and I feel proud to get this far. So I guess that muffin you see me eating in the picture was kind of like a celebratory bottle of champagne only more carb-alicious and less buzz-inducing.
And I want to thank you for continuing to read this blog 30 days in.
Today, the lessons continued.
After putting in plenty of work over the past four weeks or so, including a brutal Monday that focused on distance, my coach, Jeff King, has been working over the past two days at making me a more efficient swimmer.
Yesterday he modified the workout to focus on my stroke, and today it was another workout that was meant to get me focused on keeping that form and feeling the pull-through on each stroke. It still had me gassed — I was going on about five to 10 seconds rest in between swims — but the focus wasn’t as much on getting me tired as it was on doing it right.
My former soccer coach, Clyde Watson, used to say that your body does what the brain is used to doing. In other words, repetition causes the body to react and do without having to think. And that’s why practice is important, and also why practicing RIGHT is even more crucial. If you start developing bad habits and do them time and time again, soon your body does it without thinking.
Here was my set, which I did four times. First with fins, second with nothing, third with fins/paddles, final with nothing:
75 swim, slow and with perfect form.
25 fast swim.
50 swim, slow and with perfect form.
25 fast swim.
25 slow and with perfect form.
25 fast swim.
In between, I did four, six, eight and 10 12.5-meter breastroke arms-only pull, breathing every stroke going up and breathing every three coming back, in order to get a stronger arm workout.
It was the first time I had ventured away from freestyle but the point of this exercise wasn’t for me to learn how to properly do breaststroke — which, by the way, was the bane of my existence growing up. (I never swam a breaststroke race without DQing and it was the one stroke my sister could beat me in. I hated it.) Today’s work was all about building muscle while still kinda-sorta learning some stuff about the stroke.
(I still hate breaststroke. And my sister could probably still beat me. And I’d probably DQ in that meaningless race.)
I think this week at practice has been more valuable than some of the tougher weeks because it’s been about really fine tuning and correcting problems. I can work as hard as I want for as long as I want, but if I’m not swimming the most efficient way possible what good is that?
Jeff pointed out something I hadn’t really thought about: In this experiment, I’m compressing the learning and training of one full season into a matter of a few months. I don’t have the luxury of spreading things out and perfecting each and every step. I am at once building a base of familiarity, endurance and technique in hopes that it can turn me into a serviceable competitor by the November Open. Shoot, by the October one if I’m lucky.
I’ve had four weeks so far and I’ve come a long way. But frankly, I’m not there yet and I shouldn’t expect to be. These practices are all about putting the lessons together, remembering the things I learned a few weeks ago and combining them with the things Jeff is telling me today. If I can start to do that, then I will really begin seeing the results in the pool.
Why swim for time when the result is probably going to be similar? Sure, I may drop time again. But will I be doing it the right way? If I am swimming hard but with poor form, am I really learning anything from this experience?
I’m intent on getting things right. I think I’ve been way better this week on my flip turns. They’ve felt better, that’s for sure. I’m starting to develop a consistency — though I’m not there yet. I’m becoming more and more aware of trying to pull all the way through on each stroke (though I know I have to build more strength in my triceps and shoulders). And now I need to incorporate more rolling from the hips and reaching with the arms, keeping my head down when I breathe and bi-laterally breathing — among other things.
I can start to feel those lessons taking effect and hopefully I continue to learn from some of the stuff I’m doing.
Washington Post reporter Paul Tenorio will train with a swim club over the next few months and chronicle his journey as he attempts to transform from regular guy/sports reporter to competitive swimmer — everything from his waistline to his best times.