Sports massage therapist Tessa Glover shares the second in her series of blogs about her brave adventure towards the Windrush Aquathon 2019 - Go Tessa!!
The beautiful summer has come and gone and I have to admit I have not been swimming as much as I planned to. I had hoped to swim 2-3 times per week before starting on the Windrush Beginners Swimming course but this did not happen. I was fortunate to have a trip to Italy in October but unfortunate in that I am not a member of this yacht club in Civitavecchia (Porto Turistico Riva Di Traiano) and had to just gaze admiringly at the pool from the terrace.
In reality I had only managed 3 or 4 swims in the two months before the first lesson and was totally unprepared. I felt out of my depth (pun intended) as 11 or 12 30-something males and only 3 women (plus me at the age of 50+) gathered on the side of the pool.
The lads set off like a shoal of hungry piranha while I splashed about like an aimless flounder. Thankfully the coaches, Audrey* and Becky*, were great and very patient with me. After seeing how much I struggled just trying to do a few lengths without stopping, Audrey suggested I wore my fins (flippers) all the time which helped me to keep up with the others in my lane.
The lesson concentrated on breathing and was incredibly informative. I had no idea that you could relax and breathe out under water at the same time but as the hour ticked on I came to learn that when you’re tired, breathing bilaterally without swallowing water is impossible so by the end I felt as if I’d drunk about 2 litres. At one point my heart felt as if it was about to beat out of my chest or was I about to have a heart attack? (Alarmingly, it occurred to me, I am at the age where that sort of thing could potentially happen).
I was shocked at how difficult it was to do so many lengths in one hour and came away from the lesson feeling incredibly despondent. I even asked if I should bother to come to the next session but Becky encouraged me to continue. I asked if she would give me some much needed 1-2-1 lessons and thankfully she agreed. She obviously loves a challenge!
The following week I had two lessons with Becky. She was fantastic. She broke down each element of the breathing. I used the bubble bubble breathe technique but she noticed that I turn my head too far out of the water and gasped for breath rather than rotating my whole body from the hips and turning my head quickly to the side to breathe. So she suggested Bubble Bubble Stretch, this way I was reminded to reach out my arm even further forward as I took my breath.
At this point I was exhausted and getting out of breath very quickly. Firstly because I am aerobically unfit and secondly because Becky noticed that I was breathing from my chest rather than from the diaphragm, meaning I was running out of air quicker and, as a result, panicking. We had a break from the swimming and she suggested that I practice some ‘sink downs’ to help me relax. Sink downs involve trying to expel as much air from your lungs as possible as you sink down to sit on the bottom of the pool. If you keep too much air in your lungs while doing the front crawl, your chest may be too buoyant which will make you swim at an angle with your legs sinking down. I found it almost impossible to stay under and kept bobbing to the surface again. With practice it’s getting better and Becky suggested I look at these Swim Smooth forum posts on the subject.
As for body positioning, she showed me how to torpedo off from the wall using my feet to start off. This makes sure your body stay long in the water for a good 5 metres before beginning your strokes and encourages you to stay that way for the duration of the length.
The evening of my second lesson, I sat in the car outside the swimming pool wondering why I had come back. I almost persuaded myself to go home but I remembered my promise to my colleague to do the Aquathlon and dragged myself into the changing room.
Their were fewer people this week and it seemed a lot calmer. I didn’t try to keep up with everyone else so didn’t get as out of breath. I kept my flippers on and concentrated on the drills. More breathing, head positioning and swimming on our sides this week. I felt a little better about my lack of ability!
10 minutes before the third lesson and again I was hesitant to go in. This week for some reason was even worse than the first lesson. My breathing was even shallower, I got out of breath during every length. To my horror, Audrey posted a video up of the session and there I was shaking my head and not doing crawl at all. I felt miserable looking at it.
This morning I arrived in the changing room to find I’d brought the bag containing items for the charity shop instead of my swimming stuff! I made myself go home and get the right back and do my swim. There’s dedication for you. As well as breathing, I practised swimming on my side with my head resting on my arm for body positioning improvement, sink downs and even did a few lengths without stopping… wonders will never cease.
Thursdays’s 1-2-1 lesson with Becky we worked on ‘sculling’. I always assumed sculling meant using cupped hands to empty water out of a sinking boat. However, there are many definitions but this one is the closest.
(of an aquatic animal) propel itself with fins or flippers.”the limbs were modified into efficient paddles, perfectly adapted for sculling through the water”
We worked on getting a feel for the water with the hands, cupping and moving in and out as if stroking a cat’s head back and forth (or turning on taps). We then moved on to shoulder, elbow and wrist position in combination with the cupping.
Finally here was something I could manage! All those years of being a cat owner have paid off….
Next time: the last two Windrush lessons and my first attempt at a Parkrun after 6 years…
*Rebecca Goodwin https://windrushtri.co.uk/coaches/ Twitter: @beckykyky
*Audrey Livingston http://www.alphafitness.me.uk/audrey.html