Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Swimming along

Source So, while I have no hope nor plan to look like Mark Spitz in this lifetime (or the next), nor to perform like him, I am happy to report that I have learned not only to be comfortable in the water but have increased strength and endurance. Whether my training will have prepared me sufficiently for the Wildflower Tri at the beginning of May still remains to be seen, but at least I can say that I've made a good effort. One of these days I'll get around to writing about WHY try for a tri.
In the meantime, I will briefly talk about swimming. It's funny because my older two brothers were really 'into' swimming when I was a kid, and I have fond memories of eating Frito Pies at swim meats. If you don't know what a Frito Pie is, I'll educate you. My entire family spent many a weekend at all-day meets. I, however, never swam competitively or on a team. I knew the strokes and enjoyed the water, but the competitive spirit of swimming was never a part of my experience.
Back in December, when I signed up for the triathlon, I decided that swim lessons might help me swim more efficiently. My stroke was not strong, and I had major breathing issues. I ended up taking 2 different 4-week classes at the Rosebowl, and the classes really transformed my swimming experience. First of all, being at the Rosebowl Aquatics center is fun by itself - there are tons of people of different sizes and ages, lots of activities, different teams and groups that meet. With the exception of one of the coaches/teachers whom I did not like, I have enjoyed the other coaches/teachers who have asked me what I wanted to work on. It has humbled me slightly to have a twenty-year-old kid encouraging me, nagging me or yelling at me to swim better or faster, to push myself, to breath better. As a teacher, I must say that I envy these kids/coaches the reward to easily see the results of their coaching. Seriously, they would tell me to tweak one thing or another, and after one 50 I breathed better or had improved my stroke considerably. Thanks to the practices, I have built up some stamina. Speed might be another issue altogether, but I can work on that with time and more practice. In addition to the physical challenge that swimming has presented and the small, incremental victories (which will hopefully pay off on May 1), the experience of being a student and being in a class is both refreshing and hard for me. I am definitely a people-pleaser AND I'm very competetive by nature, so I want to swim harder and faster and prove that I am a good student. At the same time, I am not a great swimmer, so I have struggled with that fact which is quite clear to the coaches and to me.
One final thought - I could not have improved on my own. Maybe I could have increased stamina, but swimming would have continued to be a major chore rather than an opportunity to learn and to improve. As an adult (in my own experience, at least), I'm open to new ideas and experiences, but it can be difficult to really commit to them. Taking swim lessons and pushing myself to improve my *mad skills* has required a certain commitment on my part and an open mind, something that I don't always exhibit. So, yeah, it's been about swimming, but I've also loved the other experiences that I've gained from my swim lessons. AND... I might take an advanced swimming class, even when the triathlon is long over!

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