This is my seventh month of training, and I am feeling the fruits of my labor. I have been swimming a half mile three times a week and then immediately moving to the treadmill to run three miles. And I have been rewarded. My legs feel stronger than when I first began my training. Gradually I have moved away from feeling wobbly legged to feeling strong in my legs. We had some warm, dry weather in February, and I took my bike out on the open road twice. I rode twelve miles in about fifty minutes. Seven months ago it took me an hour to do that same distance.
Since September, I have devoted about 252 hours to training, and my body is responding well to those invested hours.
Relaxing the muscles that you are not using is the topic of this month’s swimming tip. After Mike, the swim coach, observed me swimming just one lap, he gave me a three-minute lecture on relaxing. That was four weeks ago, and I am still attempting to incorporate his advice.
My personality lends itself to tenseness. I feel guilty if I relax. Somewhere along the line, I equated relaxing with being sloppy, but it is not an accurate equation.
Constricted muscles zap you of your energy. Learning to relax the muscles that you are not using while you swim will give more energy to the muscles that are working hard and require more energy. Eventually, the goal is to relax even those big muscles that are being used. Taking the tension out of those muscles will free them to do what they are intended to do—work hard—without the added strain of tension.
A very simple exercise that will help you to get a sense of what it feels like to relax your muscles in the water is to float face down for as long as you can hold a breath. Feel the full weight of your body being suspended by the water. Let the water hold you up. By floating like this for a few seconds before you start your laps, you are giving your body an important message: The water will hold me. It does not need my help. Then, as you begin your lap, stay mindful of relaxing your weight into the water. Start your lap in slow motion, keeping your belly, knees, toes, ankles, forehead, and back of your head relaxed. As you learn to relax the parts that you are not using, you will learn to relax the parts that you do use.
If you can, I would encourage you to participate in a yoga class. Committing to a yoga class twice a week has taught me to relax and to access strength from my inner core. I breathe deeper, my balance has improved, and my muscles have been stretched and strengthened.
With all the training that I have been doing, I am inspired to do something more than just my sprint triathlon in August. The event is called The Long Bridge Swim. It is a 1.76-mile swim across Lake Pend Oreille. It will take place two weeks before my triathlon. I feel like I am in the best shape that I have ever been. So, I think I should take advantage of that and do this event, since I have thought about doing it in the past but have never had the nerve or energy or confidence to do it.
“Anything of value is going to cost you something.” Toni Cade Bambara