When someone asked me what my greatest challenge has been since I made the commitment to train for a sprint triathlon, I said, “Swimming.” I do not know how it feels to relax when I swim.
Jim, who has competed in triathlons and has observed my swimming efforts, noticed my stiff-armed stroke. He suggested two things:
Use a pull buoy- This device helps your rear-end float level with the surface of the water without having to use any kick motion. Staying level without having to work your legs isolates your arms. Your rear end relaxes and moves rhythmically side to side while you focus your attention on what your arms need to do.
When pushing off from the edge of the pool, reach your arms in front and see how long and how far you can float. You can do this with or without the pull buoy.
When anyone mentions the word “relax,” my response is to become tense. I am sure my thinking needs to change.
Resting - It is not a word I associate with swimming, but it could be. The water will hold my weight. I will not sink. My body is buoyant. I can learn to rest my whole weight onto the water.
Enjoy - When I recall how far I have come, from a slow breaststroke to swimming free-style, I can’t help but smile. Though swimming is my greatest challenge, I enjoy it the most. The rhythm of my body moving through the water and the silence that surrounds me keeps me from quitting.
Lighten up - When I remember why I swim, I lighten up. I am not swimming to win, I’m swimming so I can participate in two “fun” events, a sprint triathlon and the Long Bridge Swim.
Attitude - My opinion of myself matters the most. If I compare myself with another swimmer, I either get discouraged or haughty. And neither of those perceptions is correct. I am not a competitive swimmer; I swim for the fun of it.
Expectations - Expectations, especially if they are unrealistic, can cause tension. My goal for the sprint triathlon is to not finish last in my age group. When I won first place for my age group in a spring duathlon, I gained confidence that this goal was obtainable. And my goal for the Long Bridge Swim is simply to finish the 1.78 mile open water swim in the time allotted, 2.5 hours.
Rest, Enjoy, Lighten-up, Attitude check, and Expectations, all of which are possible, spell “relax.” I believe if I practice, I can succeed at becoming a relaxed swimmer.
I have increased my time and distance on my bike. I found a quiet rural route that is a delightful ride. Traffic volume on the road is low and I see at least one deer on each of my rides. There are more open fields than homes, and the view makes the ride effortless.
I am running about 14 miles a week. I feel my swimming has strengthened my lung capacity and weight training has made my legs stronger. And as a result, my stamina for running has increased.
“It is a reactive thing, like a Geiger Counter; you click whenever you come close to whatever you were built to do.” Stephen King
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