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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Total Immersion Swimming and Triathlon Offseason Training

I'm not a natural swimmer but I've made great progress this year. Take a look at some video from my swims earlier this year,  early May 2013. I thought I was doing wonderful when these videos were taken. Blissful ignorance.

You can see me in the blue-puple swim cap, my left arm crossing way over my body.  (The guy in my lane is David, he did the Butler Tri this year, too, and did great! But as I watched these videos I think he's really slapping the water.)

Now on this video you can see my head rising way too far out of the water to breathe.

I came late to swimming. I never think of myself as a swimmer. But after my first Olympic distance race where I successfully swam a mile in open water in less than 40 minutes, I realized I could really get into this swimming thing. And since my injury, it's the only activity I can do right now without restrictions. So, I am reading a book about swimming. It's about a certain kind of swimming though, called Total Immersion or TI.

The book is by Terry Laughlin and it's called Total Immersion. A good friend gave it to me months ago, long before the triathlon season started and I have to confess I set it aside and didn't have an interest in reading it. Reading about running - sure! Bring on the books! I love the soul-searching, the self-finding, the crazy adventures of running. But honestly what can you really write about swimming?

"Another lap. Saw that lost hair band on the bottom of the pool again. Same spot as last lap. My ear has water in it. There's the bottom of the pool. Another lap."

My coach, from Steel City Endurance, has been assigning me TI drills all summer. And I've been doing them, mostly. Basically. But I didn't embrace TI. I was getting by! I was swimming a mile like twice a week! Without a break! I was good. Who needed TI? Not I!

And then my coach came with me to a swim practice about two weeks ago and destroyed my happy swim world.

She changed everything. She told me my least favorite drill (whale eye/popeye mouth) is now my new swim form. Not just a drill to do once in awhile. It's the new forever.  She also told me "no more deep arm pull." Now I have to lead with lifted elbows. I'm spearing the water with my arm. I'm working on reducing my stroke count.

Ugh. That first practice was so awfully uncomfortable. This next videos show me trying to do my new form on Sept 30. I'm really trying to do what my coach told me to do. And I may be getting it a teeny bit. I did manage to do one length with only 19 strokes. (Also, if I may complain, the water was very cold for this swim.)

But habits are hard to break. So I picked up Total Immersion. I may not think books about swimming are as interesting as books about running, but I respect all books. So I started reading thoughtfully and carefully. And I learned some things.

I've watched these videos a few times. I've really improved my head position. My hands are nice and quiet going into the water - but my elbow is slapping the water! Got to work on that.

I learned about patient hands and balance, about streamlining and using my body weight to push myself forward instead of trying to pull with my hands. I am actually eager to get back in the pool and see if I can incorporate these techniques into my swim.

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