In a Triathlon, or at least the one we have at Beech Fork State Park the first Sunday in August each year, participants begin with a half-mile swim, followed by a 15 mile bike ride and a 3 mile run. This week I have focused on practicing the biking, with the Elliptical helping to build the muscles needed for the 3 mile run without the impact on my knees just yet. Today, I practiced the swimming.
To put it succinctly, I suck at swimming. Mine is akin to flailing or drowning than proper laps, or at least this has been the case for quite a while. My husband's brother found a great guide to improve his swimming in preparation for Triathlons last year: the Perpetual Motion method taught by Terry Laughlin. Knowing my goal for 2011, he let me borrow the tutorial DVD and book.
A few hours before heading to the YMCA, I set aside time to watch the first set of swimming lessons. It helped me to visualize the movement I needed to achieve. But, when I attempted lesson 1.1, I failed. It was to push off and let yourself glide in a "superman" style with arms outstretched and head down, holding your breath till momentum slowed enough for your feet to touch bottom "in an average shallow pool". However, I simply could not hold my breath for those few seconds. Trying again, lesson 1.2 added a new step: to pull your arms back after the initial glide and gently kick with head down. Unfortunately, I still could not hold my breath for more than 5-6 seconds without gasping when I stood, most likely the result of my Asthma. Given that I am a stubborn person, it wasn't until the end of lap two and after my lungs sputtered their substantial unhappiness that I changed my practice.
Starting with lap three, I glided instead on my side, which allowed me to breathe continuously and to find out naturally when best to inhale and exhale. This vantage point allowed me to watch and adjust my arm stroke posture, raising the elbow but keeping the hand relaxed until it pierced the water. In addition, my underwater arm found an opposite complementary rhythm. I practiced the gentle kicking, but with muscles tensed just enough to prevent my knee, ankle, foot and toe joints from painfully "popping", an effort meant to overcome a poor swimming bad habit of "flinging" my legs, which would result in joint strain. This controlled "gentle kicking" was much more possible today than it had been last year, given in large part to my repeated use of the Elliptical machine, which has helped to strengthen muscles all over my body.
By the end of 30 minutes, not including the occasional stopping to adjust my ear plugs or to talk with husband Jim who was swimming in the lane next to me, I had completed 18 laps, a full half-mile. This translated to around 350 calories burned. And, at the end, I was not exhausted, another improvement over last year.
Next session, I will again use this side glide posture, practicing the breathing, stroke, gentle kick rhythm, and shoot for a slightly better time, with a goal of reaching 20 minutes by May.