Swimming: A Year in the Making

Let’s talk swimming.  I’ve mentioned already that it’s an ongoing love-hate relationship for me, as it might be for some of you triathletes without a swimming background.  Overall, I truly love this discipline, but  I don’t think any other sport has tested me quite like it.  Swimming is something I can’t push harder and get better at.  There’s a lot of technique involved, as well as a huge mental focus aspect.  It’s taken a year for me to get comfort in the water and actually enjoy swimming sometimes.  I often have to focus on one small aspect of my stroke and improve that before moving on to the next one.  It’s hard to focus on more than one thing and it takes time and a lot of patience and time in the water. 

I was a little frustrated earlier this summer because I lost my swimming mojo and felt like I’d hit a plateau – I’m sure we all get this in various sports at times.  I was pushing hard but kept seeing worse or similar results.  Why were the friends that I shared a lane with now so far ahead of me?  I think a couple factors came into play:

  1. Confidence – it’s funny, one week, I was on top of the world and felt like such a strong swimmer, but then I had one bad practice and things spiraled from there.  I felt like “I’d never be a good swimmer” and “my body is just not made for swimming”.  It actually took a lot of work to climb out of that spot.  Once I did, I could see myself improving and feeling strong at practice again.  I had to get back the mindset that “I’m a good swimmer”.
  2. Overtraining – I had hardly any rest days in July and just kept pushing.  Why?  I don’t even know.  Either way, by adding just one rest day to my week I saw huge improvements in my swimming and overall well-being.
  3. Form – I thought I had okay form, but when you can’t see yourself, it’s hard to correct.  Over the last couple of Thursdays, my coach decided we were going to do drill-focused swims, and I’m so thankful for this!  I found out I was crossing over not during my hand entry, but after my hand went into the water when I rotated my body.  Crossing over is not only inefficient and can cause you not to swim straight, but it also wasn’t allowing me to have a strong catch and pull through.  Now that I know this was happening, I’m really concentrating on hand entry, extension and a strong high-elbow catch in the water.

I recently listened to a podcast with Olympian swimmer Garrett Weber-Gale who said something to the effect There is a point in every race where you say this hurts, or hell yeah, this is awesome, I’m going to push through the pain“.  That resonated with me, because this point occurs so many times during training and racing – in hill sessions for running, sprint sessions for swimming, on hard hills for biking, or in the final mile of a half marathon.  It’s easy to say I can’t, but why not say I can – why not surrender and quit listening to the negative voice in your head?

Last Thursday my swim coach had us do a sprint-focused practice.  The main set was 2×100 sprints, followed by 300 EZ, repeated twice.  Right before the last sprint, my coach told us to “mentally prepare” for it and choose a goal in our head, then to keep strong form and get after it.  I didn’t realize it at first, but each practice like this helps me practice the mental aspect of racing.  During the last sprint, I got to that point where my whole body burned, but I made the decision to hold my form and keep going.  And you know what, I paced all four of my sprints, finishing with my fastest 100 yd times yet (4 x 100’s on 1:27, 1:26, 1:27, 1:26).  I know – not speedy like the guys trying to break 1:00 in the fast lanes, but the endurance was there.  Not every practice goes this way, but each time I work a little closer to letting go of the ego inside that says “you can’t” and making small breakthroughs.  Because each small breakthrough is another drop in the bucket towards my triathlon goals!

Lastly, I have to share this smoothie because it is so good!   I whipped this up after coming home from a 30 minute bike + 1 hour run brick this morning and was in pie heaven; it’s the perfect bridge between summer and fall – a bright summer flavor (peach) plus warming spices (fall). 

Peach Pie Green Smoothie  (serves 2)

  • 1c Coconut Water
  • 1c Almond Milk (or other milk)
  • 1 banana
  • 1c (?) peaches
  • 2 large handfuls spinach
  • 1-2T ground flaxseed
  • 2-4T walnuts (small handful)
  • A few shakes of cinnamon
  • A small pinch of cloves
  • 2 scoops of Vanilla Protein Powder added while blending (I used Designer Whey Vanilla)

IMG_1278

Have a lovely week everyone!

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5 thoughts on “Swimming: A Year in the Making

  1. I love this quote – “There is a point in every race where you say this hurts, or hell yeah, this is awesome, I’m going to push through the pain“. This is so true whether its a race or workout and how you frame it makes a world of difference from that point forward!

  2. Great post Brittany. I too have been and still am facing the swimming demons. I find it soul destroying to see seemingly unfit people doing length after length in the pool with a technique that makes them appear like they could go on forever while I struggle with form and especially breathing!! Oh well I’ll keep practicing!! 😉

    1. I know, it’s frustrating to know your endurance is there and you see seemingly less fit people passing you (yes, a higher fat % helps…), but keep practicing, it takes patience and you’ll get there 🙂

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