I finally got to finish the four-night swimming course that started at the end of October. I missed the scheduled final night because my car broke down. The make-up session was last Thursday. We went over the Total Immersion drills we had learned, and eventually tried them without fins. I was mortified to find my feet sinking and my kick unable to propel me at all! Conventional wisdom says the kick is what propels the swim the most. But Total Immersion says the body is propelled by movement originating in the core, and the body then glides through the water using length and balance for efficiency. Kicking faster or harder just increases the energy expenditure geometrically. So go slow, feel the flow, and don’t tire yourself out with too much kicking and splashing.
The instructor told me explicitly that I shouldn’t kick so much—although I had slowed down my typical panicked kicking, I was still kicking too much. She said when I get the balance really in place, the kick will take care of itself. So I decided not to worry at the last class when I couldn’t move through the water without the fins. I would just practice the first three simple drills and focus on balance.
Today Tom and I went to the city pool near our house to practice these drills. (He took a Total Immersion class a few years ago.) It was our first time going there and we were nervous about getting the space to practice drills while others were swimming laps. It turned out to be a well-organized arrangement of lanes designated easy, medium, fast, and very fast. Half of the shallow end was cut off with a bulkhead and designated as a play pool. We had a lap lane to ourselves, but eventually I felt we should give it up to real lap swimmers. There were only two kids in each half of the play pool, so we went over there and did our drills going across the pool. It was fun! The drills went well for both of us, and with it being uncrowded, we were able to concentrate.
I practiced the first four drills—the back balance, sweet spot, fish, and skate. The best way was for me to do the skate was to always start on back balance, then sweet spot with leading arm, and only then rotate to the skate position. My balance was pretty good. It was just as well my kick propelled me so slowly, because then I could maximize my drills over the width of the pool.
During the swim classes, I had used a noseplug because I was so distracted and freaked out about water going in my sinuses. Today I didn’t use it. I was pleasantly surprised to find I had learned how to breathe out slowly and rotate up for a breath without getting much water up the nose and without freaking out about it if I did. After a while I did start to get distracted by it, so I put the noseplug on to make the most of my last few “lengths.” This worked out great.
I’m so happy about making progress past my various fears of being in a pool. Originally the basis for most of it was being unable to see. Only last year I learned that goggles would allow me to wear my contact lenses so I wouldn’t have to worry about awkward situations related to not seeing something or someone. And now using the noseplug to help with the breath-holding drills has helped me so much. All I have to do is keep practicing the drills and slowly progressing to the more advanced ones, and eventually I’ll swim. It is a little hard to believe—but CrossFit and guitar lessons have shown me that going through progressions always works if you follow them patiently. It seems to slow you down but saves time and setbacks in the long run.
Another fun thing about today’s swim practice was that we got to see the cool stuff they have at this pool—such as a sauna! And a workout area—right by the pool, set back from the edge and roped off. They have lots of dumbbells, a Smith rack, and two Universal machines, one of which has a pull-up bar on it, as well as a good-sized area of rubber mats where you could have space to use the dumbbells or do calisthenics. All while watching people swim. I love it. I have a fantasy of going over there to do a CrossFit workout some night when I don’t make it to the gym. We’ll see.