Keep Your Head Down

As I spend more and more time swimming up and down my local pool, a number of things are happening:

(1) I am turning more.  As a result I am pushing off the wall up to 400 times in a session.  One of the reasons I got into the pool is the state of my knees and ankles.  The ankles have always been dodgy due to having totally flat feet, but the knees have got worse over the years due to playing rugby, and due to the ill-advised lifting of my wife onto my shoulders at a folk festival a few years ago.  That episode ended very badly, and so too did my knees.  All of this pushing is causing my knees to grumble.  I either need a longer pool (not many of those around), an endless pool (not likely due to space and cost), or to get out in the rivers, seas and lakes a bit more (damn – winter’s coming).  I guess I am just going to have to deal with it, and maybe do baby pushes when I am not going to hinder other swimmers.

(2) I am wanting to improve my speed and technique.  This is coming, but slowly.  My speed per 100 has come down steadily to 1.40 or so, faster over shorter distances, and I feel that the swimming is becoming easier.  One thing that I tried the other day during my first 10 k pool swim was to alter my head position, so that I was looking at the bottom of the pool.  This seems pretty obvious, but like many things around technique, take a bit of thinking about.  42 years of unlearning to do!  I had also read an article on the Swim Smooth website which indicated that the ‘Head Down’ position was not a requirement for optimal swimming, depending on your style.  If head up was good enough for Ian Thorpe, maybe it was good enough for me.

So it was with some surprise that I found a noticeable difference when I forced myself to look at the bottom of the pool.  My steady 9 strokes per length became easier to maintain over long periods, which is the best indicator of increased efficiency that I had.   Wow, this was probably worth a couple of seconds per 100 straight away!  It was one of those eureka moments, like when I finally got bilateral breating nailed.

In a couple of weeks I will be attending a half day freestyle course at the Elite Swimming Academy in Cambridge, where they will film me above and under water, and deconstruct all of my stroke inadequacies.  I have a personality type that does not gravitate easily to taking advice or being taught.  But I am learning to put that aside in the pursuit of being a better swimmer.  It’s all about the ‘aggregation of marginal gains’, a concept adopted by the British Olympic Cycling Team.  I’me never going to be an Olympian of any kind, but I am want to be the best I can.  Everything I can improve that makes it more likely I will get to France, I will!

One thing that happened on my first km of ‘head down’, was a ‘Head on’ collision with another swimmer who had joined the lane without me noticing.  As I overtook the swimmer I thought was the only other one in my lane, BANG!  I guess looking forward occasionally is still the answer!