When I was born, my grandpa asked my parents where I was going to learn how to swim.
“Um, I don’t know. How do we teach her how to talk, how to walk, how to become a decent person when she grows up?” was probably the answer.
And so, my kind grandfather built a pool in his backyard (which, he obviously got just a little bit of use out of, too) and I took swimming lessons there growing up. Both the informal ones, from him, and formal ones, from an instructor with all of my little friends.
I did half a season of swim team in high school…until I got into a car accident with my friend and temporarily jacked up my shoulder.
All of this is to say I thought I knew how to swim, until I started swimming as an adult a few years ago at Equinox. The lifeguard kept asking if I wanted pointers on my stroke, which was both embarrassing and helpful. A kind reader, Allie, read about this and asked if I wanted her to give me some swim tips. YES!
That was three years ago, and now I am training to swim 1.2 miles.
As luck would have it, I got a lovely email from Wendy, who does PR for NYHRC, asking if I wanted a swim lesson.
YES PLEASE! My coach has been giving me some drills and form tips, but she’s in Maine and I’m in NYC.
I met up with the lovely Sam Cardona, who is an Ironman and the director of corporate wellness at NYHRC. Pretty sure he’s also going to be my triathlon angel. He gave me this NYHRC swim cap and said it would magically make me faster. DEAL.
I jumped in, and he filmed me swimming down and back. Which wasn’t at all stressful, of course.
We sat and watched the footage, and it was BAD, Y’ALL. Which just gave me hope that I have plenty of room to improve before my HIM.
To say Sam was hands-on was an understatement. He literally hopped in the pool with me to help me work on my stroke.
This is me trying to wiggle my way out of the pool and back to running, which is so much easier.
Sam demonstrated thinking of my arm like a zipper. Extend the arm straight out, he said, catch the water, then pull alongside your body. Use a high elbow as you bring your arm out of the water. As you can see above, he’s basically using his arm as a lever as he brings it out of the water. I’m not quite sure what I was doing before, but it sure as hell wasn’t that. We also used those swim paddles to practice really cupping my hand to go through the water faster.
We also used pull buoys so that I could get a feel for what it was like to really rotate properly from my hips.
Honestly, even one of these changes would have really helped my form, but everything together makes me feel so much faster already.
I told him how I’d felt panicky in open water and how I was frequently out of breath despite thinking I was in pretty good shape. I’d been breathing every four strokes, and we changed to every two strokes, focusing on really just turning my head rather than picking my head up and then turning and breathing.
The one phrase that got me giggling and has stuck with me since is “Swim with the fishies.” By this, he means to look at the bottom of the pool, which prevents your feet from lowering.
Check it out! (This is with pull buoy.)
Any more swim tips for me, or anything else you’d like to know? I have another lesson with Sam tomorrow and can pass on any of your questions!