Learning to swim: the final chapter?

<– Learning to swim parts 1 & 2

Tess Tri’s – Journey to my first triathlon –> 

Last week I had my last swimming lesson. When I joined the 12 week course on 19th May, with nine lessons left to go, I had big ideas of coming out the other end being good enough to sign up for a triathlon. After all, nine weeks to train for a race – it’s a bit tight but it’s not impossible, right?

If it was a run or a cycle ride I was training for, it would be fine. I know how to do both of those things. But with swimming, I was starting from scratch, with an added fear of deep water and a general hatred/intolerance for water going up my nose. And the whole not-being-able-to-breathe-under-water thing was most inconvenient.

My lessons have been brilliant, only five or six of us maximum each week, doing a variety of drills, strokes and endurance work. We’ve done lots of tumble turns, hand turns, deep entry dives (which proper scared me at first but I love them now), working with pull buoys, kick boards, ‘dumbbells’ and one lesson we played with flippers – OH MY GOD DID I FLY!

Learning to swim: flippers & dumbbells

It took four weeks and LOTS of flappy, frustrating and sometimes brilliant practice to finally swim a full length front crawl. If I have a bit of a break I can turn around and come back down again, just about. But it has to be a good 20-30 second break to get my breath back, and I can’t always make it.

A work in progress

My technique isn’t that great and not very efficient – sometimes I feel like I’m gliding through the water really effortlessly, and when I slow it down and concentrate on my arm entry and breathing I’m not too bad. But others I’m a flappy, spluttering mess, unable to make it to the other side of the pool without stopping.

When it goes wrong I find myself gasping for air towards the last few metres – big, ugly ‘I’m-drowning-here’ gasps of air. God knows what I sound like to other swimmers. I think I go too fast and get tired too quickly, so run out of breath and panic.

I asked my instructor to film me so I can see what I look like and find out what to work on. Here’s what nine lessons (only three of which focussed on front crawl, mind) and lots of practice produces:

As you can see, it’s a bit messy, with way too many strokes,  I can only breathe on one side (tried it on the left and promptly sank), and I need to work on my arm entry. If you can spot anything else that needs work please let me know! Despite my poor technique, my confidence is up, I’m no longer (OK, mostly not) scared of deep water, and I know it’s just a case of practice makes perfect. There will be no triathlon this season, but that’s OK because I can work towards one for next year. There’s no point signing up for one if I’m not ready, I want to do it well.

Round 2…

The next course of lessons starts again in September which will lead quite nicely into training for Brighton Marathon again (unfinished business) and will be great low impact cross training. I’m gonna continue to swim alongside training for the Barns Green Half over the summer, and hopefully build a better base of running for the winter and have the swimming as a constant to keep fitness levels up.

I’ve loved the challenge of learning something new and am really pleased with my progress, I just need to work on technique and stamina now, the only way is up.

If anyone’s got any tips or observations from my video please do share, I’m all ears! Also, if you’re learning to swim or are thinking about it, let me know, I love talking strokes! 


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Tess Tri’s – Journey to my first triathlon –>