Lesson learned: Get a good swim coach

May 1, 2008 at 5:25 pm Leave a comment

 In an early post I patted myself on the back about having a good swim stroke. Later, after realizing that I was working hard in the pool but wasn’t seeing the speed, I pondered whether or not I needed to get lessons.

Today, after my first lesson, I can tell you that without a doubt I was in dire need of a lesson.  I, like many people, was approaching my swimming stroke similar to a running or cycling: one arm after the other at the same consistent speed.  Well, apparently, this is not correct.  I’m not going to go into the specifics of the stroke here (I wouldn’t do the explanation justice) but suffice it to say that the difference between what I was doing and what I should have been doing was the difference between a jogger who turns one foot over after the other over and over again and a cross country skier who glides after each push.  

My swim coach had me do a couple of drills back and forth to try to break my natural motion.  I was a little doubtful at first, but after I started to get the hang of it, he put me through a little experiment.  He had me swim 25 meters using my old stroke.  Then he had me do 25 meters using the stroke I’d just learned 10 minutes prior.  After I finished both (stopping in between) he asked me which one felt quicker.  Answer: my natural stroke–I was still a little choppy with the new style and it didn’t really feel natural yet.  Which one felt easier?  A: The new stroke.  

The results: the new stroke was three seconds faster and took three fewer strokes over the course of 25 meters.  Think about that for a second…over the course of a 1500 meter race that is about a full three minutes in time savings and the equivalent of 200+ meters in swim strokes.  AMAZING!  The crazy thing is that the new stroke was much easier on my body and feels much more sustainable over the course of a race.  Even crazier: this was my first day using the stroke.  Once I get a little practice I’m going to get even quicker using it….I wasn’t getting much faster using my old stroke.  

Overall, the lesson here is that unless you’ve grown up a competitive swimmer (I’ve been swimming my whole life, but never competed) you’d be doing yourself a favor to get a swim coach early in the process.  I’d recommend finding a coach that does one-on-one lessons (as opposed to a masters group that is more focused on logging laps than stroke) and devote that entire lesson to improving your stroke (you can log laps on your own time).  Find a coach that has at competed at least at the collegiate level (the level of coaching will be more advanced).  

Check with your local tri club, swim club, masters swim group, etc.  The key as far as I’m concerned is the one-on-one aspect of it.  This was far and away the best $45 I’ve ever spent on my training.  If you’re in or around San Diego, take a look at Dan Peck (my coach). He’s very knowledgeable, very easy to understand, and has some great experience.

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Five hours to freedom…well, sort of… Balancing a social life with training

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