Stretch, roll, Popeye...

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

What on earth? you're asking yourself. Well, this was my mantra for cracking a smooth freestyle stroke with bilateral breathing. OK, switch off now if you're bored of my swimming saga. And for those of you who remain, here's the location where I've spent my mornings for the past two weeks. 


Our local spa with indoor swimming pool has been my playground for the duration and it's been such a contrast to the sometimes wild, but always very cold, sea where I've swum all winter.


But let's rewind a bit to explain how why I suddenly changed tack and chose the soft option last month.


My new found passion for swimming freestyle was ignited by the top two books which I recently read. Previously, all my swimming has been using breast stroke, albeit a strong one, but I've been aware of the fact that it's the least energy efficient of all strokes and therefore I've been working harder than I really need to. Like the author of Leap In, Alexandra Heminsley, I've wanted to achieve the graceful, languid stroke that's performed by long distance swimmers. After first of all hearing her talk about the book on the radio, and then reading the story of how she moved from one to the other, I decided that it might just be within my grasp too, to improve my ragged breathless front crawl into something sleeker. The record breaking swim undertaken by Sean Conway in his book Hell and High Water was further inspiration for me. Longer swims now beckon me, although nothing quite as epic as his.

And so it was just a week into my month's staycation that I ordered Championship Swimming and at the same time I resurrected the Swim Smooth DVD that I've had for a couple of years without viewing. (When I say without viewing, what I actually mean is that at the first attempt I fell asleep after the first 10 minutes, I'm embarrassed to admit.) After successfully watching it all the way through it soon became apparent that I wouldn't be able to perform these drills in the sea for obvious reasons, the main one being the current temperature of about 9 degrees. I joined the spa for two weeks and the hard work began. Inspiration was in place, perspiration and dedication came next.



At 10 o'clock every morning I was to be found poolside with earplugs, goggles and cap in place. The book became my Bible with notes scrawled all over to remind me what I'd seen on the DVD. Swim Smooth proved to be transformational; the basic mechanics of the stroke are broken down into drills that are to be repeated until they become second nature. Hence, stretch, roll, Popeye, the three counts that make up the stroke. We all remember Popeye of course and that's the best way to suck in a good breath whilst lying on your side. In fact, I'm not sure why front crawl is named such, as the stroke is mostly performed rolling from one side to the other with the minimum of time being spent on your front. 





Yesterday I posted a snippet of my freestyle on Instagram which made me very proud indeed. I don't know when the stroke came together, but I do recall moments where, like a dance step that suddenly clicks, I felt the stretching roll become a steady rhythm that made time for the breath without gasp or panic - I was indeed swimming smoothly!

The spa offers all sorts of diversions apart from the pool - a sauna, jacuzzi, steam room in addition to a gym, relaxation room, shop and treatment rooms for massage and beauty treats. My own particular reward for an hour of swimming was to retreat to the steam room for 15 minutes of bliss. I will miss the soft option when I stand on the beach this morning facing the chill Atlantic ocean. Wish me luck!







Hell And High Water by Sean Conway see here.
Leap In by Alexandra Heminsley see here.
Swim Smooth DVD see here. 
Championship Swimming by Tracy McFarlane Mirande see here.
Island Leisure Spa see here.
Anna x

You Might Also Like

27 comments

  1. I do admire you for having the guts to change your swimming style, and so successfully too! I enjoy swimming but don't perform either stroke with any grace or fluidity. I had a swimming lesson a few years ago but the coach made it seem that my efforts were really dire and it would take a lot of hard work to change anything. These days I only swim on holiday, in the sea, but looking to do some wild swimming in the UK this year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your praise Gail. The thing is, I've always felt a bit of a fraud saying I'm a sea swimmer and not really swimming like the big boys do. My life is always about the next improvement to be made which comes from the difficult position of being a perfectionist. This does have its drawbacks sometimes though as I can be afraid to try for fear of failure. Once I set my mind to something I generally crack it and that's worked here, thank goodness!
      Good luck with your swimming efforts. Anything you do will be better than nothing x

      Anna

      Delete
  2. You have the entire place to yourself! I might even be convinced to swim in that kind of an environment and I hate swimming!

    I'm glad you chose to pick up and challenge yourself with something. As I grow older I find I am less likely to seek out change and it is difficult to want to push myself enough.

    bisous
    Suzanne

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was a thoroughly decadent environment to be training in, although school half term proved to be a lively time with lots of lovely kiddlies jumping and splashing around about me. I ploughed on unperturbed - that's nothing compared to the wild weather I've had to contend with this winter!

      I seem to be the opposite from you, in that the older I get the more I have this sense of urgency about fitting everything in that I want to before it's too late. My health and fitness mean so much to me and give me a true sense of well-being that I'll be fighting off old age for as long as I can.

      Anna x

      Delete
  3. I haven't swum in years (the whole blindness thing - everyone looks alike in the water!), but if I had a place like that to practice in, I might be tempted! What a gorgeous spot! Good for you for working on improving, Anna!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Golly, I hadn't thought about that Sheila, how on earth do people manage without their glasses? Contacts maybe?

      The spa is none too shabby, eh? I do think the surroundings made all the difference, as I only had to concentrate on the job in hand, not the weather, waves, wash from passing boats etc.

      Thanks x
      Anna

      Delete
  4. Wow! So relaxing... The entire place to yourself, what a dream.

    Mary
    www.marymurnane.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is pretty idyllic. I think I had three entire days without anyone else joining me. Bliss!

      Anna x

      Delete
  5. Oh well done - you've cracked the front crawl! Hard work and perseverance has paid off.

    You mentioned 'ragged and breathless' - that sums up my front crawl perfectly; I struggle to manage a length. I must follow your example and try to improve it.

    Your spa looks proper swanky!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yup, it's pretty swanky indeed!

      I suppose it comes down to how important it is to you. Swimming every single day is a major part of my life so I suppose that's been a great motivator for me.

      Thanks so much for your kind words x
      Anna

      Delete
  6. Congratulations on this accomplishment. This short time of dedication will pay off for years and years, right? The pool is lovely and I'm already shivering thinking of you plunging back into the Atlantic. Thanks for this story. I must check your IG!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cheers Melanie!

      I was lucky to have this perfect time available to do the hard work. Today's swim was rather different to the pool environment, but it went OK. Not too chilly, but I suppose I was concentrating so hard on the stroke.

      Hurrah, I've done it!

      Anna x

      Delete
  7. You are such an impressive woman Anne. I think it's wonderful that you were dissatisfied enough that you were motivated to change what was a long time habit. So many people in their 50's aren't committed to any regular fitness regimen. You're really a quite special in that you are committed to fitness AND you're still open to growth and improvement!!! That's an attitude that pays off in your life in so many ways!
    When I was a kid there was no competitive athletic program of any kind for girls. However there was a synchronized swimming club!! I belonged and so did all of my friends. We swam, learned and created routines, practiced and performed. I loved it. I continued to enjoy swimming throughout my life but in my 40's I sort of left it behind. I do care about fitness a lot and do many other activities that I enjoy that keep me fit.
    I'm so delighted that you've accomplished your goal Anna. Your morning swims will probably feel even better as you move smoothly and efficiently through that shining bright sea water!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're right Jude, I was dissatisfied with my swimming enough to push me on to remedy it. I am a very determined person and as such can't bear to accept second best if there's the slightest chance I can improve things. The two weeks were not much of a hardship, swimming in these luxurious surroundings with lovely helpful staff to assist with swimming aids and encouragement. And today was my second day back in the sea. Better than yesterday I can report, as I think I was a bit nervous then. Today felt more natural and I can see that things will continue to improve with every swim from here on in. I'm excited to consider what this means distance wise as I have a big swim in mind for my 60th...

      I'm amazed that you learnt synchronized swimming and have left it behind. What an incredibly clever skill to possess! I suppose we all gravitate to a fitness regime that works best for our own life and routines. I was thinking about exactly this as I cycled home from the beach this morning and I think the fact that I have beautiful beaches right on my doorstep along with it being free to exercise are huge pluses for me, also the non-impact element helping to protect my joints and last of all the cold temperature boosting not just my immune system but also my metabolism - yes all of this are motivating me to keep up this daily habit.

      Thanks so much for your feedback Jude, so very kind x
      Anna

      Delete
  8. Great story, Anna! This spa is pretty schmick! Love the mural and the cane chairs, taking the imagination to warm waters, sun and beaches. I admire you leaving that cushy surrounding and venturing out into the Atlantic. Well done, keep that freestyle going. xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The mural features the views around the island here where we do in fact, bask in warm sunny days on our golden beaches for at least half of the year. I enjoyed swimming in such luxury for those two weeks, but was glad to be back on Pentle Bay this morning with a flock of oyster catchers for company. Back to nature suits me best of all.

      Thanks so much for dropping by again Elizabeth x
      Anna

      Delete
  9. It is very inspiring that you thought of perfecting your crawl with the arsenal of resources you used! I may consider trying it this summer. I have swum all my life...was a lifeguard, swim teacher, synchronized swim star in high school, and continue to swim now at 62 every chance I get when the weather is nice. I do it for fun, never did compete. I'm just not the competitive type. Anyway, it's great to hear that getting faster at the crawl can be a smooth thing, like when you get the hang of floating.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Angie it's the perfectionist in me that draws me into all of these challenges. I really can't help it!
      It sounds as if you are a real water baby yourself and have no need to improve anything.
      Thanks so much for dropping by x
      Anna

      Delete
  10. Well done on your progress Anna, I saw your video on Instagram.
    I just noticed this am on FB that Swimming Without Stress, the website I told you about have just reviewed one of your books, LEAP IN
    Does the author cover diving as well?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I did see that review too Tessa. The book is all about swimming, but no diving at all.

      Hope you have a great weekend x
      Anna

      Delete
  11. This certainly looks more inviting to me than the sea. Well done for perfecting your challenge Anna. I admire your stamina xx
    www.vanityandmestyle.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, it was pure luxury for two whole weeks Laurie and I relished every moment.
      I think anyone could do this, it's just whether you would actually want to. Personally, I do love a challenge. It gives me such a buzz.

      Thanks for dropping by again Laurie x
      Anna

      Delete
  12. I've seen this spa in photos when I've looked up Tresco. Phwoar, it does look good. Bravo to you for trying to change your swimming. I WISH I could do that, I do a pretty poor breast stroke.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a brilliant set up and such an asset to the island for tourists and locals alike. I loved the time I spent there, but also was relieved that I could transfer the skills to the sea without having become too used to the warmer climes.
      I think swimming is no different to any skill, it's about knowledge, application and lots of practise. Of course you could to it - it's just about finding the time I suppose.

      Thanks for your lovely comments x
      Anna

      Delete
  13. Congratulations! You set a goal and you're doing it! I am so impressed! You give me hope that when I get through this chapter in my life (menopause and all it's mind tricks! getting the youngest out of the nest and all the other midlife changes) I'll be back to my old self and challenging myself. I am so intrigued about this sea swimming so I love hearing about your swims. I don't just come here for the outfits! Julia

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much Julia. I do love a challenge and can understand the need for you to get back to normal as it were. You have my fullest of sympathies re the menopause - it took me 15 years to transition, which is probably why I approach my life now with such gusto!

      Gradually the blog is becoming more of a lifestyle rather than clothes blog and I'm pleased that this broad sweep has an appeal to you and others.

      Anna x

      Delete

Popular Posts