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.