Get Swimming, week 4: Flipper won’t be out of a job any time soon

The pool echoes with Serena Williams-worthy grunts and growls

Irish Times swimmer Rachel Collins: Backstroke  is my least favourite stroke – I’ve yet to finish a length without giving myself a good sinus-rinsing.  Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Irish Times swimmer Rachel Collins: Backstroke is my least favourite stroke – I’ve yet to finish a length without giving myself a good sinus-rinsing. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

 

This week we tried the dolphin… and it was delicious. Joking aside, learning the dolphin kick was the first chance we’ve had in a couple of weeks to put the hard work to one side and have a good laugh at each other spluttering and flailing, and it was quite a relief.

You see we’re all taking this very seriously. Each lesson is fantastic fun, but when you’re learning to swim your only opponent is your own body, and when it doesn’t do what your brain tells it to, frustration sets in. The Trinity College pool echoes each lesson with Serena Williams-worthy grunts and growls as various members of the group attempt to overcome their various foibles. So it made a nice change to play around with the dolphin kick, doing our best mermaid impressions as we attempted to propel ourselves forward, legs together, kicking and flicking our hips in a rolling motion - or at least that’s how it’s supposed to be done, coach Peter Conway tells us. Flipper can relax; he won’t be out of a job any time soon.

We’ll be swimming our mile in front crawl, but we’ve been tinkering with other strokes over the past week to give us a better feel for the water and to build strength and stamina.

We’ve been using backstroke to work on our kick. This is my least favourite stroke - I’ve yet to finish a length without giving myself a good sinus-rinsing - but it does help me to concentrate on improving my kick without thinking about breathing or my stroke.

In fact, I’m finding that thinking is my downfall. I am surprised at how quickly the skills learned in childhood swimming lessons are coming back to me, but as an adult, I’m over-thinking things and this is working against me.

I know I’m not the only one doing this - Laurence Mackin wrote about the mental aspect of the lessons last week.

As I kick off the edge of the pool at the beginning of each length, I have a mental checklist that seems to get longer and longer each week and becomes almost debilitating; lift your arms fully out of the water, keep your head down, slice into the water, push your chest towards the floor of the pool, keep your elbows high, make sure your left leg is kicking as hard as the right, roll your hips with each stroke, push the water away with your hands, oh and what was that other thing? Oh god, yes, BREATHE (cue gulping and gasping and Serena growls at myself).

Thinking can overwhelm you. Peter consistently asks us what we are feeling. He’s a nice chap, but it’s not our emotional state he’s worried about. He wants us to listen to what our body is telling us rather than checking off lists or over-thinking each move.

I’m hoping all these individual pieces of the puzzle will slot into place soon, and I’ll think less and feel more. Until then, I’m trying to streamline that checklist and once in a while, I’ll do a mangled mermaid to lighten the mood.

Sign up to Get Swimming now at irishtimes.com/ getswimmingOur Get Swimming course, in association with Swim Ireland, will have you swimming a mile in 12 weeks. You will receive weekly mailings with your training plan, video tutorials, tips and motivational stories.

And at the end of 12 weeks, take to the pool for Swim Ireland’s Swim for a Mile challenge. For more see swimforamile.com

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