[017] Breakthrough

Swim: 500 m/9,400 m

Bike: 0/6.35 miles

Run: 0/25.1 miles

I returned to the pool this morning, only about 10 hours after doing 1,600m of mixed speedwork the night before. Today I swam 20 laps, about 8 of which were freestyle – by far the most I’ve done in a single session.

I firmly believe that swimming breast stroke regularly for a few weeks has paved the way for freestyle – I’ve been getting comfortable in the water, learning a stroke with rhythm and pace, and focusing on my breathing while using a simple stroke. All that combined with the mental preparation – thinking through my freestyle stroke, watching tutorials to learn tips and technique – has better prepared me to start tackling the more advanced stroke.

Part of the key was to make myself slow down. Previously I found myself subconsciously speeding up whenever I attempted freestyle, as if the only way to stay afloat was to be moving quickly. Watching other swimmers use freestyle in a slow, relaxed method made me realize that the stroke is not necessarily about speed, but form. The speed will come in time, but first I need to get the rhythm down.

So today I started slow, and almost surprised myself when I found that the breaths I was taking were sufficient to keep going. Previously my breathing had been more hurried and I wasn’t getting enough air, but by slowing things down and focusing on good breaths I was able to maintain a decent stroke for many laps.

Like I’ve mentioned before, I think that getting the breathing down will be the first step, to be followed by a tighter focus on my form. There are so many things to think about – where your hands enter and exit the water, their path through the water, your kicking – that for now I feel like I’ve accomplished something just by falling into a routine of moving my arms and breathing, even if my form is not textbook-perfect.

I think if I can get in a few more successful sessions like today’s, I’ll be mentally prepared to meet with a swim coach.

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