10T… “What is that?” I asked Joseph, our Masters Swim group instructor.
“I’ll tell you in a minute,” he winked.
Once everyone finished their slow 50, Joseph directed us.
“So, you all will swim for 10 minutes without stopping and I’m going to count how far you swim. Just go steady and we’ll see how far you can get in 10 minutes. I’ll blow a whistle halfway through and then three times when 10 minutes are over. In 5-4-3-2-1…GO!”
Swoosh! We pushed off the wall and we were off—I had just finished swimming a 300 build-up and my shoulders felt heavy with fatigue. Hmmm…10 minutes. I knew I could swim a 500 in 20 minutes, so how far could I get in 10? Flip turns? Yep, I hadn’t done many today, so I decided to do one at the end of each lap.
After about 8 lengths of the pool, I found my second wind with a rhythm of right, left, breath out, breath in…steady and centered each lap with breath and blood circulating and cooperating as they should. The slight pain in my shoulder disappeared and my arms and legs kept moving, pumping like a machine with even strokes and breathing, long reaches and effective flutter kicks. I felt like I could swim for another half hour. I loved feeling myself move through the water like a ship cutting through water, strong and smooth. The best part of it is that I was creating my own momentum—my own energy propelled me forward and made me move. It was me—I was a force for my own propulsion. There’s a metaphor there somewhere!
The result? 15 lengths of the pool—I swam 15 in 10 minutes. Not bad. What more could I do with momentum that I create? What more could I accomplish? How can my momentum make waves?
One would imagine that skipping laps is something teenagers, not adults, would do during swim practice. Well, adults do it too.
Joseph had directed us to swim easy 200’s (8 lengths of the pool) between our sprints. The end of number 6 for me was almost completed, and when I came to the wall, I touched and headed out for my last two. I noticed the gentleman in the lane next to me had stopped after just 6. For a moment I thought maybe 8 had been over? No, I had been counting. When I arrived at the wall, Joseph shared, “I think you did an extra 50, but that’s okay. It’ll just make you stronger.” I didn’t respond but thought, oh well and started on the next sprint.
The next 200 came around, and I knew I’d be more careful in my counting…Sure enough, at the end of 6 lengths, the gentleman had stopped again. I kept going, and when I came back after 8, Joseph was there. I said, “I don’t think I’ve been doing extra laps.”
“No, he skipped out that time…”
So, why do people skip out, take the short route, cut out appetizers and desserts, refuse to stay for entire conversations, or do the least possible without getting caught or noticed? Who can fully understand human behavior? Maybe people are just tired. Maybe they need help. Maybe relevancy needs to be added to the event or activity. Or maybe they just need to care a little more. Knowing when to help or knowing when to reflect, whichever the case may be, seems a life skill which I’d like to develop more. I certainly don’t want to skip out.
Tuesday Morning—530 am. It’s dark outside.
4 x 50 kicks.
4 x 100 hard.
4 x 100 hard.
4 x 100 hard.
200 Easy (really?).
“Really,” said Joseph with a coach-like glare. And, I swam it. My shoulder muscles were burning. They were burning from the Saturday morning swim too.
4 x 25 fast. “You’re almost done!” Joseph said encouragingly.
“That’s easy for you to say,” I retorted from my goggled, dripping stance below him.
“I’d rather be in there swimming. You get to have the fun,” he answered. So I shut up and swam. My muscles continued burning for the next week, and I scheduled a massage.
Sometimes the burn and the hard stuff can get us down. That’s all the reason I REALLY, REALLY appreciate positive, supportive, and encouraging people like Joseph to remind us to be grateful, to press on, and to work hard. I love people who remind me of the pay-off.
Giving it 80% and Knowing It
Since January and being in the Masters Swim group, I’ve learned swimming workout lingo related to the speed of our laps. One day my swimming friend, Deb, shared with me, “I only swim one speed!” But there are several speeds and terms that tell swimmers how much effort to give for particular parts of the workout.
My favorite? Smooth. What does smooth mean? Reaching out and focusing on the reach, the pull, and finishing the stroke smoothly.
Another great one: Easy. Don’t you love it when people tell you to “take it easy.” It’s almost like hearing you deserve a break.
Then there’s 100%. This comes at peak moments of the workout when the coach is asking you to give it your all—give it all you’ve got! Hold nothing back. Full kick, full stretch, strong pull, all the way to the end.
Strong. This one can be fearful for me. It depends on how long I have to “go strong.” If it’s a 50 (2 lengths of the pool), earlier in the workout, I’m good. I need a about 20 seconds to recover if I have to do more than one (which is usually the case). When Joseph has 4 x 100 strong on the workout board, I am sure to take a sequence of deep breaths before I start. Those 100’s require determination, strength I didn’t know I have, and some sort of invisible belief in myself. But I always finish them—usually swallowing several gulps of chlorine water along the way, my face beet-red. I defeat the fear every time, but that doesn’t stop the fear from coming at the start.
And, there’s the term Build. Sometimes, we have 50 Builds; sometimes we have 100’s. This gives us time to go smooth for a bit and think about all of the details of the stroke, the breathing….then when we are halfway through, our kick develops, we pull more with our forearms, and we feel like torpedoes that have just engaged. I like builds; I feel my strength the most during builds. It’s like I’ve been given the opportunity to grow and show that growing is possible.
Swimming has enabled me to transfer these understandings into my life. Do I know when I can or should give 80% to a task because others are helping or need to help, or when I need time for myself? Do I appreciate opportunities to build and grow? Do I need more? How can I find more belief in myself to go strong in different arenas of my life? How long can I go strong? When do I need to find my easy? When can I flourish and be smooth? When have I gone 100% for too long?
One day during Masters swim, Joseph offered me a tip on my stroke. “Pull with your forearm,” and he demonstrated by lifting his arm above his head, tipping his hand downward, and pointing to his forearm as he pulled down. “It’ll hurt for a while, but it will make your stroke stronger.”
It was the middle of our hour-long workout, and I breathlessly replied, “Okay.”
So I mimicked his pull and enacted his advice; immediately, I realized he was right. It hurt. New feeling—forearm burn.
I worked on my forearm strength for the next few workouts, and after three workouts, my forearms no longer hurt and I felt as if I were an unstoppable paddle boat wheel swimming through the water. That week, Joseph also advised me on finishing my stroke completely as each hand comes out of the water beside my legs. He also said, “Kick up; not just down.” How did he know I wasn’t giving enough effort in kicking up? Can you kick up and down? I tried it and discovered, yes, there was capacity to more swiftly bring my kick up with the same power I was bringing my kick down. “Wow,” I thought. “That was cool.”
I am almost 50 years old. I began swimming competitively at 10 and became a lifeguard at 15. I was a lifeguard instructor during my years in the Army and also swam competitively in the Army. I am a certified scuba diver. Now, I’m transitioning to swimming as a form of workout and relaxation. One would think I know a lot about swimming, and I guess I do. Joseph is probably 21, and he’s an expert. He has a coach’s critical eye, and through his experiences swimming, he knows what to watch for. He knows what the forearm strength can do; he knows how it feels to build, to go strong, or to give it 100%. Me? I was willing to open up and listen, to benefit from his expertise.
Last week, after all of these lessons I’ve learned, Joseph said, “Dixie, I’m running out of things to nitpick about for your stroke. You’re getting so fast, I may not have much more to tell you.” That felt good because even at 49 plus years old, I’m proud that I can still listen and learn.
Joseph: “Tuck your chin in a bit so the top of your head breaks the water as you swim.” Still learning.