I always loved swimming as a kid. I mean, I kinda had no choice, my Mum threw me in the deep end of the pool when I was about 2 years old and told me not to get out until I’d earned my 5m badge. I almost drowned that day (I remember it clearly) but I came away with my little pink badge and, after I’d finished choking, a big smile on my face.
Of course I exaggerate (slightly) but I think learning to swim at a young age is an important life skill. I would have missed out on so many fun activities without that skill and, if nothing else, it teaches you not to be fearful of the water when your brother tries to suffocate you in the rapids on holiday (and he wonders why I used to lock him in sheds?!)
Whilst I’ll always be the first person to run into the sea, swimming is one of those things I haven’t really tried to improve as I got older. Last week, Olympic Team GB partner, Fitness First, invited me to their Hammersmith pool for a front crawl masterclass with 7 time Triathlon and Biathlon World Champ Richard Stannard. Given the time it took me to dig out my swimming cap, googles and sensible swimming costume (sequin clad bikinis don’t really scream ‘credible athlete’ do they?!), I realised it had been some time since I had gone swimming. I was a little nervous.
FF Hammersmith’s brand new 17.5m pool
Of course I had no need to be nervous as the Fitness First team immediately made me feel at ease when I turned up, and Richard and Jas, from The Triathlon Training Centre, were more than welcoming. We were lucky enough to have the pool all to ourselves and, after an intro where Richard explained the correct way of putting on a swimming hat and goggles (I didn’t know there was a right and wrong way…) we were ready to jump in the water.
As soon as Richard got into the pool and glided effortlessly through the water it was clear why he’s nicknamed The Fish. It turns out learning the correct front crawl technique is a little like learning to drive, a lot to think about at the same time but, once you get it, it all falls into place. Once you get it..
We went through a series of drills up and down the pool concentrating on a different aspect of front crawl each time. The one thing that way made clear was that, if you want to improve, improve one thing at a time.
We started with a focus on breathing, but apparently that’s the most difficult bit to master. Breathing out in the water has never really felt natural to me so it took a few minutes to remember not to simply hold my breath! Luckily, I’ve always been a front crawl rather than breast stroke swimmer, so a lot of the basics came back to me quickly (ie. I didn’t drown or embarrass myself).
Next we focused on leg work using a kick board to allow us to concentrate on fast, straight leg kicks. Apparently many people ignore their kicking and rely more on the arms but a good leg technique reduces effort. The goal is to kick from the hip, rather than the knee, with a straight leg and pointed toes, this helps to keep the body flat in the water rather than sinking. I think I got this bit…
Arms – The Catch:
Finally, we moved on to arm technique we where we learned ‘the catch’. The catch isn’t something I’ve heard of before but it’s a technique where you create a paddle with your arm to push yourself through the water. You press the water behind you rather than down to swim faster. Makes complete sense…until you try to do it…along with the hip kick thing and occasional oxygen intake which just gets in the way of everything.
Apparently I started off well but defaulted to my usual stroke towards the end of the length, I put this down to my concentration moving rapidly from my arms to my lungs! I think my catch will take a bit more practice.
That’s me on the left, err, smooth as a fish…
My evening in the pool reminded me how much I used to love swimming, and the bonus is it’s much easier on the joints than pounding the streets in my trainers. Maybe they’ll make a triathlete of me yet 🙂
Fab bunch of Fitness Bloggers with Richard and Jono – Photo courtesy of Abbi at Upraised Living
I would like to thank Richard, Fitness First Hammersmith, The Triathlon Training Centre (and Nandos for the post swim salad!) for a fabulous evening in the pool, I honestly enjoyed every minute and you’ve inspired me to go swimming more often!