I’m coming up on my pooliversary, the one year anniversary of me getting back into the pool after a long hiatus. The last 12 months have been about systematically improving my swim. I started with a 5 month Learn-to-Swim program I found online, followed it up with group lessons, and am now steadily increasing my workouts. How cool is to have a plan and follow through?
I swim at least once but usually thrice weekly. Since May I have soaked myself in chlorine for 106 hours, 11 minutes, and 37 seconds. I have traveled 224,865 yards, all while following a black line to nowhere. Knowing all that, I thought it would be fun to look back and see what a year can do.
First, let’s talk distance. I returned to the pool on May 2, 2015. I swam for half an hour and lost count of my laps almost immediately. The second time I got in the pool was three days later, and I was prepared with a real workout. I can’t say enough good things about swim workouts from Sara McLarty. They are tough, they are free, and they produce results! I swam 600 yards that day. Over the next five months my workouts slowly increased to 1800 yards, and once January rolled around I was sitting pretty at 2000 yards. Proof positive that little changes add up over time, and the body and mind adapt. Yesterday I swam 2300, and by the end of the year I hope to have 3000 yard workouts.
Obviously the next thing to talk about is time. Or, more accurately, pace. When tracking my swim training, I generally turn the watch on, swim, then turn the watch off. This means that my pace includes my rest times at the wall. Since I’ve always done that, it’s nice and consistent. It isn’t perfect, because obviously when I’m resting at the wall I’m not swimming. You’ve been warned. When I first started, my paces were hovering around 2:52-3:15/100 yards. I noticed a nice increase in speed over the fall when I was taking swim class. I didn’t get a lot of corrections on my freestyle, but learning the other strokes helped my feel for the water. These days, my paces are coming in around 2:16-2:24/100 yards.
Let’s also take a moment to discuss those other strokes I learned during class. While I do know butterfly now, the strokes that I practice the most besides free are breaststroke and backstroke. On my first day of swim class, I was mortified to discover that when I tried to swim breaststroke, I moved backwards. Backwards! For the next several weeks, I became a breaststroke machine. Being so focused didn’t hurt my freestyle at all. In fact, I truly believe that learning all the strokes is incredibly beneficial for triathlete swimmers. Learning to feel the water in different ways makes it more obvious when you’re getting something right, which in turn helps you practice with good technique. Definitely a win!
The other gains aren’t as easy to quantify, but the big one is confidence. I chuckle now to think of how anxious I was of going to the pool last year. I thought people would stare, or make fun of me for being a bad swimmer. My experience was nothing but positive, and now I have lots of confidence on the pool deck. Tiny bathing suit? Whatever. Weird drill sets? Sure, why not. I identify strongly as a member of the swimming gang at my local REC center, and swimming is where it’s at.
Now comes the time to look ahead. Yes, I’ve had a great year, but I want to continue to improve. I have big goals, and none of them can be won in a swimming pool come race day. The next big step on my swim journey is taking on OWS = open water swimming. I have some logistical challenges I’ll need to figure out, since Fairfax County is apparently very anti-OWS. I’m really looking forward to venturing out of my comfortable little pool and swimming in the real world!