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Trying some new training activities in the pool this week…

February 13, 2013, 11:01 PM

So life at the pool has been interesting lately.  Interesting in a good way, though.  I’ve gotten into a nice routine at the pool.  I know who’s in on which days, we’ve all gotten to know each other, and life is good like that.  And we all laugh about when we accidentally run into/hit each other in the lanes, or other odd strikes like the one time when I accidentally whacked one of the ladies in the aqua aerobics class in the butt as I was going by doing backstroke (embarrassing!) or today, where one of the kids in the swim class in the lane next to me accidentally kicked me in the funnybone (yes, in the elbow – very odd feeling).

And I know how my swimming jives with the others’ swimming, i.e. faster, slower, about the same, etc.  I most enjoy swimming with people that swim at a similar speed to me, or are faster than me.  With slower folks, when we’re swimming three or more in a lane, passing gets old after a while.  Folks I swim about the same speed as are folks that I know I’m not going to run into, and then faster folks are a challenge!  See, when I have a faster swimmer in the lane with me, I try to keep up with them.  I am up to that challenge, though my success varies.  Lately, there has been a small group of 17-year-old girls that come on Monday nights.  They also swim competitively, and so they go really fast.  If I can, I try to get a lane with them.  My goal is to see how long I can stay in front of them.  And I push myself to stay in that spot.  They usually pass me a few times over the course of a workout, but seeing how long I can stay ahead of them before the inevitable occurs is the challenge.  And with the goal of my swims’ being to get physical activity, push myself, and keep things interesting for me, their speed provides me with a good workout and also is something to aspire to.  I would love to be that fast one day.  Will it happen?  We’ll see, I suppose.

This past Monday, they were doing “dolphin drills”.  As I understand it, a dolphin drill is a training technique for improving one’s performance in doing the butterfly.  I don’t have any particular interest in swimming the butterfly, but the training technique intrigues me.  I observed the process in action and then discussed it with them, and got something of a handle on the process.  What you do for a dolphin drill, in a nutshell, is go down to the bottom, push off the bottom, come up, do butterfly arms, and then repeat.  In other words, this:

I only saw it done once for about ten seconds, but that, along with the description, was enough to go with.  And that is an exercise that pushes me.  If I get to the end of the lane and have to pause to catch my breath before coming back, then I am doing something right.  When I tried it on Tuesday, I think I was going up and down at too steep of an angle, because I felt myself jackknifing at the top, and felt myself really arching my back at the bottom.  If I kept that up, I know where I’d be before too long: laying face down on my chiropractor’s table, getting everything put back in order after I managed to knock it all around.  I’ve already had one time where a swim workout landed me in the chiropractor’s office (I blame it on a weird rolling motion that I was doing in the swim workout the night before I had that bout of back pain), and so as nice as they are in the chiropractor’s office, and as purple as that office is, I’d rather not have to need to go there if I can avoid it.  Thankfully, the folks who taught me the technique were at the pool this evening, and I was able to discuss it with them.  The verdict was that yes, I was doing it at too steep of an angle.

I tried it at a shallower angle this evening, and while it seemed to work, I found that I have a long way to go.  In using a shallower angle of attack, I realized that I didn’t quite know what to do going up and down.  I improvised, doing something like a dolphin kick, which I also need to learn to do a lot better than I do now (more research).  Also, I was showing a friend who I swim with on Wednesdays how to do the technique, and on the first cycle, I took in a big mouthful of water.  Here’s a tip for you: no one looks cool hacking up pool water.  This is especially the case when it gets lodged in places in my throat that I didn’t even know I had, and it won’t come completely out.  No fun.

Meanwhile, I was amused to actually get complimented on the technique by another swimmer this evening.  Honestly, from my perspective, I feel like I must look like a buffoon doing this, but I do it for the sake of fitness.  I don’t feel graceful doing it.  Perhaps with time and some more practice, I will eventually feel graceful doing it, but I’m not there yet.  So a compliment surprised me.  I guess it looks better to the outside observer than it does from inside.

So that’s fun.  I would have no problem substituting these kinds of training drills in place of actual strokes for various segments of my workout, but to do that effectively, I need to get better at this one, and learn a few more.  In any case, it should be pretty fun.  If you know of and can recommend any great training drills or exercises in the pool that really pack a punch workout-wise and leave me winded by the time I reach the end of the pool, post a comment below and share!  Please link me to something that shows how to do it as well, if you can.

Categories: Swimming