swim workout

Work With Your Nerves, Not Against Them

With my race looming right around the corner (only three days to go!) I find that my nerves are beginning to rear their ugly head, creeping into my thoughts at every moment of down time. When they first started to get a hold on me I held it in, didn’t say anything, and tried to push them down without addressing them. News Flash: this doesn’t work for me, unless you count increasing my anxiety and it’s presence in my day to day activities as working, then it worked wonders. Next, I started to frantically voice my concerns to my husband, the pitch of my voice growing ever higher as I spiraled even further down the “what if” rabbit hole. This merely sent me into a frenzy akin to that of a six year old being told Toys R’ Us was out of the Special Edition Barbie they wanted and unfortunately Santa wouldn’t be able to deliver this year. So nope, that didn’t work either.

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Instead, after being calmed down and regaining rational thought and logic, I decided the best way to handle my nerves was to accept their existence and work with them.

So, what was I most nervous about in the Aquathlon? First thing that comes to mind is the transition and start of the run portion. I can’t help but worry that, even though race workers and volunteers have spent days setting up markers and cones and all sorts of other things to direct participants, I won’t know where to go when I get out of the water. AND that I won’t know where to go after I finagle my shorts, socks, and shoes on without spending the time to towel off from the swim. Why am I afraid of this when it’s people’s SOLE job to make sure these things don’t happen? Let’s journey back to the second (and last) triathlon I competed in for a moment. Cue me running out of the first transition with my bike ready to start the course, running through two cones and under an archway that I thought signaled where to go, only to have countless people screaming at me that I’d gone the wrong way and had to go back, turn around, and go through different cones and under a different archway so that I was actually going over the timing mat and heading in the right direction. Now I don’t know about you, but that was pretty embarrassing for me. I know no one else cared about the incident, and the people who yelled at me forgot about it immediately after it happened and I had left their POV, but still, not fun for me. Hence my fear of not know the right direction. But okay, if I do mess up, there will be other people to yell at me and get me back on track. I’ll still start the run, and nothing detrimental to me completing the race will have happened. Okay, next.

My second biggest fear is simply staying on course in the run. Why? The exact same reasoning as above. That whole missing the timing mat and having to turn around really messed with my head, and it seems to be the seed of my nerves right now. But okay, easy enough to deal with. I have plenty of time between when my plane lands in Miami and the start of the race to do a run-through of the course so that come race day I, at minimum, vaguely know where I need to go. Got it. And at this point in figuring out how to work with my nerves, I realized that making these plans and realizing I would be able to deal with my fears - even if worst comes to worst and they actually happened - was helping me calm down. I could count the “what ifs” for hours and just make myself feel worse and worse. But, working through the scenarios and having a plan of action was what actually helped me realize I need to use my nerves to my advantage, and not let them get the best of me.

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After I talked myself through my biggest fears, I decided to focus on what I knew, and what I could control. Starting with the swim. I have twenty-four years of competitive swimming under my belt, I’ve been training in our Endless Pool to get used to not having walls, and I’ve been practicing my sighting. Reasonable enough, at the very least I know the swim will be okay. Next, I know that I can survive a 5K. My training has mostly been distances longer than that, and I’ve been going PRs in my last two 3.1 mile runs. Logically, I know I have the stamina and strength to power through that run and cross the finish line. Easy. Well, okay, easier said then done, but still a good mental exercise to help me best utilize my nervous energy and thoughts.

Lastly? I can’t tell you how grateful I am for this experience and to be competing with some of our closest clients. I know the Aquathlon is nowhere near the distance of the Olympic distance tris or the Ironman races they compete in, but I have a better understanding of their training, dedication, and perseverance now that I would never be able to get from just swim practices alone. Now it’s time to put all of my words to actions and finish this race!

SwimBox and Vasa Trainer Project: Katie's Third Lesson

In case it's not clear at this point, these ladies are really dedicated to improving their swimming! We've been seeing them as close to once a week as all of our schedules will allow, and both Katie and Flaca are making huge improvements to their stroke technique with our swim lessons and work on the Vasa Trainer SwimErg. If you haven't already make sure to check out the breakdown of Flaca's lesson from last week here to read about her work on elbow position and timing of her catch.

The main focus of Katie's lesson this week was on her finish and recovery. With so much emphasis on having and maintaining a proper catch position, the finish of your stroke into your recovery is often an overlooked aspect of freestyle. In order to fully benefit from the propulsion you get from your catch and pull, you need to keep your palm facing backwards and make a "J" shaped movement from the finish of your stroke into your recovery. For clarification, the recovery is the portion of your stroke from when your hand exits the water after you finish your pull to when you place your hand back in the water to start your next catch. Essentially, the entire time your arm is out of the water is your recovery.

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To practice and gain better understanding of the "J" shape we're looking for, Dan had Katie work on just the finish of her stroke without actually making any full stroke movements. Lying face down in the water with her hands at her sides, Katie made an egg beater motion with each arm, only pushing backwards and slightly out using her forearm and hand. Dan has his hand in the water to give Katie something to aim for in order to give her direction as to where we want her to finish her stroke.

It's commonly thought that you want to pull back and finish your stroke in a straight line. And in a perfect world, that would make sense. BUT, because your hips are rotating during the entirety of your stroke, it pulls your arm and hand inward towards your body. This movement prevents you from pulling back in a straight line, and will even result in recoveries starting behind you or stacked directly on top of your torso. We use the "J" shape movement to keep your paddle in a straight line and to keep your palm facing back - not up towards the surface - in order to connect the fluid motion into your recovery. The finish of your stroke, the "J" shape, is the beginning of your recovery.

New Year New...Failures?

I feel like January can be a very hostile time of year, even if it doesn't appear to be from the surface. Everyone's starting New Year’s resolutions and promising themselves to work harder, eat healthier, and most of all (I'm sure you guessed it), go to the gym. That being said, it's always come across to me as the perfect time to fail. There's even more societal pressure than normal, which can lead to a big let down if you make even the smallest of slip ups.

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Well, I just wanted to take a second and tell you how I really feel about it when my friends tell me they're beside themselves because not even a month into the new year they're already back to their same old bad habits: so what? Just taking the time to think of ways you want to better yourself is a step in the right direction. So many people think they're done growing up by the time they get out of college, but you're here working every year at learning something new to make yourself grow and become just that much of a better person. That's huge! So dust yourself (and try again, any early 2000's R&B lovers out there giggling with me?), pick yourself up, and try again. Fun fact? It took me 3 years to figure out how to change one small piece of my freestyle catch. Yup, you read that right. Three. Years. It was discouraging and enraging at times, and I thought I was a lost cause more than once (changing something minute in your stroke after swimming for 23 years is no easy feat you guys), but I never gave up. I tried different things and kept coming back to trying to make that one little thing better. And that eureka moment when I finally got it? It was just incredible. Almost as good as that first bite of a freshly baked cookie (...almost).

You're going to have goals. You're going to come up with lists of things you want to change to help keep yourself growing and learning and bettering yourself. And you're also going to have setbacks. And failures. So what? Take what you've learned from those failures (even if it's nothing, because let's be real, we all have setbacks where we don't think we've gained anything) and keep moving forward. It's almost come to seem like failure is a taboo word nowadays. But who hasn't had their fair share of failures? It's okay to fail, it's okay to get upset (and console yourself with a donut or 4), just keep your goal in mind. It's that simple.

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It might seem hard and silly to think that way just because some virtual stranger online is saying this, but you know I'm right. Deep down that nagging voice we all have (that we love to hate so much) knows I'm right too.

Don't beat yourself up over the mistakes, the failures, and the setbacks. Acknowledge them, let yourself pout for a bit, and keep moving forward. You'll reach your goals and have your eureka moments. It might not be overnight, but you will.