Sunday, March 1, 2009

Relaxed Freestyle Swimming

Cheng Ching Lake at about 7:00 a.m., which is about the time I reach the swimming pool.

February, being only 28 days this year, went especially quickly. At the end of January the pool temperature was still a chilly 66F. A few days ago, it had reached 78F, before falling to 76F today. So the winter appears to be past here, and the weather is generally very pleasant without being too hot.
Alongside much of the lake pictured above, is a separate bike path, designed to keep bicycles and other road users separate. That is my new bike on display there.

My swims in the last few weeks have typically ranged between 1,500m and 2,100m, maybe not a lot, but I have often not wanted to get too tired from swimming, as I have been busy most of the rest of the time. Life often appears to require trying to excel in a number of different areas, and for me swimming is only one of them.
While this path is intended for bikes, the surface appears perfect for running, and there are distance markers.

So, while I may not have been quite as fit as in times past, I have been compensating for this by trying to improve my freestyle swimming technique, and that means swimming as relaxed as possible (and often fairly slowly) as I think about and work on issues like breathing, head position, extending and pausing before taking the pull, and so on. While I don't attend swim classes here, I am constantly working through what I remember of the Swimming 101 classes I attended with Steve Borowski in Hawaii as well as some of the recent variations in my swimming technique that I have been learning from Karlyn Pipes-Neilsen.
On seeing these pictures with the blossoms and leaves on the ground (the pool is about 100m up this road), one would not think that the temperature when I took them was about 87F.

Timing is very important in swimming, and not just when one breathes. In particular, it is very important to learn just how much to pause after extending the hand and shoulder forward. Pausing before pulling does not mean one is wasting time. Even if the forward hand stops momentarily, one is still gliding in the water, and getting ready for a more powerful stroke.
As I swim each morning, I do attach a lot of importance to trying to relax. My life as it is is relatively stressful already, and when swimming it is easy to feel uptight, to feel "slow" and to worry. However, I find that if I relax, say, by taking the first half of the workout very easy, then it is much easier to crank things up later. Then, some of those shorter swims (like a 50 or a 100) feel barely moderate, with long smooth strokes, and the end result is a time which is equally as good as that hard swim only a couple of weeks ago.
The two tables here just behind and overlooking the swimming pool is an excellent place to get some work done before returning home in the mornings. Often one just has the birds for company.

My flip turns are a lot more relaxed now and at least in most cases I keep on going. I still have a little difficulty judging exactly how close I need to be to the wall when I flip, so I sometimes don't managed to plant my feet squarely on the wall, or else get a fairly weak push. However, it is coming, and since I am only occasionally getting water up my nose, I am tending to flip turn more often. Today most of my turns are flip turns where the intention (not always realized) is to push off the wall while lying horizontally on my back.

One reason I feel more relaxed is because my new mountain bike is so much more comfortable to ride than the old bikes (which are too small for me) that I had been using to get around town. It is a 15-min ride to the pool and about that coming back, so while I may not be doing any serious cycling, I am at least on the bike every day. The scenery close to the pool is particularly beautiful and I get to experience this just about every day.
The grounds of the youth activity center which houses the swimming pool are not always quiet. One day last week all these high-school students had an activity here.

On the subject of bikes, I passed a small bike store today and noticed that they had two "Argon 18" road bikes for sale (unfortunately way too small for me). However, I did ask the repairman there where they were made (Central Taiwan) and he gave me the name of the company. I don't know if they could make me a 61cm tri-bike frame, so I could get back to some road racing. One of my greatest triathlon heroes (or heroines) rides an Argon 18, and so surely if I was to get one, I would get a lot of respect wherever I go. Maybe the bike's name isn't important, but in many ways it is.
Bicycles serve many purposes, one being to transport heavy metal objects. In this case, the metal was on its way to a recycling center.


LeAnn said...

Cherry blossoms were my grandmas favorite. Reminds of the cherry blossom festival in Waimea every year...

ShirleyPerly said...

Reading this post and seeing the nice photos made me feel more relaxed. I've been uptight since being ill and seeing my swim times get slower. I should focus more on technique since I'm only allowed to swim 2 times a week now anyway.

Glad you are enjoying your new bike!

Mark said...

nice post bruce, how tall are you if you need a 61 frame?? i am 6ft and had a 54cm medium size scott cr1 in my IM days..

have you viewed the its a very informative forum...might be worth a visit



Anonymous said...

If it wasn't for my friendly and wonderful swim instructor Christina. I think I wouldn't have taken to swimming so much. I'll be sure to send my kids to take up lessons with her. Where did you learn swimming anyhows?

Bruce Stewart (ブルース・スチュワート) said...

Thanks for your comment. My dad originally taught me to swim when I was 8, but that was just enough to get across a pool. Later in life I did a lifesaving course, where I was able to improve quite a lot since they taught the basic strokes. However, I joined a masters swim club in Hawaii and went to their 101 class, besides practicing every day. Finally, I have been trying to refine my technique based on stroke technique by Karlyn Pipes-Neilsen at I swim because I find it fun and relaxing and it helps me with the rest of my busy life.