The first essay I remember writing (in sixth grade) was called, “Getting My Eyes Full of Water.” It described the inelegant start to my swimming career. I was deathly afraid of putting my face in the water and opening my eyes (this was in the Dark Ages before goggles), and refused to even attempt to swim the length of the pool, a stalemate that lasted until my little sister up and did it and I was compelled to follow suit (so to speak). Stoopid sister.
Anyway, Coach and I are back to the training macrocycle I think of as, “Oh, God, can we please do something about your stroke this winter?” She has started breaking down the things to work on: rotation, applying the core, engaging the lats, early engagement at the catch, and smoothing out my breathing.
I hadn’t even thought about that last thing until she mentioned it almost as an aside: “Um, try spending less time breathing.” I did so and immediately ironed out one of the weird pauses in my stroke, but oh, the cost! I discovered a lift and hitch that I’ve been making since I was five years old, and corresponding panic when I try to simplify the motion, breathe out under water, and just snatch the inbound breath before I rotate. It is really, really hard for me to do this and I have spent the last 10,000m of swimming beating back panic one stroke at a time.
But, boy, when I do it right, everything changes. Power, speed, flow, all miles better.
In other words, one of the fundamental problems with my swimming was baked in as a five-year-old’s desperate attempt to swim the length of Brownell Pool without drowning because her little sister had already done it.