Run 11½km & Swim-for-Tri lesson & new HRM

AM. Run 11½km/53, steady HR 157(170)

Up early for a run. I needed to get a session out of the way ‘cos we’re off to London this afternoon for swimming lessons at Swim-for-tri ( Heart rate up 10 beats up on normal – probably only early-morning stress and cold though.

Swim-for-tri (400m?)
My first swimming lesson for probably 35 years, since I stopped swimming with the Watford Swimming Club. We had a bit of a slow journey up there – a new shopping complex had opened in West London, and there were gas main works in Notting Hill, so we arrived with seconds to spare before Jules’s lesson (mine was the hour after hers) at 3pm.

I had to do some steady swimming to start with, although the Endless Pool was a weird thing to swim in. Like being a hamster on a wheel, you felt like you constantly had to catch up with it to stop yourself drifting to the back of the pool, but the reality was that you had plenty of space. The water blasts at you from the end so your arms paddle away in the blast, but by the time it’s got to your feet it’s dissipated and slowed down a lot, so your feet keep dropping down – there’s less flow to support them. It exaggerates any bad faults you’re making with your legs. Everything’s filmed, so the coach can play it back to you and talk you through what you’re doing/should be doing.

Shoulders/hips legs/feet: I then had to do some specific exercises, working on getting my hip/shoulder rotation timed together instead of one after the other (I need to do some core strength work!), and trying to kick less like a cyclist (I tend to use my quads too much apparently, so the kick down is strong (and bent-legged, bah), but not the return stroke). My legs were just drifting (and drifting apart) a lot of the time – over the last 30 years or so, my leg kick has atrophied away to almost nothing.

Recovery/timing: We also worked on my recovery – I have an old-fashioned arm recovery, entering just in front of my head and pushing my recovered arm out under the water, when the more modern stroke style is to reach out over the water ready for the “catch”, in a Michael Phelps style. I also have to work on timing my breathing, reaching and streamlining and slowing down the stroke, so that it’s more of an endurance style “catch-up” stroke, and less of the “windmilling” speed swimmers stroke that I have at the moment.

Pull/catch/length: The pull itself was not too bad, I “scull” the pulling hand well, but I could make more of the length of it, again, and less cross-over of my body, more use of a wide elbow to bring the shoulders better into play (thinking of the width my arms/shoulders take when I pull on the erg handle might help here). I’m also missing some of the stroke at the beginnning. Slowing things down, so I’m taking less strokes per length, will also aid this.

Plenty of things to think about, and they gave me a DVD of my swimming to look at later. I’ll get some drills to perform, both on land for strength and in the water for style. The hour’s lesson went very quickly – I’d have liked some more time to get used to the weird characteristics of the Endless Pool – just staying in the draft was tricky to start with. It was a worthwhile thing to have done though and I might go back another time once I feel that I’ve made some progress with the techniques I was shown.

The journey home was as slow as the one out. We stopped off at a bike shop in Shoreditch for Jules to buy some winter gloves. Getting off the bus in Oxford we popped into the Port Mahon in St Clements for a couple of pints before heading home and finding that the central heating boiler had tripped out again, brrrr.

My new heart rate monitor arrived from an eBay buy this week – an S725X, the updated multisport version of the S720i I’ve had for the past couple of years. I’ll flog the old S720i off to partly pay for it. The new HRM has more tests for recovery/fitness, and the option of using a footpod, which I might invest in later. It also has a nice carbon-fibre finish, yum.