I’ll let you in on a little secret, I probably haven’t done lane swimming with friends in over 20 years. Sure, back in Royal Military College circa 1994, I did laps with the triathlon club under the guidance of our most awesome coach Jake. Looking back though, I’ve mostly done laps alone or with my partner Michel. I love swimming but the whole face in the water thing makes it the least social of all the cardio activities I do. Cycling can offer occasions to chat. Running, well, with running I mostly listen and try to keep my asthma at bay.
I’m a moderately competent swimmer who hasn’t had coaching or training in nearly twenty years but, as I’ve said before I love to swim! This summer the evening lane swim at my neighbourhood pool was cancelled but it turns out the pool in Old South (near Phyllis, Samantha, Mallory and Tracy) has a great swim at 8 pm every night.
I put the call out on facebook and a few friends have joined me in the evening. Some are more skilled swimmers than me and others are looking for some ideas on how to move through the water. It’s a bit weird to be offering ideas to my athletic friends but also fun because I like fostering the joy of swimming in others.
I don’t do speed work when I’m in the pool with friends, I focus on technique, drills and discussing strategies for triathlons. I especially work on feeling comfortable in the water regardless of stroke or technique. I think sometimes, for the sake of efficiency, triathlon training focuses almost exclusively on front crawl to the athlete’s detriment. I get it. Pool time is in short supply and there’s all those other things like running, cycling and weights to do.But I remember Jake’s sage advice “Train all the strokes, you never know when you’ll need them.” He taught me that breast stroke can be a recovery stroke if you cramp, a competent side stroke can save you from the worst waves and that learning the butterfly stroke improves shoulder strength and flexibility, making you a better swimmer.
So I’ve rediscovered group swimming this season and I really like it. Samantha pointed out it is a way for all speeds and abilities to still be together and she’s right, the hanging out in the lane and encouraging each other is great. I also meet new folks as they nottice my race number on my body from last weekend or ask if they can offer some tips. There was a lovely lady named Alice who helped Bev and I out Thursday night. She really knew her stuff and helped us bring our swimming up a notch with a few key insights.
So, especially if you find swimming challenging, try it with some friends. Sure, go some times on your own, get lessons, join a training group, whatever you need to feel good and safe and maybe you want to blog about it! Right Bev?