HOW I LEARNT TO SWIM HAPPY

Last week was my final session of one-on-one swimming lessons with Swimming Nature and I’m so sad it’s over! You can read all about my first lesson here.

I went into these sessions knowing that I’m a fairly confident swimmer and I’m very comfortable in the water so I was excited to work on my technique and have my first swimming lessons as an adult.

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In my second lesson we worked further on my front crawl technique by trying to slow down my arms, the result of which is that I felt a lot less panicked when swimming front crawl. I’ve mentioned before that I felt I could swim breakstroke for hours and now my front crawl is approaching the same calmness and sustainability as breastroke. Mark also tweaked my breasktroke technique, encouraging me to look at Adam Peaty’s body position in the water to find a more streamlined way of moving. The best part of that session was learning how to tumble turn properly! I’ve only ever done them on my own before as a kid so it was great to be taught the proper technique using Fergus the toy monkey (not as weird as that sounds, trust me).

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In the third session we continued working on my arm position for front crawl to get the coveted ‘high elbow’ which creates an efficient and beautiful stroke. I’m not sure I felt so beautiful as I swam but I could definitely feel the advantage in the efficiency. We tested it by timing the tempo of my stroke (2.6 seconds per cycle) and then playing with the speed of the length by just adjusting the technique and body position. My front crawl length time dropped from 21 seconds down to 16 seconds, a huge difference!

My final session was focused on learning the butterfly stroke, something that I’ve never been taught before. Mark broke it down to its parts before we put it all together and suddenly it didn’t seem quite so scary or difficult. My butterfly certainly needs a lot of work but the basics are there. We finished off by swimming a medley, one length each of butterfly, back stroke, breastroke and front crawl. I finished on a massive high feeling really proud with how much I’ve learned and how much happier I feel in my front crawl.

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I would highly recommend Swimming Nature and specifically Mark at Fitness First Highbury for the simple teaching methods, confidence-boosting feedback and in-water demonstrations that I haven’t seen other places offering. The focus with Swimming Nature is learning how to swim beautifully and while I’m not sure my strokes are beautiful quite yet, I definitely feel happy doing them. I came away from each session feeling positive and full of energy and if there’s one suggestion I’d make, it’s that if you book a session, splash out (sorry) for the full 60 minute session. 30 minutes flies by too quickly and I was left wanting more each time.

Prices for the 60 minute one-on-one sessions are £64 which is on a par with personal training sessions, essentially what you’re getting but just in the water!

You can find out more info on Swimming Nature and book sessions here

SOPHIE LEARNS TO SWIM

I’ve spoken on my blog before about how much I love being in the water but I know that my technique needs a bit of love, as is evident when I get to the end of a few lengths of front crawl and I feel like I’ve run a marathon. So when Swimming Nature got in touch to ask if I wanted to try out a series of 4 swimming lessons with them I jumped at the chance.

Swimming Nature set themselves apart because the classes are small, either one-on-one or two pupils to one instructor and the instructor is often in the pool with the pupils helping them through the lesson. They teach kids how to swim without any doggy paddle or arm bands which is amazing. I turned up early for my first lesson and saw this in action. I couldn’t help but smile as tiny kids were learning how to do tumble turns and swim backstroke whilst being supported in the water by fun and energetic coaches.

When it was my turn thankfully the lane emptied and it was just me and Mark, my instructor. He asked me a bit about my swimming history which includes a few triathlons with very slow swimming legs. I then showed him what I could do in the water with a few lengths of each stroke. I was very flattered when he asked if I’d swum breastroke for a club in the past but it did confirm what I suspected, I feel like I can swim breastroke for hours because my technique happens to be efficient and strong. No idea how that happened as I haven’t had any lessons since I was a kid!

My freestyle, or front crawl, on the other hand needed a bit of love. Mark videoed me while I was swimming which was fascinating to watch because the struggles that I feel while doing freestyle showed up clearly on the video.

My style is very flat in that there’s not much rotation of my body as I use each arm. Whilst some swimmer sod have more of a flat shape in the water it’s generally suggested that you’re more aerodynamic (hydrodynamic maybe?) if your whole body turns as your arms move. It’s tricky to explain in words but I’m hoping that by the end of my course of lessons I’ll be able to do a comparison video.

We mainly worked on breathing to get me more used to taking breaths on my non-dominant side, something I can do but prefer not to as the other side is stronger. Like anything, the more I thought about it and focused on what Mark was telling me at the end of each length, the smoother my stroke felt. It’s amazing how much more focused I was on what each part of my body was doing within 30 minutes.

I came out of the pool with my mind buzzing and instructions to try and practice before my next lesson although I’m not sure that’s actually going to happen between work, training to cycle to Paris and life. I’ve booked some swimming sessions into my diary already for the coming weeks though so hopefully I’ll be able to practice a bit more after the other lessons.

I can’t wait for the next lesson already!