A new challenge – the freestyle stroke

Now I’ve signed up to train for a triathlon. Why, I might ask myself? Well, I did enjoy training for the half marathon tremendously. It gave me a goal and a challenge. The triathlon presents different challenges – running (I almost have to begin from scratch), swimming (my freestyle is abysmal) and biking (I am weak and haven’t biked in years). My favorite challenge is swimming, followed by biking :).

Prior to signing up for a tri training program, I also signed up for a 3 week swim class at UT to get better at freestyle prior to the Ironchicks training. This class was superb. I got almost undivided attention from a trainer who attended to minute details of my stroke. He taught me to kick from the hips, raise my lower torso more than I was in the water. He showed me what the perfect stroke should look like. You stretch your hand in the water, straight, extend, then pull angular into your body, cut the water under your ribs, extend your hand back again out from the back with a wide angle swoop and open your shoulders before bringing your hand back into the water again, cutting it straight. At the same time you keep kicking from your hips. I would get one part, forgetting the other. Worse, forgetting to breathe and spluttering, gulping large amounts of chlorine! But I understood where I had to get to. After 5 classes, my freestyle had improved to the extent I could go 25 meters without stopping (1 lap). It’s still tough for me to head back immediately because the stroke is so darn oxygen-demanding! After a few laps I feel like I’m sweating and have run a couple of miles!!

We had to do many drills. One was to trail fingers on top of the water without submerging them in the freestyle. Just skimming the surface on each stroke. That’s meant to perfect your elbow movement. Another one involved kicking with the kick-board which was always the hardest.

So I showed up on the first day of swimming training at Ironchicks, feeling a little bit more confident that I would be able to swim. The pool was the YMCA East Communities – 25 yards unlike the UT pool which was 25 meters. And 5 feet deep, full of bugs as it was an outdoor pool. Never a better way to get used to open water swimming I say! The ladies looked intimidating! All geared up in trisuits or gear from previous triathlons they looked like an intense bunch. I was nervous! At least I had a new tri-swimsuit (to wick off moisture when you get onto the land sports after your swim etc.) from REI so I was excited about that!

The coach made use do a few awesome drills. One involved doing the freestyle on the side. You extend one arm, the other rests on your thigh and you kick yourself on the side to the other end of the pool. You have to look down into the water and bring your head up to breathe as if you would in a free-style. This drill helps you practice rotating the body in the free-style which is critical for efficiency and help breathing. The second drill which focused on the stroke had us put pull-buoys between our legs (so you do not kick) and helps you perfect the stroke. This was darn hard! The pull-buoy made me wanna flip around! And I realized how right-side dominance I am on the free-style as I could hardly get the left side to cooperate!

Finally I went to the UT pool back today, determined to do about 650 meters at least of various drills, strokes and swimming styles but focus on freestyle (I learned the backstroke as well at the UT class which is going to be very useful for later). I thought I did pretty well. I did each one of the drills and I still have a way to go to get my left arm and side to work well when I do the sideways free style with arm extended. Pull-buoys wasn’t great either on the left side. So, more breathing in from the left and more power to the left. I accommodated by eating some fried shrimp for dinner hoping they would affect the left side more. Whatever.

Tomorrow is the first bike workout so perhaps the next post will be about biking! Wait till you find out how gear-heavy triathlons are!!


4 responses to “A new challenge – the freestyle stroke

  1. wwwwwwwwwwwwwoh! Triathalon.. I know I should not be surprised… but I am… Wow…. Miss S… i am bowing down.. Holy Crap… aaha! I wish I could see you finish the crossing line in person… no worries my online awe and hugs will keep coming..

    TRIATHOLON BABY!!! So proud of you!

    • Thank you Garry!! promise me you’ll read my blog posts from London!! it’s not a big deal trust me (especially the distances are much smaller) the half-marathon was a lot worse!! i’ll write more about triathlons in a later post.

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