Swimathon 2014: Relax & Flow, and Spock Hands

I have participated in the Swimathon since 2010 – it was THE event that showed me that I could do things that once I had never even dreamed. It was my first foray into long distance swimming, and when I logged my first 5k swim that year, I taught myself a very key life lesson: that I am capable.  This year I was asked to be a part of the Swimathon Blog Squad, as a part of the UK Sport Relief weekend that is happening from the 21st to 23rd of March. Without hesitation I accepted. As a part of my participation on the blog squad, I have been given free entry to the Swimathon, and will be regularly posting about my training for the Swimathon. I have also been given access to some amazing opportunities – like a one-on-one swim session with Duncan Goodhew, Olympic gold medalist (1980, 100m breast stroke).

On Friday I had the opportunity to learn from Duncan Goodhew (I’m still pinching myself).  An hour of coaching can be overwhelming – so much to take in, so much to practice, so much information. But Duncan kept it straight forward with a big guiding principal for the water:

“Just relax and flow.”

He made it sound so easy. Relax and flow. Remember to relax and flow even when doing death drills like water polo with delayed hand entry.

I did my best to focus, to retain the many tips he shared with me over the hour. And I tried not to sink. Although as you can see from the photo above, it was not easy staying afloat all the time!

I walked away with confirmation from a gold medalist that the things I am working on with my coach Tim are the things he thinks I need to work on too (nice coach correlation test!)  I need to focus on hand entry, head position, engaging my lats when pulling… Stretching and extending, pulling completely… The list was long, the changes really a series of small adjustments to every facet of my stroke – but each change would lead to a more streamlined swim, less resistance, and ultimately a better swim.

Duncan also pointed out that I need to work on keeping my fingers together in the water. Apparently I swim with “Spock Hands”…

Spock hands – not recommended for swimming… Live long and prosper! (source.)

In the midst of the many tips and drills, I did manage to ask Duncan a few questions, learning a few factoids like the fact that his highest volume training was 20,000 meters A DAY for two weeks. I asked if he thought he overtrained. He said that nowadays coaching has evolved, with a greater appreciation for recovery and non-swimming specific work. Again, Duncan’s words had me thinking about the things Tim has said to me: “get to the gym and do weights to improve your swimming.” I also asked Duncan to show me his breast stroke – he explained to me the evolution of the form since he won gold in 1980, versus today (nowadays swimmers go up higher in the water almost creating a butterfly like extra thrust in the stroke).  He even showed me a few fly drills to work on, to get stronger in the pull and to understand the rhythm of the stroke.

And Duncan left me with a final parting thought. At the end of our hour, he reminded me that no matter what, we need to appreciate the water. Be thankful for the swims we do. He stressed that we should always take a moment at the start AND at the end of a swim to reflect. To look at the water. And to be thankful.

I love that. #swimgratitude

Meeting an Olympic champion is something I think every kid dreams of – an hour of one-on-one coaching with a champion is something so incredibly cool that I don’t think I ever even dared to dream of doing it. What an incredible way to spend Friday evening.  Thanks Swimathon for allowing me to have this once in a lifetime experience.

For more information on the Swimathon check out their website. This year the Swimathon has linked up with Sport Relief to raise funds for the Comic Relief organisation. Registration for the 1k, 2.5k, or 5k challenge is open and costs £11, with incentives for participants who also fundraise for Sport Relief. In 2014 I am being given free entry to the Swimathon in exchange for blogging about my experiences – but I have participated in the Swimathon since 2010, doing the 5k in 2010, 2011, and 2.5k in 2012 and 2013. I love the event, it has become an integral part of my swim training and calender, and it is what convinced me that distance swimming was something I could do and that I really enjoy. I highly recomment giving it a go, and challenging yourself to do a distance that you have never dreamed of! If you are signing up, I will be swimming on Friday 21 March at 7am at London Fields Lido. Maybe see you there?!

#swimathon #blogsquad

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