In my attempt to become a better swimmer, and to help train for future triathlons, I attended the Masters Swim class at my local YMCA.
Master Swimmer I am not! I’m a self-taught survival swimmer. Having grown up on a lake, it was imperative that I learn to swim at an early age. Knowing how to swim allowed me to play rag tag off the pier, helped me survive the blows of being pushed off the raft while playing “King of the Raft,” and enabled me to tread water for 20 minutes after my sailboat capsized. Just two years ago, I decided to start swimming laps for exercise. Not sure why — maybe to help my achy knees, to become more well-rounded physically, to be able to say I’m a decent swimmer.
Masters Swim. The title alone was intimidating to me. As I said, I’m no master, but the class description claims it’s a class for all levels, beginner to experienced triathletes, a workout to improve stroke technique, times and fitness level in a fun, social setting.
“Is it REALLY for all levels?” I asked the lifeguard as I waited for the swim coach to arrive. So far on the pool deck were 2 men in speedos – clearly with the physiques of masters-plus swimmers.
I introduced myself to the coach with a wave and a quiet hi.
“I’ve never done this. This is my first time here, at Masters Swim,” I told him in a shaky voice. “I mean, I can swim, but, you know, I just swim, like 30 laps on my own, like once a week. And I took a few months off from swimming after having my baby – my 2nd child. Um, I’m a medium pace swimmer, well, maybe slow-medium. I’ve done 2 sprint triathlons, not this past year but the year before, and I want to do triathlons this summer, but, um, swimming is my weakest leg. I’m hoping to get better, get some tips…” I felt like a nervous 4-year-old and obviously sounded like one, too.
“Ok, go ahead and swim 200 yards for warm-up,” he told me.
A look of confusion spread across my face as I tried to calculate how many laps that would be.
“8 lengths,” he interrupted my thoughts.
“Oh, 8 laps?” I asked. I’m used to keeping track of my swimming by referring to laps, and obviously I’m not sure how long the pool is – the pool where I’ve been swimming laps for almost 2 years.
“No, 8 lengths,” he said again as he motioned back and forth with his arms.
Ok, I’ll just go swim, I thought. After a warm-up he asked, “Do you know any other strokes?”
Other than freestyle? Isn’t that all that matters? That’s how I’m going to crawl my way through the swim legs of my future triathlons, unless I doggy paddle. Or backstroke. I can backstroke! Though not well…
After I spent a minute watching my lane partner gracefully butterfly to the wall, the coach gave the first set: 6×125’s with 25 swim, 25 kick (no kickboard), 25 swim. 10 seconds rest.
Huh? He explained it to me slower, with arm gestures, and tried to explain how I’m supposed to kick facedown without a kickboard, and without using my arms.
I lost track of how many times I was supposed to do the 25,25,25 thing as I was trying to do the kick segment without drowning.
Ok, next set: 5 x 100’s, hard effort, 10 sec rest between each 100.
Next: 2 x 800’s, focus on follow-through with strokes, 20 sec rest between each 800.
Next: 8 x 50’s, all out effort and rest must all be within 75 seconds. The faster you go, the more rest you get.
There were some other sets in there that I don’t remember. I did them, and I didn’t drown, and the coach said I did a great job. Phew. Oh, and I had a blast! When’s the next class?