November 2017

Ironman and triathlons: How to get swimming confident

I haven’t touched on my current training goal on The Fit Londoner, but if you follow me on Twitter and Instagram, you’ll know it’s big. Really big. We’re talking about Ironman. Gulp. I still can’t get used to saying it. Coming from a not-so-confident swimming and no-triathlon background, my lessons with Swimming Nature are going to play a big part in getting me water and swimming confident. 

Let’s get to the basics of Ironman. It’s a long-distance triathlon that consists of a swimming segment, followed by bike then run. The swim portion is 2.4miles/3.86km. Bike is 112miles/180.25km. Run is 42.2km (aka a marathon). Every time I look at those figures, they send eery shivers down my spine. Shivers that make me feel nervous. Shivers that make me excited. This is a whole new challenge for me. I’ve never done a triathlon before. So why am I doing this?   

There’s a whole lot of reasons why I am doing this, but one of the main reasons is to help me combat my fears and phobias. When I was younger, there was a time I was bullied quite a lot. An incident where I was pushed on the ground left me with a large, permanent scar on my knee. Up until 2 years ago, I’d wear 80 dernier tights (those really thick tights) whatever the weather to disguise the scar. In another incident, I was pushed into the deep end of a pool and nearly drowned. Since that time, despite being Aquarius (we’re meant to be water babies) I have never felt comfortable in the water. T

hroughout school, after I discovered what were periods, I’d pretend to have mine and long it out as much as possible to avoid being in the pool. When I was in the pool, I’d have panic attacks if the teachers tried to encourage me to go into the deep end. Since then, over the years, my relationship with swimming has been iffy. Last year, I completed a swimathon for charity. Whilst I thought I had fully overcome my fear of deep water by completing it, I realised the fear was still there: put me in the end lane of a pool and I’m fine. Put me in the middle lane and I’m a different story. I want to well and truly say goodbye to this fear I have and when I complete Ironman Bolton, I know I will have done so.  

Ironman’s swimming section has to be done in 2 hours 20 minutes. What I’ve learnt from my time trial swim session so far in Ironman training is how important technique plays a part in gaining that edge and getting faster. I know I can swim 2.4 miles, but at this point in time I can’t swim it with confidence or in open water and I’m not sure if I could do it  within the cut off time. A lot of work needs to be done between now and 15 July, 2018 (Ironman Bolton race day).   

In a long about way, this gets me onto swimming lessons. Besides having a coach for the whole of my plan, swimming lessons are going to help me fine tune my technique and build up that non-existent confidence in the water to prepare me for open water swimming. Coach Sam from Swimming Nature is giving me lessons over the four weeks to help me.   

Swimming Nature offer private swimming lessons to adults across the UK – though they aren’t necessarily triathlon-based swimming lessons, for someone like myself who lacks the confidence in water, they are really useful. The range of lessons vary from teaching complete beginners to people like me to programmes focussing on each of the three swim strokes or advanced techniques. Their full range of programmes can be found here.   

 After two lessons in, it’s been really interesting to see how already making a few small changes here and there makes a massive differences to my overall swimming technique. In my first lesson, Sam asked me to swim front crawl for a few lengths of the pool so he could gain an understanding of what my technique was like. From there, this would help him devise his plan four our four lessons together. It turns out that my ass was sinking, I wasn’t really floating on the water, when I was taking my face out of the water to breather I was wasting a lot of energy by lifting up a large part of my upper body. And I was kicking from my knees, not from the hips. Wowser. I’m not sure if I’ve ever been swimming or just thrashing about in the water up until then.   

I left that first lesson buzzing, looking forward to putting into practice what Sam gone through with me into my next Ironman swim training session. And, when I completed that training session, being able to feel how different my swimming felt by going through the changes Sam suggested was so intriguing. If you’re anything like me and also often finding yourself doing the opposite to what a PT or instructor tells you to do, Sam was so patient. He’d say go right and I’d go left – things like that, all the time! I don’t know how he kept his cool!   I’m really looking forward to the remaining swim lessons with Swimming Nature and highly recommend Sam at Fitness First Baker Street if you’re looking to build up your confidence or improve on your technique if you are an advanced swimmer. Sam was previously a competitive swimmer and has also dabbled in triathlons so knows his stuff as well.   

Have you used a swimming coach before or had adult swimming lessons?