Recovering and reviewing plans

I’m happy to say that after a couple of days of treating my ankle with ice and wearing a compression bandage, the swelling has almost gone and I’ve been able to walk around on it quite easily, although I’ve done my best to keep of it as much as I can.

But managing to get from my car to my desk and from my desk to where I need to be at work without too much of a limp is a long way from the kind of active lifestyle I normally enjoy. So it’s been a bit of a week off from training.

And that’s been hard at times, particularly on Thursday morning when I had to cancel my regular PT session. It’s been part of my life for so long and I so enjoy doing it, that I felt a bit bereft without my usual dose of exercise induced endorphins and encouragement from Ian. I’m afraid I was a bit sulky and low that day.

I am trying to be sensible and not make the mistake of rushing back into my usual activities too quickly and risking compounding an injury that I hope will clear up in a couple of weeks. But it feels like a waste of these splendid autumn days, and so I’m looking at things I can do.

I tried walking on the treadmill at the gym and a short swim on Wednesday night, not really enough effort to raise my heart rate, but I felt the effect enough to know that I shouldn’t push it to do any more.

Even swimming put a bit of a pull on my ankle, so when I went back to the pool on Friday morning, I took my pull buoy with me so I could eliminate my legs and swim mainly with my arms. A pull buoy is just a kind of float. In this case I stuck it sort of between my knees to keep my legs up without the need to kick with them. It’s a good tool to use to help you concentrate on parts of your swim technique, so I used it to focus on my head position in the water.

As I can’t run so much at the moment, it will be good to work on my swimming for the next triathlon season. A very good swimmer on Fetch Everyone has sent me some ideas for exercises I can practise in the pool to improve my stroke.

It may sound strange, but I am missing the hot sweaty buzz that I get from a good cardio session such as a fast paced interval run. Particularly as before I hurt my ankle I was just starting a new programme with a lot of this kind of activity in it. And if I want to keep my fitness up, I need to do something that will get my heart rate up. So I’m going to go back to doing some sessions on the indoor rowing machine and bike. They should also fit in well with next year’s triathlon plans.

Today I volunteered at parkrun and enjoyed meeting up with my friends, shouting encouragement and taking photos of the runners on Newcastle’s Town Moor. It’s such a friendly and social event and today was simply a lovely day to be outdoors.

I also picked up an exercise that I haven’t done since the beginning of the year, trying out a pilates class at my gym. It was a good test of my flexibility and core strength, so I’ll try to make time to continue some of those exercises at home too.

I’ve been making progress with my Level 2 gym qualification too. I’ve now worked my way through all the anatomy and physiology sections and am starting to learn about working with clients. It’s really interesting stuff. Luckily I’ve had such great experience with my PT, Ian from Inspire Fitness that a lot of it seems like second nature or common sense to me and it would just be the way I’d do things. But I want to take my time to take it all in and not take anything for granted.

I need to do a bit of revising, but I hope to take my first assessment in anatomy and physiology in the next few weeks.

All this is helping me keep a positive note on my injury as it’s really not the end of the world and people have far worse to deal with. But when you love what you do, like I do, you miss it when things change. Reading the notes on changing behaviours and setting goals for clients as part of my studying today made me realise I need to do a few of these things myself . And actually changing the way I do things could be good in the long term, as working on my cycling and swimming skills will really help me improve my performance during next year’s triathlon season.

400m front crawl in the bag

Regular readers will know that I’ve been trying to improve my swimming. I took some lessons in November to learn how to breathe properly when swimming front crawl, with a view to completing a sprint triathlon this year.

It’s been incredibly frustrating at times, unlearning my bad habits and trying to get my body to learn new ones. I also had to fight a panic instinct about breathing out under water, but I had a very patient teacher.

Since my lessons I’ve just been practising and practising. But progress has felt incredibly slow. I could barely string two lengths of a 20m pool together swimming properly, whereas if I stuck my head out of the water, I could pootle up and down all day. Back in November I managed 5 lengths in one go – a whole 100m. And then never managed to do that again…until last night.

Last night I got in the pool and had about 15 minutes before my aqua aerobics class. So I challenged myself to swim 200m – which I did with a set of 4 and 2×3 lengths. Then I did a 45 min class, splashing around in the pool.

After the class, the pool was clear, so I thought I’d have another go. This time I wanted to see if I could swim 200m in one go.

Now here’s the thing… I actually swim better when I’m a bit tired. It means I slow down and don’t thrash my arms so much trying desperately to get to the side of the pool.

So I started nice and slow, giving myself plenty of time for the in-breath. And I just kept going. I did 10 lengths easy and I said to myself, ‘Just see how many more you can do.’ And I kept going, and going until I reached 20 lengths. That’s 400m or the distance I’ll have to swim in a sprint triathlon. And I did it in 10mins 30 secs.

Woohoo! I can’t tell you how fantastic I felt. It was like the day I ran to the roundabout and back without stopping last year. Something just clicked and I’d got it.

And now I’ve done it, I know I can do it again. And maybe I can get a bit faster, a bit smoother through the water too.

There are still challenges to face with my triathlon goal – like getting on a bike for one and then stringing all these separate disciplines together for another. But it’s coming together and I’m starting to have faith in myself that I can do this.

Now all I need to do is pick my event and enter it.

In the swim again

I often do an aqua aerobics session on a Monday night, so this week I got to the pool early to get some front crawl practice in.

I warmed up with a length or two of breast stroke and then just went for it with the crawl, straight into 100m. Which made my little heart glad, as I have been stopping after 60 or 80m the last couple of times.

I’ve been checking out a few websites and watching some swimming technique videos, so there were a few things I wanted to practise. There are definitely a few things starting to fall into place now, such as the breathing out and swimming slowly to get the technique right.

I still stuff it up now and again and end up gasping for air, but I feel like I’m doing it less often and on one length I actually managed to get my breathing rhythm back – something I’ve not managed before. I managed another 100m set just to prove I hadn’t fluked it the first time and a few more 40, 60 and 80m sets.

I know it’s not a startling swim by any means, but I want to start measuring and comparing how I’m getting on so I can measure that progress. So I timed myself for a couple of lengths of front crawl versus the same distance breast stroke and at the moment they’re about the same. But even that’s not bad, as it shows I’m swimming crawl slowly to get things right, and I’m sure the speed will come when I don’t have to think about what I’m doing so much.

I think next time I want to build on the distance I can swim continuously without having to take a little breather. But all in all, it felt a lot better, a lot more relaxed.

And given that I managed about 30 mins swimming and another 45 mins aqua class, I don’t think stamina’s going to be too much of a problem 😉

Bruises and obsession

I am the clumsiest person I know. I am Clumsy McClumsy of the clan McClumsy from Clumsyville, Clumsyshire.

Today as I was getting changed in the gym, I managed to knock one of the hairdryers off its shelf. And straight onto my foot.

My left foot

I’d only been there 15 minutes and managed to injure myself with a piece of equipment I don’t actually use. Didn’t stop me from jumping in the pool for another front crawl session though. Fifteen minutes on the treadmill had warmed me up nicely, so I was determined to take advantage of a little weariness and swim slowly, focusing on technique.

I did a few sinking down and breathing out and push and glide drills to relax, then moved onto front crawl. And it is getting better. I’m generally more relaxed and trying to take it slowly, although I still seem to end up out of breath on the third or fourth lap and end up scrabbling with my arms and losing my breathing pattern.

It was going reasonably well until a woman wearing Calvin Klein Obsession got into the pool. How could I tell? I could smell it in the water. It absolutely filled my nostrils. I know it’s potent stuff, but blimey, you’d have thought it would have diluted in all that water.

So I thought like a shark scenting blood and tried to make myself long and smooth in the water. I’m trying to swim with bilateral breathing, taking air in every three strokes. I tried telling myself I had plenty of time to breathe in on the third stroke if I took it slowly and that worked quite well. But as soon as I slipped out of the right rhythm I struggled to get it back again. If I accidentally take in water as well as air, I struggle to get back on track with the breathing and inevitably have to take a bit of a break at the end of the next length. Less of a shark, more like a cat in the water.

But I feel better, more confident and I think it will come. I just need to keep trying and hopefully it will all click into place.

In which I ramble on about swimming

I haven’t blogged much about swimming. I think it’s because I haven’t got it yet. I’m still struggling to get the pattern of breathing and moving right in front crawl.

I’ve taken some lessons and they’ve really helped. First of all to get me over the totally irrational and instinctive panic I had when trying to breathe with my head in the water and then demonstrating the right way to swim front crawl.

So now I’m at the stage where I know what I need to do, but my body just hasn’t caught up with the theory yet. And it’s been incredibly frustrating at times. There was one session where I really thought quite loud and clear in the front of my brain, ‘I’m not going to get this.’ But then I thought even louder and angrier that I wasn’t going to let it beat me either.

Part of that confidence comes from my experience of running. I thought the same thing about running too at the start. It was so hard. So many things to think about – breathing, rolling through your feet, not overdoing the arms, breathing, trying to stay relaxed, not bringing your shoulders up, trying not to favour one side more than another, breathing, keeping it smooth, hips pointing forward, breathing.

When I started running, it was for fitness. My first goal was to run for 20 minutes and that was hard. I didn’t really blog much about that either. Which kind of makes it hard to remember now.

So that’s why I wanted to try and start making sense of the swimming. So that I can look back and track my progress.

Last weekend I got in the pool after a session in the gym, so I was already a bit tired. Which was good, because it meant I swam more slowly. I also tried out a swimming cap for the first time and that helped too, keeping my hair out of my face and stopping me having to wrestle with bobbles, clips and goggles all wanting to be in the same space. Breathing out into the water felt better most of the time too. Although I still tend to hold my breath when my face is in the water.

The problem is stringing it all together. I seem to be able to relax for one or two lengths (and we’re only talking about a 20 metre pool here), but then lose the rhythm on the third one. I only managed to string together 4 lengths in any one attempt, and the last one was a bit scrappy.

I also tried swimming the way the way I used to with my head half way out of the water, really using my arms and legs to push myself along. And I could feel how inefficient and slow it was. How it would tire me out over some distance. It’s how most people swim in a pool.

So I’m hoping swimming properly will be like running. Given time and repetition it will fall into place and then I can start to build up the distance. I just keep telling myself that I never thought I’d be able to run 10k or 13.1 miles. But I did. I’m sure I can crack this swimming lark too.