So I’m out in Los Angeles – Pasadena, to be exact – logging many miles at the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center, which has a lovely 50m outdoor pool. This is part of my swim-focus that will go through mid-February and also represents my return to training after a resting up following 70.3 Champs in Clearwater. I came out to SoCal after getting fat at Thanksgiving with the goal of doing over 100km of swimming in two weeks. I’m actually staying a bit longer than two weeks, since it’s hard to want to leave the beautiful sunshine and pool behind. But I’m well on my way to breaking the 100km mark, with my current training week slated to total up to 63km of swimming. Following 13km today, I’ve done over 40km in the past four days, which is both tiring and inspiring. As much as you always hear about how swimming is so technique-oriented (which it is), it takes a lot of mileage to ingrain that technique. And the older you get, the more mileage it takes to break bad habits and establish new ones.
But right now, things are going very well. Despite occassionally being unable to feel my arms or even raise them above my head, I’m still swimming well. Thanks to TPMassageBall for that wondrous little ball, which has kept my shoulders working. Also, for all you would be masochists who want to do something similar, I also warm up before every swim with Stretchcordz; I use the yellow weight ones. Rotator cuff maintenance was drilled into me by several pt’s, and I can say it does make a difference.
In any case, it can be very boring and difficult to change your stroke. Change is hard. One thing I need to change is that I don’t rotate my hips enough. I swim very flat. So you can do all those silly drills and stuff, but they are easy to forget. So I came up with something that is slightly more motivating. One nice part about swimming outside, especially in California, is that you can get a nice tan. You can feel okay about getting tan in a small bathing suit, without feeling the need to hang out with hairy European men in thongs. But of course, as triathletes, we swim predominantly freestyle. This means your back gets very tan, while your front stays pasty white. Of course, you need to do some backstroke to keep from getting hunched over with rolled forward shoulders like a neanderthal, and you can kick on your back, but still, you are spending most of your time looking down with your back facing the sun.
The solution? Proper body rotation. The Rose Bowl pool is oriented quite well for this, with the lanes running basically East-West, so the sun traverses across the Southern side of pool, rather than up and over the top. So if, like me, you breathe unilaterally (meaning I always breathe on the right or left, but don’t switch during a length), but can breathe to both sides, this means if you always breathe to the sunny-side (since most people tend to rotate a bit more to the breathing side to help with rotation), and really focus on your rotation, you can effectively expose yourself equally to the sun, meaning you get a nice even tan. Of course, this may seem superficial and stupid and encouraging people to get skin cancer (I use SPF30 waterproof sunblock applied the recommended 15 minutes prior to getting in the water!), it also has really helped me focus on rotating. When you are swimming for sometimes as much as four hours a day, you need things like this to think about.
Other superficial things to think about are: working on a proper catch to get bigger lats and triceps, which help with the whole cosmetic bulk thing. Doing butterfly because it is a good core workout for building good abs, which are apparently popular with women according to Men’s Health, Maxim, FHM, etc. Doing backstroke because it is good for the tan. I can’t think of any more right now because the chlorine is rotting my brain. In any case, don’t be afraid to use vanity to help motivate you in the pool and improve your swimming. Who really cares about rotating to get better engagement of the water. Will I really want to win a race if I don’t have a good tan in the finishline photo? 🙂