How to Swim the Breaststroke

After Augusta my season ended. Time for some down time and recovery before starting my steady work on overall improvement. My next triathlon is planned for April, 2014.

But, down time doesn’t mean “do nothing”, and I started with pushing my comfort zone…which includes learning new swim strokes. But let me back up.

After Augusta the first thing I had to do was step well out of my comfort zone and tell my current coach I was switching coaches. I was not looking forward to this. Mary is the only coach I have ever known or had. Other coaches had been there for triathlon teams, but Mary was also a coach. We have worked together since 2010 when I did my first triathlon. If I had not exhibited some form of separation anxiety I would have been more surprised than not: we have worked together and grown together. She has shown and taught me about setting goals and the first to really show me that I can give more.

So on the Monday after Augusta I called Mary and told her. And she was amazing; supportive of my decision. She said that it may be good for me to exit my comfort zone with her and see what else is out there. And so our relationship changed from coach/athlete to friends. It was bittersweet: excited for changes, sad because we have come so far together.

And the next day I started with my new coach: Laura Sophiea.

As the time to switch drew near I started getting nervous. All those “What if’s”? One of my biggest fears was what if I didn’t feel comfortable talking with her and telling her what was going on? Or asking questions? I had enjoyed speaking with her before, and all the people I spoke with said she is very encouraging, helpful, and was very good friend to them (which translates in to that they can speak with her and they trust her and…many things for me) but…still. It’s change and there are always things that people are nervous about, right?

Well, after the first week I realized those fears were for nothing. Laura has engaged me in conversations and plans about what I am doing, what she has on my schedule, and asking me if I have any questions, preferences, etc. She’s a coach. She loves coaching, and loves working with her athletes. I am open and chatty enough about my workouts that we are working well together and I am really enjoying working with her. I am starting to realize how much, despite Mary’s encouragement and efforts, I had underestimated what I can do and what is possible for me to do.

One of the first things Laura mentioned she wanted me to do was to start swimming on the “swimmers side” at Dynamo Masters. I swear my eyes went wide and my face just fell. Me? With the “real” swimmers? Are you for real? I don’t know other strokes! But, I knew those were excuses so I decided….if that is what it takes, I will do it. It was a flurry of emotions that took place in a heartbeat. But I was still nervous.

The first thing I did after changing coaches was I spoke with Maria, the Masters swim coach. She laughed at me and said she doesn’t promote people from the “free style only” (aka triathlete) side to the swimmers side. Rather people chose. I noted that I was just nervous at being able to keep up and my inability to swim strokes other than freestyle. Maria said she would put me with people who do more freestyle than the other strokes, and I would be fine. She also suggested that I swim with the triathletes on Monday, the day she typically focuses on drill and recovery for us, and other days go over to the swimmer’s side. Knowing my stroke needs work, I decided that was a pretty good way to go.

Cindy was there when I chatted with Maria (she is on the swimmer’s side and one of the first people I met when I started swimming at Dynamo – we have pulled many tarps off the pool together) and mentioned she has seen me swimming and I could keep up on the swimmers side. OK. Decision made – after two weeks of down time after Augusta I was going to step over to the swimmers side.

And last Wednesday (10/16) step over I did. Cindy was there. The two of us ended up getting to split a lane and not circle swim for which I was also grateful as I could gauge my pace/effort and not slow anyone down. I actually did OK. It was a lot of fins work that day and Maria kept us moving (the water was a chilly 76 so zero complaints at that). After all the swimming Maria asked how it went and I gave her a thumbs up. Cindy kept me in line and hitting intervals. I only missed 50 yards in one set. Yea!

Friday I went back to the swimmers side. This time we had to circle swim as there were 4 of us in the lane. Yikes!

One of the first sets was an IM variation set consisting of various mixes of butterfly, back stroke, breast stroke and freestyle (crawl). I looked at the women in my lane and said – I don’t know fly – I will be doing free, and I will do my best with back and breast. It worked out. And Cindy kept me in line as to the stroke order for each interval. Thank goodness! I was busy just trying to keep up. I felt the different strokes but kept at it and kept telling myself this will help make me a stronger swimmer. I made it through, and the rest of the sets were freestyle, and I kept pace. Whew!

Afterwards Cindy asked me if I wanted to learn breast stroke – she could tell I was frustrated/struggling. I said that I would, and would appreciate some help. Maria walked over and asked if we were talking about my breast stroke (or lack thereof!) and soon it became an informal instruction period with people talking and demonstrating, me watching, and then me trying/practicing. In short, if you want to learn breaststroke, don’t do what i do!

My coordination with kick/stroke is all wrong, my stroke is incorrect, and, well….lots of work to be done. But I am starting to think about it and get the rhythm. The next few weeks will be interesting as I try to put things together! Side note: if anyone knows breast stroke and wants to meet me for awhile and help – I am game! And then I can work on back, and maybe even try some butterfly (which I realize I may never really get, but can at least give a decent try!).  I really do want to learn. And breast stroke is probably the best place to start. So, pushing my comfort zone in the pool is, as usual, working out and resulting in exciting and fun changes. yes!

Recently I also rode on a friend’s wheel, with her pushing her intervals, and I worked to hold her pace. Normally I would lead or let whomever I was riding with do their interval and we would regroup – not trying to push and hold their pace. This was new for me…and exciting. I was sitting back there thinking to myself “Holy cow! I am doing this! I am holding a pace someone else has set and I CAN keep up!” Needless to say, I enjoyed this new and exciting experience, and during the rest intervals proceeded to tell her how exciting this was for me. She has been good enough to let me repeat the experience a few times!  It takes some getting used to that feeling in my legs, and comfortable with it mentally (as in “I can do this”)….but it is becoming easier.

There are so many other things I could say. But, the gist is – even in down time – I am pushing my comfort zone and trying to learn and do new things to help me push those imaginary boundaries.  It’s scary. It’s exciting. I am learning I am stronger than I give myself credit. Yes, I still have a lot of work to do, but it is also exciting to realize progress.


Hopefully my next post will include some pictures. Maybe of me trying to do the breaststroke?


One thought on “How to Swim the Breaststroke

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