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Starting Swim Lessons

January 21, 2012

An Ironman is a lot like grad school. It’s a really big goal, but really far off. And so it’s easy to think I have time. I still have plenty of time to learn to swim. But that “I have time” is dangerous. It’s what leads to not training. It’s what leads to panicking three months from the race, realizing there’s not enough time to finish training. It’s what leads to showing up on race day unprepared. It’s why too much time is sometimes worse than too little time. “I have time” so quickly becomes “I don’t have time.”

So, just like I’ve created structures to get myself writing my dissertation that I expect to finish in two and a half years, I also need structures to help reinforce my Ironman training goals. Crossfit provides structure to most of my training right now. But for the swimming, I’m taking adult swim classes at Northwestern. The last time I seriously tried to swim was for the Chicago Triathlon, several years ago. And left to my own devices, I might easily wait till summer before I started swimming. But starting this past week, every Wednesday I will be at Northwestern’s pool for an adult swim class. I am one of three students in the class.

I was nervous when the instructor started the class by having us swim a length of the pool, so she could see where we are. But I made it the 25 yards, success! I don’t know if I could have turned right around for another length, but I at least I wasn’t completely gasping for air. The hardest part of the class was really committing to trying to do the drills the right way. Like many novice swimmers, I tend to lift my head out of the water when I’m desperate for air. But that throws off my whole stroke of course. So we worked on drills for arm and body position and breathing timing.

In the long term, those drills will get me to the point where I can breathe comfortably and swim without stopping to catch my breath. In the short term, doing those drills the right way means I’m much more likely to get a nose full of water (that happened twice in the class). The instructor also encouraged me to try breathing on alternate sides of my body, since she knew eventually I was planning to do the Ironman, and pointed out that for open water swimming I might need to deal with waves, wind, or other people that make breathing on one side or the other more practical. But breathing on my left side is much more difficult than my right for now. More to work on.

Overall, I think it was a good first class. I’ve still got a lot to work on, but I know I can do this. Actually, the other guy in the class mentioned that his wife has done a few Ironmans, and last year coached someone for Ironman Arizona. This person also started out a weak swimmer, and finished the Ironman fine. So reason to hope. In the meantime, I need to keep making classes work. And I probably should be trying to get to the pool two more times a week for practice on my own. Didn’t do so well on that this past week, but that can be the next step.

302 days till Ironman Arizona.


From → motivation, swimming

  1. You are doing all the right things. I hope to see you at IMAZ 2012. I am logging my journey on and trying to raise $5000 for the Childhood Brain Tumor Foundation on behalf of a 15 year old family friend who is fighting a tumor. Would you be interested in responding to a short early season survey. I am keeping track of a few people’s journeys and hoping to link up with them at Tempe Town Lake to see how it went.

    • jbkosbie permalink

      Enjoyed reading your blog as well. It’s exciting to see how other people outside my “circle” in Chicago are training. You definitely made the right call on volunteering for IMAZ 2011. For the extra I paid for the charity slot, I could have paid for flight, hotel, and meals, and got a volunteer experience and saw the course out of. I’d be happy to answer your survey. I’m following your site now, you should be able to send me a message through that.

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