Recently I decided I wanted to get some help with my swimming stroke. I’ve been a swimmer all my life, a competitive one into my teen years. Then a lap swimmer in my adult years.
I love the pool. It’s one of the places I feel most at home. Chasing the line up and down. Endlessly. It’s comforting and meditative.
I put some of that down to swim training as a teenager. When I started I had three coaches and a club where you swam every event at every meet. No matter how slow you were, you usually swam about six races per meet, even if it was in the slowest heat. That encouraged me to get my times up but also forced me to get competent or better in every stroke.
Fast forward to today – and many years later. The freestyle stroke is very different to what I learnt.
What I thought was going to be a few tweaks and hey presto, faster swimming, turned out to be a bit of a demolition and rebuild job.
Yes, it was a little frustrating, and what jarred the most was how on earth it’s possible to go slower in the stroke to go faster. In the new world order of freestyle, it felt like it took a glacial age to cycle through one revolution.
Why? Because of the glide. The glide is the space which lengthens your stroke, offering a bit of recovery time within the action of the stroke. In the beginning it feels like you’re hanging there forever. Waiting. Waiting. Long enough that it just feels a little stupid. But when you figure it out, it’s actually what holds the whole stroke together – and if you short-change yourself by making it too short, then the stroke starts to get messy.
I’m still working on my stroke and it’s not done yet, but I feel a lot more comfortable in that place where I used to feel like I was hanging in space.
I’m also seeing the glide all over the place outside the pool too. It’s the spot where you think you’re doing nothing at all but actually you’re in this stretch, ready to do the next thing. It’s a pause with consciousness. It’s hopeful and offers so much promise. Plus, it reminds me that you’re never too old to change a life-long way of doing something and that gliding is king.