Friday, August 26, 2005

Swimming and the Alexander Technique

Several years ago, Peter Ryan, the terrific dance teacher, suggested I borrow this book from the library on swimming and the Alexander Technique. Since I swim a lot, have had some good experience with the Alexander Technique and would like to swim better, I read it. All I remember now are some of the instructions from a list at the beginning of the book:Click here for the schedule for the best swimming pool in Ottawa

  • Smile: This is not that easy to do when you get into a cold swimming pool. But when I remember, I put on what probably looks like a maniacal grin. By the end of my swim, I'm usually feeling such good will towards all living beings that the smile is natural.
  • Don't hunch up when you enter the cold water: Again, not easy to do, but it makes enough sense that I try to not flinch. Besides I don't want to look like a 10-year-old.
  • Lengthen your entire body: All the swimming books encourage this, the Alexander Technique people especially and it also makes sense, so I do my best.
  • Don't count lengths, swim for a specific period of time: I used to be a methodical length swimmer. I counted lengths, not laps, because if I was swimming away from where I started it had to be an odd number and towards where I started it had to be an even number and that gave me a way of somewhat making sure I kept proper track, but if I really wasn't sure whether I was on say length 25 or length 27, I'd go with 25. Swimming for time seemed like madness. But I tried it. I counted how many lengths I did in 15 minutes. It turned out that by swimming 45 minutes, I'd go a bit further than my normal distance. And now I'm a convert. I can just swim, swim, swim. My mind can go anywhere it wants to go. Focus on my stroke, think about the lovelife, school, whatever. (Last year, I usually went swimming after Trusts class and would find myself repeating phrases like "certainty of intention" over and over again.)
  • Think about the elements of your stroke: I can't do this for 45 minutes. Still if I'm getting bored, it can actually make me more interested.
  • Don't compete with the other swimmers: I swim in the intermediate lane. If I'm the fastest person in the lane, I like it. If I happen to be the fastest person in the whole pool, I love it. But almost always there are people who are faster than me and I'm okay with that. Even if they swim for the same length of time that I do. That is, I'm okay with it unless they are:
      • at least 20 years older than me,
      • obese,
      • in the slow lane, or
      • using a flutter board and only kicking
      • They're only using their legs and they can go faster than me with my arms AND legs!Last week, there was a woman around my age in the fast lane and her flutter kick was almost as fast as my sprint. It nearly killed me to stay in front of her until my middle fifteen minutes were up. I waited until she was at the other end of the pool to start again, so I could just swim at my usual speed.

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