Tag Archive: pool


I made it back to a pool session this week for the first time in a few weeks. Work and illness and a birthday got in the way for a couple of weeks, so it’s the first time in a while I’ve done an endurance set.

I felt as though I was doing pretty well. I got a bit excited when I was moved out of the slow lane after a few laps, that maybe magically I’d been promoted to the fast lane. Til I recognised swimmers the next lane over and realised we had expanded into 3 lanes and I’d been promoted to the medium lane.

Based on my Garmin results (did I mention I’ve upgraded to the 910?) , though my times are pretty dismal at the moment. The whole broken-ankle hiatus, and general slackness in getting back into it on my part have really left me coming into the new season well off my peak form. The geek in me loves the Garmin, but my self-deluding side hates it as there’s no lying to yourself in the face of all that measured data.

There are a couple of things that I think might help get me back there, though, so I’m trying not to get too depressed.

  1. I had my final physio appointment earlier on Tuesday. I have been cleared for all activities, including starting to jog, even on sand. Guess I no longer have any excuse for skipping the hard part of those ramps sessions.
  2. Daylight savings! This changes a lot of things – later opening hours for pools, and opportunities for after-work swims!
  3. Spring training timetable changes. 4SEASons October pool sessions will be on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from next week, instead of just Tuesdays. My chances of getting back to a minimum of 3 swim sessions a week just got a whole lot better.
  4. It’s only a few weeks until the first couple of ocean swims of the season. Nothing motivates like a looming deadline!

Let Operation get-Jacki’s-lazy-butt-back-into-shape begin!

Let’s hope it doesn’t come to this!

Yesterday I wrote about what it took to get back into the pool.the next step was to get back to actual training. Like many things, it’s far more productive to have someone telling you what to do, to push you further that you will on your own, and to pick up things that you might not notice yourself.

Lately the 4SEASons coaches had devised a plan for something different – a Sunday long session solely dedicated to specific technique training.

I emailed in advance to check on whether they thought it would be possible for me to do the session, and to make sure that I wouldn’t be disruptive to other people doing the session. Luckily, I have some of the most awesome coaches in the world and they assured me it would all work and encouraged me to come along.

The session was on a sunny but chilly Sunday morning. The session was held at the brand-spanking-new Prince Alfred Park pool, which I have to say is a pretty nice pool with great facilities…and has free entry until the 12th of November.

I had to switch out a couple of the drills, but it did give me the opportunity to play with one of my favourite pieces of kit – hand paddles.

I love training with hand paddles, and they are the perfect piece of kit for winter. There are two benefits to training with paddles. The first is that they increase the surface area of your hands, and therefore increase the resistance against the water. This is good for building extra strength in your arms…and feeling like you’re swimming really fast!

The second use of paddles is what I was focussing on during the technique day. They really exaggerate any technical flaws in your stroke. For example, if your hand entry isn’t fingers first, if it’s out by a little bit (think like making a “stop” signal with your hand” you’ll know about it…from the bottom edge of the paddles catching and kicking up water. The idea of the paddles is to help identify these little flaws, and to practice and embed the correct behaviours for a bit before taking them off. I certainly found myself with a couple of things to focus on about my hand entry.

Another thing that was great about the longer session, and running it on a Sunday (rather than racing against the clock of when the pool is closing on a weeknight) was that once we had finished the technique session, we took the time to do a 1km swim, no pressure around speed or times, just focussing on excellent technique and embedding the things we had learned at the session.

Then we had lunch and coffee at the cute little cafe there at the pool in the sun! It really was so nice to be back training, to be back hanging out with swimming friends, and to be able to enjoy a post swim coffee!

How soon can you get back into the pool after breaking your ankle?

I didn’t know the answer, so I did what anyone would do. I Googled it. As often happens with these things, I came away more confused than ever.

Then I did what a grown-up would do, and asked my doctor. I was treated at the Prince of Wales fracture clinic and my first appointment was 10 days after the accident. at that point, the doctor looked dubious, but I explained what I had in mind and received tentative approval. That was enough for me.

Seems, though, that being allowed to swim was one thing, and being able to…

  1. Get to the pool
  2. Get into the pool
  3. Get out of the pool
  4. Get home from the pool

…was another thing entirely.

Let’s just say it took me a little longer than I’d hoped to actually get in the pool. Finally, though, the lovely Sonja who swims and lives in my apartment complex agreed to help me out. Luckily we have a 25m lap pool in our complex so we had somewhere to go.

The process was not too bad, with the assistance of a helper. it went something like this.

  • I made it to the pool on my crutches, then used a seat there to get ready.
  • I used the crutches to get to the side of the pool then removed the orthopaedic boot and pressure bandage
  • Pivot around and slide into the pool, making sure to land on only my good foot.
  • Position a pull-buoy with a band around my calves to immobilise my legs
  • Kick-off…one-legged of course. Swim using upper body only, with the pull-buoy to balance out body position.
  • Finish swimming and do pretty much the lot in reverse…but with a seriously unglamorous exit out of the pool.

It’s wasn’t pretty, but it worked. I managed several of these swims in the first couple of weeks, with the help of some very generous and beautiful friends. It’s not the same as the ocean, but during those weeks of working from home and not getting off my couch for very much at all, it certainly kept me sane.

Ah Wednesday night technique sets. Nothing gives me more insight into what I’m doing to make things more difficult for myself. Luckily there’s also nothing wrong with the idea of getting faster, or better, or being able to swim further with no extra input of energy.

This Wednesday we were focussing on kicking.

I don’t know if I’ve done much on here about kicking. As a general rule, in endurance swimming, kicking isn’t a major component of our swim technique. If you watch shorter distance sprinters swim, you’ll see some crazy 6- and 8-beat kick rhythms that really are part of propelling the swimmer through the water. With endurance event, though, we tend to aim for a 2-beat kick. The reason for this, as I understand it, is that the muscles we use in our legs to kick are large, and therefore use a lot of energy compared to the amount of propulsion you get in return. Your arms, in contrast, have a much better return on investment of energy. In a sprint this is OK, but for endurance events, it just means you wear out quicker.

That being said, bad kicking technique can have implications for other parts of your stroke. And I stand up and am the first to admit that I have bad kick technique.

In fact, I use the photo below as my Facebook cover photo. It’s a great photo, which is why I use it, but I have to confess that every time I look at it I cringe a little at my bent knee…I’ve added lines in to show what I’m talking about….

knee bend

Ideally, that knee should be pretty much straight. More like the lovely example below…

Much Better

The good news is, that there are some really good drills you can do to work on your kick. We did one before we even got in the water. There was a set of stairs leading up from the pool to the grassed sitting area, and we did some practice of good kicking technique with one leg standing on the step sideways, and the other swinging clear. This was great for the coaches to be able to check technique and for us to feel what good kicking feels like (engaging the glutes!).

We did various other drills in the pool using fins, and focussing on pointing our toes and not bending our knees. I did feel like it really helped improve my kicking technique (although it will take some time to embed that as a good habit), and as an added bonus, I found that the improved kick helped with my biggest technical challenge -my body position in the water. I tend to have to fight very hard to keep my legs and lower body from sinking down below the surface, and therefore creating unnecessary drag. Working on my kick noticeably improved that, so it’s doubly useful!

Tuesday’s pacing session was a good one. I hadn’t dropped as much as I’d thought (I’ve been focussing on distance, rather than speed lately, for obvious reasons) and it was good to get into that rhythm and focus on pacing. Less than two weeks out to the goal swim, it was nice to stretch out and remind myself what pace feels like,   what going hard feels like, and what tired feels like. I’m pretty damn sure those things are all going to be very important next Sunday.

It’s been a couple of weeks since I had attended a Tuesday session, and it was a pretty busy session, with quite a lot of swimmers. It really highlighted to me the importance of good lane etiquette. Lane etiquette makes things run much more smoothly and everyone can get on and do their thing and get a good workout. With many swimmers in a lane, even if they’re supposedly keeping to a particular pace each, you do get differences in speed and in pace. Some people swim faster or more variably or more consistently, and it really brought home that the etiquette is there for a reason, and that the reason is that it works.

My personal favourite guide to lap swimming etiquette in general is via this link that I’m reasonably certain i’ve put up before. If I haven’t, I should have. It’s an excellent general set of guidelines for if you’re new to pool swimming, particularly lap swimming.

What it does say is spot on. However these were written with straight up lap swimming involved, and I suspect they were based on random strangers making the best of self-regulating in public lap swimming.

 

Pacing sessions, on the other hand, are similar but different. Pretty much all of the general rules apply but there is the added complexity of the “rest” (in inverted commas because most of the time those seconds are the shortest 10-15 seconds of your life)periods at various points in the set.

My additional tips (my personal option only as usual) for these sets are based on the things that I know really work, because the squad I swim with are pretty good at these things, and our coaches believe in enforcing the same principles as they really make things easier and better for everyone.

So Jacki’s extra rules for pacing sessions are….

  1. Start with the basics. All the general etiquette for lap swimming still applies.
  2. Keep to the plan. The coaches devise a set and if everyone sticks to it, the faster swimmers head off first, if there’s a spread they may end up passing hte back of hte pack, but it shouldn’t happen more than needed.
  3. That includes the rest periods. In my experience, pretty much everyone gets the hang of the swimming part quite easily. the first big challenge is in the rest periods of 10 or 15 seconds. I understand it…you’ve been swimming hard, and if it’s near the end of the set you’ve been doing that for quite some time. It’s really tempting to take a few seconds extra to recover. And a few more, and a few more again. Problem is, if everyone starts doing their own thing here, the order gets all out of whack. Nobody wants to get to the end of their lap, have the person in front still resting when you’re due to take off again, and have them pass you…every. freaking. lap.
  4. On that note, either get a watch you can wear in the water and read, or learn how to read the clock. I get why this is hard. The more tired I get the less capable I am of even counting, let alone calculating lap times. It’s not really that complicated, though, and generally you have somewhere in the vicinity of 50-100m metres to think about it. Even I, at my most stuffed, can work out my start time plus 2 minutes….
  5. Listen to the coach. It’s kind of related to point 4…in that if I have enough of a hard time counting as I get tired, I don’t need to be worrying about trying to figure out what the hell I’m supposed to be doing next. Let alone disrupting the swimmers around me by stopping them to ask them. OK – I admit I’m not always 100% good at this…but I’m trying!
  6. Other than that…common sense is always a good idea. In life, the universe and everything. But especially in swimming.

 

If you’ve arrived here without part one of this post, you can read it here. the upshot is that Bel and I were at the pool, down to the wire, to see how we would go swimming 5km in one go as a final deal-maker or -breaker before entering as a duo in the South Head Roughwater.

The event has a cutoff – 5 hours.If the team can’t complete the race in that amount of time, they will be recorded as a “DID NOT FINISH”. That’s a long swim to record a “DID NOT FINISH” so, as you can imagine, we really don’t want that to happen. My goal for this pool swim was to complete the distance in under 2 hours…just to give us plenty of wiggle room (plus Bel is quicker than me) to account for conditions on the day.

I wore my Timex, which will record up to 50 splits. This had the double advantage of keeping track of how many laps I’d done (I get bad at counting the more tired I get), and collecting the times for each of those laps. And if you know me, you’ll know I love data nearly as much as I love to swim.

And my favourite thing to do with data is? Put it in a spreadsheet! Chart it! Analyse it!

So that’s what I did. Click on the chart below to get the full view of how the swim went, numbers and commentary (otherwise known as the little voice in my head when I swim) combined.

 

5km chartAs for the time I swam? 1 hour, 59 minutes and 4 seconds! I did it!

Bel and I finished up with a coffee and getting our entry in. Seems it’s all going to actually happen!!!! I’m equal parts excited and scared, but looking forward to the challenge.

The bit I haven’t really touched on too much is that this is all for a good cause (other than providing your reading material). If you’d like to support the valiant efforts of Cure Cancer Australia you can help me reach my fundraising goal here.

 

Exactly 2 weeks out from the South Head Roughwater. Crunch time.

Since the end of last season I’d been thinking about pushing myself a bit further and the Coogee To Bondi 5km kept popping  into my head as the event to do it. By the start of the season I’d decided that I wanted to train for the event, and that’s exactly what I did. Double-up sessions back to back , and keeping focussed on consistently training 5-6 times a week.

I was doing pretty well and on track to be ready when in February, 8 weeks out, the website advised the event was postponed with an alternate date to be announces. A bit later this changed to the event being cancelled altogether for the year.

Nooooo

After the initial disappointment (eventually) wore off, I put my mind to finding a plan B. There are not many long course ocean swims around, and there was only one that was even as a possibility…doing the South Head Roughwater as a duo. That’s 10km total from Bondi to Watson’s Bay.

southheadmap

This, however,  presented a couple of challenges.

      1. I needed a partner to swim with me. Someone who was a good enough and fit enough swimmer to do the distance, but who wouldn’t be put off by my slower pace.
      2. To even enter this event, you need a support boat. It’s in the rules.

Proving, once again, that wine really does solve everything, a conversation at the post-season Can Too Mentors and Captains celebratory drinks resulted in a plan. Team BelJack was formed as Bel S and I agreed to swim as a duo, and we brainstormed a couple of support boat options. Right before we solved all the rest of the problems of the world. 😉

Fast forward to this weekend. We have our boat and driver (pilot? Captain?) confirmed, but have put off actually taking that step and entering our team. Whilst I’ve done plenty of longer swims and double-ups whenever I’ve raced this season, I actually hadn’t done the full 5km distance and I really wanted to get that under my belt before I could feel really confident that I’d be able to do the event. With that in mind we had talked about doing a 5km pool swim. Initial discussions had involved doing this at the Icebergs pool as it’s ocean water and same temperature as the ocean. Seems our choice of days was poor, though, as it was the launch of the winter season there and they throw ice-block in the pool for a penguin swim!

Des Renford

It seems we needed a Plan B to train for our Plan B.

Instead we headed to Des Renford Outdoor pool, where we were lucky enough to secure a lane each to ourselves.

So how did we go? How did I go? What time did I do? And what was that inner voice up to all that time in the water?

Watch this space for part 2 where all your questions (and some you haven’t even thought of yet) will be answered.

Finally. Finally!  Made it back to a weekday pool training session. It kind of feels like it’s been forever.

Funnily enough I did the same thing about the same time last year, for different reasons (tore an intercostal muscle….very difficult to swim with that. Or you know, breathe!) , but I kind of think for me it’s that same end-of-season thing where I’ve been pushing my body and getting up earlier on weekends than I do during the week for work for just long enough that I’m a bit worn out. Sometimes I need to be a bit kind to myself and stop putting quite so much pressure on (even though I still have the big goal swim to worry about) and take a bit of time to restore my energy.

The good news is, it worked! I’m feeling great and loving swimming and feeling like I want to do more again, instead of less.

It did get me thinking, though, about how much I need  to train.

It’s an interesting question. How much do I need to train for what exactly? To keep improving? To prepare for a big event? To maintain my current form? To keep from getting slower? To keep from forgetting how to swim altogether? To keep my love of the sport? To keep from going completely insane?*

The answer is as complicated as the question.

I have a couple (or quite a lot) of general rules that work for me….

  1. Three times a week is pretty much a bare minimum.
  2. Twice a week…I’ll be going backwards in terms of form and times, but pretty slowly.
  3. Once a week is better than nothing, but I will be going backwards nonetheless.
  4. 4-6 times a week and I’ll be making good progress and improving. More sessions=more progress.
  5. Sometimes other things happen. Guilt trips don’t do me any good. I like to aim for a certain number of training sessions per week, and (provided it’s more than 3) I give myself a “cheat” day I can use if I need for any session.
  6. Training has a seasonal aspect to it. I work on different things during the winter than the race season. I probably don’t need to train 6 times a week in winter…and should probably be focussing on different stuff.
  7. If I’m hurt or sick…forcing myself to go to training isn’t helping me get better. Appropriate treatment, and recognising the right time to get back to it is key.
  8. I’m allowed to forgive myself and move on if I’ve gotten a bit more sidetracked than I’d like. The important thing isn’t worrying about what I’ve missed, but getting on with it, and not feeling too daunted to get back to it.
  9. This is supposed to be FUN! I try to remember that.
  10. I’m not, nor will I ever be, an elite athlete in this (or any other) sport. My only competition is with myself. My only goals are my own. I need to figure out a good balance so that I can do this, and maintain the love and passion that will keep me doing this til a) I kick the bucket, b) they stop letting me enter (unlikely given the 85-year-old who swam at Cronulla on the weekend), or c)
  11. I try to remember, particularly on the tough days, that I pretty much never regret going to training. Being tired is not an excuse…I have more energy after training on a Saturday morning than I ever did the morning after Friday night drinks! All other dodgy excuses go pretty much down that same line of thinking if it really comes down to it.
  12. MOST IMPORTANT…training should be a habit not a choice. If there’s no good reason not to go, I go. And I mean a good reason. My mind plays tricks on me and tries to give me crappy excuses all the time. This rule, above all else, gets me there.

So ir you’re looking for an upshot, or a pithy conclusion…I’m not sure I have one. Except maybe…”find something you love, and do it as much as makes you happy”.

Actually, that’s not bad. I’m going into edit mode an gonna put that in the title.

*Swimming helps, but there are definitely no guarantees for my sanity. Not now, not ever.

Hi everyone…sorry I’ve been a bit out of action with a non-swimming-related injury. I got back on the horse (Sea-horse of course!) on the weekend so posts are being drafted.

In the mean time, if you feel so inclined, feel free to pop over here and sign the petition for ABC pool to open longer over the winter. It’s a cracker of a pool with a great iconic location and  it seems such a shame for it to be shut allllll winter.

Back soon,

🙂 NQN

Tuesday training – endurance set as usual. Or not.

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the endurance sets. They’re hard, but really rewarding and deliver results like nothing else I’ve ever done. It’s great that I now have the hang of the, and that I trust them so much that I push myself, knowing that they work.

Seems it’s possible I’ve become complacent, though.

Coaches Kingy and Zoe had something new in store for us…and it wasn’t pretty. particularly for me. Since they chose the one thing I am absolutely the WORST at! I really, really, really suck at this. After 2 and a half years of training, and managing to get my technique a little better and my time trials up to medium, I still do so more strokes per lap than anyone I know. that means I’m outputting way too much effort to get where i’m going…probably due to some still-outstanding issue with my technique that means I’m likely causing more drag than I need to. I have a few theories, but I’ll trust in the Wednesday technique sets to work on things piece by piece and keep chipping away at things like my front-quadrant swimming, my high elbow, my too-high breathing, my bottom-heavy position in the water…the list never ends! Lucky that means I’m unlikely to get bored with this any time soon.

When I’m feeling like this, immediately after I spend some time with my inner monologue getting angry for a bit, I start to calm down and actually think about what’s going on with me at that moment.

So, here are the conclusions I came to:

  1. This was outside of my comfort zone. I’ve been doing these endurance sets for a while, and whilst they’re bloody hard work, I know they work. they really work. So why mess with it? (answer: if you always do what you’ve always done….guess what you get?)
  2. See point one. It’s worth mentioning twice.
  3. It’s ok for things to be hard, and challenging. sometimes they will be emotionally challenging, too. And I have to let that be OK. Everything really tough for me in this sport has been the result of hard work and effort. This is no different
  4. Some day’s, no matter how much you love the sport, you’re just not gonna feel the love. Check the archives, it’s not the first time this has happened. Nobody loves everything all the time. Nobody, nothing.
  5. the last thought is one I come back to time and again, particularly when I hit a hurdle with technique stuff. Even elite athletes do technique training. People are people and nobody does it exactly right all the time. It takes work and practice and you need to make each and every little millimetres of your body and mind about muscle memory and good habits. I may feel like it’s a job that’s never done, but in reality that’s because it’s a job that’s never done.

Comfort-Zone

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