Just Keep Swimming

This week I had a wonderful session with local swim-coach, Kyle Johnson, of Project KJ to learn multiple styles of swimming.  My first goal was to not only have Kyle help me understand what type of swimming I would need to learn for my upcoming triathlon and aquathon, but to also help me understand some of the top swimming styles… Butterfly, Freestyle, Backstroke and Breaststroke.

Project_KJ logo

I met with Kyle prior to our session to understand swimming since I have never had a swimming lesson EVER and what I found from coach Kyle was a plethora of top-notch information.  Information about body movement, breathing, timing and many other items that top athletes know…the water doesn’t lie, it will tell you where you are strong, weak and everything in-between.

Before getting in the water, I used the recent REI Member $20 Gift Card promotion and purchased all my swim-training needs… a new TRX suit, a swimmers cap and a pair of swimming goggles.  REI membership has its privileges!

REI Member gift cards

Coach Kyle states “I believe swimming talent is teachable.  It’s not a gift given only to the few. It’s there for every athlete.”  He also reiterated a point a couple of times when we were working together that really applied  “By using the athlete’s imagination and sensory system as teaching tools, the athlete takes ownership of their skill to ultimately accelerate their training process and enthusiasm.”

Training with Coach Kyle

I can speak to this personally now, because after I arrived at Columbia Athletic Club (Pine Lake Club) and worked with Kyle for hours, his “imagination” approach really took shape.  My imagination moved me naturally from one stroke position to another position and helped me develop understanding between my strengths and weaknesses almost immediately.  A skill when developed, can aid my reaction to situations that arise in open-water swimming (like a triathlon) by being able to “switch gears” easily instead of locking me up and taking me out of position.

The first conversation I had with Coach Kyle was about the stroke components, which are:

  1. Body Position – posture, balance, and body alignment
  2. Leg Action – while maintaining correct body position
  3. Arm Action – catch, propulsion, exit, recovery, and entry
  4. Timing – rhythm and coordination between arms and legs and/or arms to body
  5. Breathing – when to breathe, and how to breathe without distorting body position,and/or disrupting rhythm

We indeed touched upon these time after time in the water, helping my mind start to equate the movement of my body with timing, breathing and to bring the entire process together as much as possible.

Swimming the backstroke

As I stated before, I came to Coach Kyle never taking a swimming lesson in my life!  I was one of those children that adults threw into a pool and said “tread water” as my lesson to swim.  Not the most glamorous way to be taught but I took to water easily and have loved the sensation of it ever since.  The problem with teaching yourself is that when you do have a professional trainer, it’s like being that child in the pool again except that you know how not to sink!

Kyle had written an article that is to be published this summer about the aspects of swimming in a Triathlon stating “The swimming part of a triathlon can be the most challenging for many triathletes. Effective swim training is a process – one in which anyone can learn to improve their swimming. While stroke technique is important, instinctive understanding of the water and using healthy, effective patterns of movement are actually more important”

After working with Kyle, this statement couldn’t be more true!  Not only did Kyle start helping me understand the movements associated with each stroke, but he helped me understand in a sensory way how I was engaged in the water and more importantly what proper alignment and engagement should look like.  The entire time I was trying hard in my mind to match my body movement to the water, and time and time again Kyle was trying to get me OUT of my head and just to instinctually “be” with the water.  It took me a bit to come to this epiphany but when I did, instead of fighting against it with preconceived notions, I started to immediately switch from a stroke that wasn’t in sync for me to my stronger stroke.  Kyle’s coaching taught me that my ability to move from freestyle to backstroke is a pivotal skill to have when the water gets choppy, other swimmers hit my body, I’m going against rain or wind, etc.  This instinctual way of switching to my stronger stroke will be what keeps me in momentum without loosing focus and will keep me calm in the midst of chaos in the water.

swimming in the pool

After hours of working with Kyle I was left with many, many lessons about not only swimming and technique, stroke, movement, etc. but mostly I was assured again about what I knew from the first movements in the water so long ago… that water has a way of showing you the truth.  I started realizing and accomplishing more when I started to “let go” and just be in the water.  It reminded me of one of the things I heard from Kyle from the beginning… “Swimming is one of the most fundamental and joyful of all activities.  It is a life skill that provides the basic building blocks for other sports such as flexibility, balance, strength, endurance and safety.”

Laughing in the pool

No joke.  Swimming will teach you more about yourself than any other sport I’ve done so far; and with Coach Kyle, you will definitely learn all things swim.  No matter if you are an athlete, just starting out on swim training, or your somewhere in between; it is important to know that all those swimmers take time to learn their skill and mastery of the water and it doesn’t happen overnight.

So no matter what your inspiration is for the water, my suggestion for success is to keep your mind open to imagination, know that you are going to learn a LOT, get yourself an incredible swim coach like Kyle Johnson and no matter what, just keep swimming!


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