On reflection its quite surprising how big you can fall for something you weren’t expecting. It wasn’t the swimming itself - that’s been a love for many years, having trained and competed as a kid and then picked it all back up again as an adult some ten years ago (the waste line was expanding at a troubling rate…something had to be done!). Yep, the swimming is a lifelong passion. It was the unexpected joy of discovering two new aspects of it, namely…
1) That there is super logical swim technique out there that is easy to learn, remember and share;
2) The utter joy of coaching it! So firstly to the technique.
Straight Line Swimming (SLS) breaks the basic components of the stroke down to three simple levels which, when applied in the correct order (always sort the breathing first!!) mean that a swimmer of any level has a logical and structured approach to either learn or improve their technique. My own first experience of this was with Triscape (Keri-anne and David) on a fabulous week long swim retreat in Nevis in 2018 (which included the famous Nevis to St Kitts Cross Channel Swim race – if you ever get the chance, just do it – an amazing experience). It had been 40 years since I’d had any form of swimming lessons and certainly 30 since I’d had any formal coaching (oddly enough, at 5 years old I was the one kid screaming and crying on the side of the pool whose mum had to be called each week to calm him down - but once I braved getting in it was like I was pre-programmed to swim – I can still remember it – one of my earliest memories).
Complete deconstruction of my stroke in Nevis enabled me to thoughtfully validate my own breathing technique along with body position (in particular head position and where the rotation stems from) followed by various aspects of propulsion. Over the following weeks these simple techniques enabled me to shed a few valuable seconds off of every hundred meters and also helped me maintain a faster, more metronomic pace over long distances. Result!!
As a swimmer and a lover of the great outdoors, I’ve been avery happy participant in the meteoric rise in popularly of Open Water Swimming. The transition from pool to open water has some interesting and important differences to master – especially if you want to compete or participate comfortably in some of the many open water events around the UK and rest-of-world these days. I’d enjoyed learning a few of these skills by myself over the last couple of years but found some brilliant techniques in the beautiful waters off of Nevis with Triscape (‘Superman buoy turns’ and ‘crocodile eyes sighting’ stick with students for ever!!). Having enjoyed the retreat so much I decided there and then to join Keri-anne’s new Level 2 Open Water Coaching course in May 2018.
With a busy full time job, I never intended to actually become a swim coach; I just knew that I’d learn a great deal about myself and lots more about open water swimming by getting qualified. Surrounded by a bunch of brilliant people, most of whom were full time swim teachers, I quickly realised how much fun it might to share this knowledge and try a bit of coaching myself.
Summer 2018 saw the launch of ‘Simply Open Water’, my own little open water coaching brand based at Trifarm near Chelmsford. Being flat out at work Monday to Friday (and also needing to somehow squeeze in my own training), I was only able to fit in a few students here and there at weekends. But wow, how brilliantly rewarding is it to see results so fast and help people achieve their goals! During the 2018 season I had the great pleasure of coaching several people, each at very different levels of capability and with very different objectives. From a non-swimmer looking to learn front-crawl through to amateur Triathletes looking to speed up the dreaded ‘swim leg’ and learn some sound open water event techniques, they all improved significantly in relatively little time.
During a break from my busy day job in December 2018 I made good on a few promises to old friends who had wanted to improve their swimming (we were in the local pool I hasten to add, not outdoors – its a bit cold for lessons in a lake). When coached properly, SLS really does offer students instant results – whether its adjustment of the head position and being immediately flatter on the water or nailing that ‘breathing issue’ they’ve had for years and not being exhausted at the end of a length. The magic of seeing the joy on an old friends face when for the first time he felt that magical link between the outstretched finger tips on a glide through to the rotation on the hip and a little flick of the foot – and described it all to me with no prompting whatsoever. That’s the joy of coaching (and the subtle difference to teaching).
Can’t wait for the 2019 season – more events for me and the family (can he bag 1st place in age group at the Nevis-St Skitts swim this year – stay tuned to find out!) and lots more coaching at the beautiful Trifarm lake near home. What a wonderfully rewarding discovery this has all proved to be.