The big red plastic swim paddles were sitting for me at the edge of my lane, just waiting for me to finish my warm up so that I could slip their silicone strap over my wrist and attach them to my wrist.
It had been a while since I was actually able to attend master’s swim practice, as opposed to getting my workouts via email from Swim Master Greg. And I was slightly apprehensive about what the session would bring since that meant it had also been a while since Swim Master Greg had seen my stroke. And I’ve learned that what I think I’m doing in the pool is often vastly different from what I actually am doing in the pool.
During warmups, he watched me swim, put the paddles at the end of the lane and said when it was time for me to swim regular freestyle to put the paddles on.
Now, I have used swim paddles before, but they were baby ones. Tiny ones. They didn’t cover but the palm of my hand. These, while not gigantic, were still, um, much bigger. They covered my whole hand and they made swimming hard by vastly increasing the water resistance.
And that’s part of the point. Using the paddles is two-fold. First, it builds upper body strength which, ultimately, will make you go faster. Second, it helps with proper form.
There is a third point — it makes you wonder what you ever did to piss off your swim coach.
My shoulders were sore. My arms ached. Every single rest opportunity I created new similes using “torture” and “paddles.”
But I started feeling the water more and thinking a bit less. For all the complaining part of my brain was doing, another part felt fortunate. I had the opportunity to have a coach look at my swim and help me improve it. This will make me a better swimmer. The work was hard, but who said that a hard workout wasn’t fun? Heck part of the fun for me is coming up with new and interesting ways to be snarky and sarcastic and this was a golden opportunity for that. Heck, I didn’t even have to work that hard for the sarcasm. The joys of not having to feel my arms anymore just seemed to flow easily off my tongue.
When I took the paddles off for my final 600 yards worth of workout, I was certain my arms would feel like jello and it would take me forever to move through the water. It was an unusual sensation, to be sure, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected. In fact, I don’t know how fast I went or how my stroke looked, but after slugging through that first 25 yards, I actually felt pretty good in the water.
Swim Master Greg’s correction to my form came in my head placement. When I turned to breathe I was looking backward, instead of out at a 90 degree angle, causing my body to swerve in the water. The rest of it? Looked pretty good, he said.
Amazing what one small compliment can do to make the burning sensation from your shoulders through your forearms feel not only bearable but worth it.
They still are sore this morning but at this point that’s a good sign. That means they are indeed still attached to my body.