Confession of a longtime (and still learning) swim coach

This personal confession illustrates the purpose of all my columns -promoting efficiency of aquatic locomotion. As an instructor and coach for too many years, I have always felt that my strokes are good examples for my students and athletes.

From my high school years on, even as an aquatics specialist, my primary activity was running. Five years ago, I switched to swimming while I still have my hips and knees.

For four years, I have been a Masters competitor who has been fortunate to accumulate more than 30 South Carolina age-group records and almost the same number of national Top Tens. I've even lucked into a National Championship and an All-American ranking.

My assumption has been that, despite my less-than-blessed physical gifts, my strokes are very good to excellent. That is, until two recent happenings.

I developed some shoulder tendinitis, which can be rehabbed with rest, cryotherapy and improved stroke mechanics.

And, though for years I have used film and video to analyze my students and college team swimmers, I have never viewed my own strokes until recently. It was a revelation to me, because they do not look like they feel. Now I am working humbly to attain the strokes I thought I already had.

It's not hard to do - simply follow the steps in my own book, "Swim Better." It just takes the patience to unlearn old habits and gradually relearn new ones, and a willingness to abandon the "need" to swim laps.

If I'm going to continue swimming for the rest of my life, there is no real sacrifice for a few months, more or less, to swim better. It's a two-way benefit.

For example, if I use a wider out-sweep, the head of my humerus will no longer irritate my supraspinatus tendon. I will also maintain pressure against the water for a longer time at a better angle, which means more distance per stroke and fewer strokes per length, basically the definition of swim efficiency.

I am guided by two mentors. The first is Samuel Johnson: "What we hope ever to do with ease, we must learn first to do with diligence." Second, for me, it's time to follow the words of Luke 4:23: "Physician, heal thyself."

By the time this column is published, I hope to have accomplished my goal, practicing what I preach.

Dr. Bob Colyer of Bluffton is an actively retired college professor, coach and author of "Swim Better: A Guide to Greater Efficiency for Swimmers & Instructors," directed primarily to non-competitors. bobcolyer@yahoo.com


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