Free swimming workouts below!

I remember all those hot summer afternoons when my siblings and cousins played around in my aunt’s pool in California while I had to stay indoors with my lovely halo brace.

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At that time, I couldn’t make a peace sign as I was still rehabilitating my broken left arm/hand

They all went swimming pretty much every day (no wonder I got through all 725 pages of “Pillars of the Earth”). Although I wanted to just sit on the poolside and dip my feet in the water, the inner liner of the halo brace could get wet and that was a HUGE NO-NO.

Who would have thought that I could go from that to swimming three times a week with my local swimming club? Training with actual athletes in only a year’s time?

I’ve previously talked about my escapades in learning how to swim again (see here and here). Why swim? Um, because swimming’s the best?!

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That’s me, the patient on #3 right there

Aside from all the obvious reasons above, I needed a new sport (my neurosurgeon advised me to not run or play contact sports anymore) and wanted to focus on something other than BOOHOO I BROKE MY NECK AND NOW I HAVE TO DO ALL THIS REHAB.

Humble beginnings

Last we left off in April 2016, I was practicing three times a week for about an hour and 15 minutes each, either just by myself or with the help of a lifeguard during supervised/coached adult swims.

When I could actually swim two lengths (25m each) of the pool without having a panic attack or dying by the end of it, I took classes for adults. These classes were for adults wanting to improve their technique and endurance (thus the prerequisite of being able to swim 50m straight), and not for those who have to start from zero.

We met up every Friday evening for a month. Okay, there was a grand total of three people in the class, myself included. Our first meeting was almost completely canceled because a kid vomited in the pool a few minutes before! (Guys, I’ve encountered so many gross things since I’ve started swimming…) The lifeguards had to seriously disinfect the pool and we had to wait 40 minutes for it to take effect.

While going to this class, I also practiced on my own twice a week at my local pool. As the weeks went by, my instructor noticed a big difference in my performance!

Taking the plunge

Once the course was over at the start of June, I wanted to continue swimming but needed more motivation. I realized hitting the pool by myself with a printed workout from the internet wasn’t going to cut it anymore. I also knew how to swim only two of the four main styles (freestyle and backstroke, barely any practice of breaststroke, and zero attempts of butterfly). It was time to take it to the next level – joining a swimming club.

On my numerous trips to the pool, I kept noticing photos and announcements from swimming clubs and wondered how they worked. I asked my class instructor and she told me her mom was part of one. Apparently, members could join competitions but it was optional. I looked up some information on the clubs I could join considering their locations, lengths of the summer season, and prices. I settled on joining the Masters Swimming Program of Natation Sainte-Foy Haute-Saint-Charles.

L’objectif principal des maîtres-nageurs est de fournir aux adultes un programme de natation en vue d’acquérir ou de maintenir une bonne condition physique.

Si vous aimez la natation et les activités sociales, voici une heureuse alternative aux longueurs monotones effectuées dans des couloirs surpeuplés, et aux séances d’entraînement personnelles et non structurées.

Il est possible de participer à des compétitions pour ceux et celles qui le désirent. Faire partie des maîtres-nageurs, c’est investir dans sa santé, ses objectifs de performance et le plaisir !

N’hésitez pas à assister à un entrainement avec nous gratuitement.

Bonne saison de natation !

It seemed like they welcomed swimmers of all levels, so I called for more information and decided to go to free a training session. Really, I was the noobest of the noobs, but what did I have to lose? (Maybe my dignity, but whatever, right?)

At my very first practice, the warmup was to swim freestyle for five minutes. Straight. No rest. And… I never did that before. Huhu. I gave it a go and was panicking in my head half the time. I did six laps at my speed with 5- to 10-second breaks in between laps.

Nevertheless, the rest of the practice went very well! I was able to swim a variety of strokes, learn new drills, and train in a way I never did before. In my experience, swimming clubs have different lanes depending on your level and speed (triathlon, competition, intermediate, beginner/slow – i.e., me) with one or two coaches. Coaches write the respective training programs (mix of swimming full strokes, drills isolating specific movements, intervals, etc.) on a whiteboard, explain them a little bit, and then off we go and swim! They give individual feedback during the practice too. When there are interval sets, they keep track of the stopwatch, time us, give us our mark, etc.

With one month to go before my anticipated return to work, I signed up to go twice a week for $135. Their practices:

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I knew Tuesday and Thursday mornings were impossible for me. The bus wasn’t available that early, my husband was working and I didn’t have the car (I wasn’t 100% confident driving on the highway yet anyway), and let’s be honest: no way I was waking up at 5:00 am while I was still off work. My goal was to continue swimming three times a week when possible, with at least one practice just by myself. Swimming was still complementing my other forms of exercise (yoga and weight training) during the week.

My favorite and least favorite practice was Saturdays at 7:00 am. I had to dock out early from any party or dinner I had Friday night, wake up at 5:45 am, and catch the bus to get to the pool. Plus, practice was for TWO HOURS. On the flip side, the pool was outdoors, I had THE BEST after-swim brunch and nap, and I always felt so proud of myself for swimming a lot! Some drills were very monotonous, yet interestingly relaxing: I remember staring at the sun and trees while doing this 400m pull drill (16 25m lengths).

My other goal that summer was to learn butterfly, breaststroke, and flip turns.

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I advanced quite a bit with breaststroke, but not so much with butterfly and flip turns. I have a video of myself swimming butterfly – I thought I had the timing down but it was an ugly, ugly mess! I still don’t have it down. Wah.

Alright folks, here comes the graph!!! (Remember this one from my halo brace days?)

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Click to enlarge: Stacked bar graph of my swim workouts since joining a swimming club, showing the various strokes and drills of each workout. The duration of each respective workout is also shown. You’ll notice I swam more and more breaststroke and butterfly throughout the summer! Because I went back to my rotation job in remote Northern Ontario in late June, I had no access to a pool and could not swim for one to two weeks at a time. It didn’t seem like I progressed because I didn’t get to train with the club as often, but I could only swim up to 550m in an hour before!

I got a little too excited with swimming that summer. In addition to my regular gear, I purchased a bunch of stuff for my new sport, which included:

  • Underwater MP3 player (I wanted to keep my mind off panicking, “getting scared,” etc.) – it sucked and I eventually returned it
  • Underwater earphones – these also sucked and I eventually returned them
  • Swim training log book – a stupid impulse buy that cost me 60 CAD after shipping, taxes, etc. I use it regularly to record my workouts (so I can produce a cool chart like above!) but it was a total waste of money. A waterproof notebook would have been fine.
  • Paddles – because some pools don’t have them
  • 2 new goggles and 2 new swimming caps – because I lost them

When my husband and I visited his grandparents in New Brunswick at the end of the summer, I tried my luck at open water swimming in the ocean. I quickly realized that it was way different from my indoor pool workouts! I secretly began envisioning a triathlon in my future so I can work on open water swimming… but one step at a time, you know?

Coming quite a ways

I’m no swimming coach/expert, but I think I made excellent progress in the short six months since I started swimming! Considering my physical condition and limitations a year ago, I’m thrilled to be able to play sports again.

Though I didn’t end up training with the club as much as I wanted with my return to work and nature of my work schedule (rotation of two weeks in, two weeks out; no swimming when I’m at work), my experience with the club helped build my confidence and motivated me to become a better athlete. I was whipped into great shape, too! Never would I have been able to swim 1000m+ in an hour and 30 minutes on my own, even with a structured workout in front of me.

I was the slowest and least experienced swimmer in the entire club, at every practice, and I never finished any of the planned workouts. I didn’t really care and still pushed through the workouts like everybody else did. When I practiced by myself, I could just slack off and rest for up to two to five minutes, or even quit mid-lane! Ha, not this time. You’d think swimming isn’t really a team sport because you’re swimming on your own, but there’s something motivating in being surrounded by strong swimmers.

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With the club, mid-dolphin kick!

I highly recommend joining your local swimming club if you want to become a better swimmer!

Fall/winter season

When the summer season ended in September, I joined a new swimming club for the fall/winter. The Club des Maîtres Nageurs de Québec‘s pools are much closer to where I live, but their summer season was way too short for me to join them.

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It was going really well and I was swimming an average of 1500m each practice. However, in late October I suffered a minor inner elbow injury due to overtraining and possible nerve irritation related to my neck injury. I had to stop swimming completely for several weeks so my elbow could heal properly. I’m currently trying to manage the frequency and volume of my training, given that I can’t swim intensively half the time when I’m at work, I want to do other forms of exercise, and well, GETTING BACK TO YOUR OLD SELF AFTER A LIFE-CHANGING ACCIDENT IS HARD SOMETIMES. So far I’m settling for either three one-hour sessions OR two one and a half-hour sessions per week when I’m at home.

Form is so important in swimming and I still have a long, long list of things on which I need to improve. I’m also working on my speed so I can catch up to the faster veterans of the club.

But hey, one day I’ll be a club veteran too!

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