One of the interesting parts of coming to swimming late in life is learning all the basic skills that life-long swimmers take for granted. Last year I learned how to bi-lateral breathe. It took a trip to the emergency room with salt-water aspiration syndrome to knock the sense into me that this was the problem. And it needed to be addressed.
As I had no plans on making any double channel crossings, I resisted learning how to make proper flip turns. Much of this was related to performance anxiety. It was embarrassing – I’m a total imposter in this sport but I felt as though I should be able to hide it better. Still, performance anxiety won. Also it did have its benefits. In those moments of picking my head up, touching the wall and pivoting my body to change direction, I got to enjoy the sunrise over my morning workout and the sunset in the evenings.
However, after some very long distance days back to back of stopping at every lap and holding on the wall after each length, my lack of technique caught up with me again. One morning only a fraction of the way into my workout my left shoulder surprised me with excruciating pain. I tried to think of what might have caused this. My interpretive butterfly the day before? Too much yardage? Then I realized when I stop to turn I hold the wall with my left arm and that motion was what was causing me the pain. Performance anxiety or not, turns needed to happen.
Last Saturday I turned up to practice and told my coach I was determined to be a sissy no longer and figure out how to do a proper flip turn. He said “I never called you a sissy before, but I will call you one now.” “Sissy.” My first attempts were not inspired. Coaching, despite a heroic effort, was not yielding much in terms of results. Watching my frustration, a fellow swimmer made a simple suggestion involving pull-buoys – which worked like a charm.
While I'm enjoying the incremental recovery of my shoulder and, at the same time, feeling the burn of the extra work involved in swimming with turns, I can’t help but think about the bigger picture.
It's never too late to start trying something, even if you feel a bit silly.
Most of all, there's nothing as satisfying in life as the feeling of making progress, even in the smallest of areas. Like flip turns.