Thanks to Judd Cribbs for contributing this piece.
Going on seven months since I started swimming again, I am trying to add more elements to my training. My goal is to swim a 50-yard freestyle in about 26 seconds sometime in 2016. Currently, I’m practicing diving in and doing flip turns. I thought I was aerobically fit until I started practicing flip turns. They are kicking me in my jammers.
Based upon my current ability, my coach timed me at 12.5 seconds (with a dive) for 25 yards. I was wearing board shorts and a t-shirt, so I was optimistic I could shave a little bit off that time and maybe get down to about 12 seconds flat.
Then I started with the flip turns.
My coach said my form was good. But as I was doing them, I was really hoping an oxygen mask would drop down from the ceiling. And it’s an outdoor pool – there is no ceiling!
Based on my flip turn performance, I can safely say I could swim the first 25 yards in 12 seconds, and then the final 25 yards in 12 minutes. My coach says as I practice them more, they will become easier. This is probably old news to veteran swimmers, but it is a concept that is utterly unbelievable to me right now.
I’m not as worried as much about diving. But the weird thing is, even though flip turns are killing me, at least I know where my body is. That sense is lost on me when I’m diving in. My coach says my dive looks fine “for Masters swimming. You’re never going to look like Phelps.” And while he might be right, it’s an odd sensation not to know where I am in space. I think I might know where I am at some muscle-memory level, but my brain is like, “Where are you? In the air above the pool? Bungee jumping in Colorado?” I wonder if at some point I will be more aware of where I am. I’m guessing this comes with practice, and I enjoy diving in. I will say that I feel much more aware entering the pool by jumping. Or falling.
So for the next two or three months, I am going to become a flip turn/diving maniac, striving to make them second nature. The plan is to be able, in mid-summer, to swim 200 yards with flip turns at a moderate pace.
Although we meet only once every few weeks, my coach is very encouraging and is training and motivating me in just the right way. He gives me workouts to do in between sessions, and so far I’ve stuck to the script.
Plus the flip turns and diving have added an element of derring-do to my training.
It seems like the perfect time to ramp up in a quest to hit 26 seconds. I know this won’t be easy. There’s every chance I might not be able to do it. But I have to keep setting the bar just a bit out of reach.
So I won’t rule it out. I will rule out bungee jumping in Colorado.
Judd Cribbs is a professor at Florida Gulf Coast University. When he is not swimming or teaching, he enjoys gardening, playing the piano (poorly), and chasing his two kids around the house.