There are training breakthroughs that come through repetition. And there are those that come unexpectedly, just by watching someone else. I experienced the latter tonight in the pool, and the "aha!" moment was truly profound. During my Fortius-coached swim workout, Gerardo had us perform a drill where we could breathe three times per 25 yards, then five, then seven, then once and finally two 25s without a breath. I thought the two 25s (not necessarily back-to-back) would be impossible. I couldn't do something like that when I was in far better shape than how I've felt lately -- even though I felt particularly fresh tonight.
All that changed when I watched my teammate Mike glide across the pool almost effortlessly without taking a breath. Honestly, it was one of the most beautiful things I've ever witnessed in the water. Mike looked like he was going SLOW as he skimmed the pool surface. Arms looping upward the way a steamboat might cross a river. When he rejoined my lane mates, I had to ask him how he did that -- the key was relaxation, he said.
It was my turn to try. I decided to go slower than usual, which to me was seemingly paradoxical considering I wouldn't be able to take a breath for the entire pool length. While I've completed the exercise in the past (tense, hurried and anxious underwater), I had never done it so easily as I did tonight. I actually felt like I was gliding too! Were it not for watching Mike first, I'm not sure I'd have believed in myself to even think I could do it. Then, I was able to outperform my own expectations further by only taking one breath for an entire 50, something I've never even come close to doing.
By relaxing more in the water, I actually got faster in my time trials tonight. In fact, I was on pace for a 1:14 100 with my :37 50 at the end of the workout in a relay race. Obviously, I realize I may have slowed on my second 50, but tonight was not only a huge lesson learned, it also will help my swimming immensely moving forward. Perhaps all other aspects of my training.
Relax! Let the speed come to me. Form. Technique. Breathing.
Well, maybe not the last one.
168 days and counting.