Every summer, my family and I spend a week at our lake-side cottage in northern Ontario. During the week we are there, we frequently attempt the 1km open water swim to the island. I have always been one of the stragglers, taking 30+ minutes to finish the swim.
Two years ago, I began to focus on my fitness and health. I joined the RVC and started working with a trainer three times a week. After struggling through the 1km swim, yet again, I shared with my trainer how I really wanted to improve my swimming, develop my aerobic endurance, and be able to complete the swim with confidence. Swimming had been one of those sports I wished I could do well. It was an activity that I always enjoyed as a girl growing up in CT. I learned the basic strokes in my parent’s backyard pool, but I had never received any formal swim training. Games of Marco Polo and diving for colorful painted rocks in the deep end were my childhood swimming memories. I could not swim fluidly for any distance or use swimming for fitness.
I shared with my trainer how I wished to learn how I could become a more effective swimmer, improve my stamina, and breathe more efficiently. I also really wanted to learn how to do proper flip-turns. My trainer referred me to Pam Crandall, RVC Masters Swim Coach and NASM Personal Trainer.
Pam is a Level III Masters Swim Coach and WOW, does she really know her stuff! I started working with Pam two times per week, and right from the first lesson, Pam showed me many simple adjustments I could make that would facilitate my swimming. She taught me how, when doing the freestyle, to maintain proper alignment of my arms, thereby avoiding them crossing the midline of my body. Another easy fix was maintaining a neutral spine by focusing on keeping my head down with my eyes on the black line at the bottom of the pool. Another helpful cue was that she wanted to be able to see the back of my neck when I was swimming freestyle. I learned to breathe every three strokes instead of every two which increased my aerobic endurance. With practice, I became more comfortable in the water and my fluidity in the water increased with every session.
My early training sessions with Pam involved a lot of breaking down of the components of the freestyle. She explained the importance of stroke technique, how to get maximum pull from the water and how to kick for the most propulsion forward. We practiced many swim drills that worked to create rotation in my stroke. There were many laps with the kick board! Pam’s instruction was, and continues to be, top notch.
Learning how to do flip turns has to be my greatest accomplishment in the pool thus far! Pam, yet again, broke down the workings of the flip turn into bite size pieces, never introducing a new piece until I had mastered the former. I am now able to swim consecutive laps with flip turns and my endurance and strength have improved substantially. I feel there is still lots of progress to be made, but it is all coming together so beautifully under her excellent tutelage.
This year it was too cold to complete the 1km open water swim in Canada, but I am looking forward with confidence to a strong swim next summer! The swim sessions are keeping me in great shape and I look forward to coming to the RVC to work with Pam each week. I am very grateful to have met Pam and I am honored to call her a good friend in addition to my swim coach.
Pilar Bauta, RVC member since 2016.
Want to learn more about aquatics programming at RVC? Head on over to our swim page.