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Focus Pocus

SwimDream76 by Thomas Voller

(c) SwimDream76 by Thomas Voller

Spring is on its way. It won’t last long before the open water season starts. I took my first dip last Tuesday. The water was around 3 degrees Celsius. I know – it sounds crazy cold and nearly suicidal, but I really love the feeling of warmth and the funny prickling all over my body afterwards. Swimming in the fish bowl all winter, I feel trapped. For me, the touch of the icy water is like a taste of freedom. A reward for a whole winter of indoor swimming and constant focus on technique and basic speed. Discipline and consistent training. God knows I need to get outside. The water, the air, the light… I need to be released!

So, what’s the status on my swimming training? Despite my jaw surgery, a bad flu and a few other mishaps in my private life, I’m still on track. I swim 3-4 times a week – two days speed training with my club and two days mainly with technique training. I’ve been spending quite some time on my backstroke and breaststroke, learning and refining them over and over again. Varying the strokes has helped me build my proprioception and improve my feeling of the water in general, as well as prevent overuse injuries due to repetitive crawl training in particular. It’s win-win, all the way!

My one and only Susanne is still by my side as the excellent trainer she is, helping me crack one technique code after the other, refining every single detail to improve the bigger picture. I always leave our training sessions wiser and inspired, but I must confess I miss our speed training together. It may sound a bit masochistic, but there’s nothing like a diabolic training session with intelligent feedback and measurable results. Susanne is one of the few people who really can motivate me to push the envelope.

Rule 72Meanwhile, I’ve also teamed up with Lærke Lilleøre, our local swimming and triathlon star. She helps me with my swimming and I help her with her running. A deal and cooperation I’m already enjoying. Right now Lærke helps me practise on my balance in the water. I’m still very much of a suckermouth, especially on my side, but this training is very rewarding. We’ve found out I kind of deactivate my abs when I switch side, swimming like some boneless slime, with very little coordination between my hips and my upper body. Luckily it only took a few sessions to get my brain started. Back to basics – regular neural and postural training both in the water and on land. And the difference in my swimming is big. As the nerd I am, I find this kind of “reboot” very interesting. Surely the Devil is in the details, and both Lærke and Susanne are one hell of a sorceress! 😉

Fishbowl_TVSpeaking of the Devil, Dennis and Thomas have also helped me make it through the winter. I can be the weakest link in my own chain, so training with my buddies is more than just motivation and speed competition. It helps me maintain discipline and it gives me someone to share my journey with on a daily and more practical basis. Someone I can share my doubts and my frustrations with as well as my moments of joy and success without any fear of jealousy or envy. There is no competition whatsoever between us – only a mutual interest in helping each other achieve our respective goals without obsessing on milliseconds on our Garmin watches. For a committed loner like me, it’s the perfect team setup. Even when Dennis shows himself from his most evil side and forces me to swim a 1500 m test in a 25 m pool after our regular training session on a Saturday night. 60 lengths and 60 turns “just for the fun of it”! 😮 The man is insane! I was totally unprepared, with no energy to refill on, but he made me do what I would NEVER do of my own free will. By challenging me he gave me an opportunity to track my progress and get the confirmation I’d regained most of my speed from 2013. He pushed off my mental limits in the fish bowl and boosted my self-confidence. Except for the part where I realized once again how much I suck at maths. After five lengths of swimming I’m completely lost and can’t keep track of the distance. The fish bowl is only tiles and turns to me! It bores me to death, but I made it out alive.

This winter, besides my indoor swimming, I’ve intensified my strength conditioning with a special focus on swimming and running. I’m really looking forward to seeing how it pays off this season. First stop is just around the corner, as I’m on my way to Rome where Martin and I will run the marathon on Sunday. No particular ambitions after my jaw surgery in December. Just a change of air, a change of scenery. Italian food, red wine and a fantastic historic city. Yet another reward for my focus and discipline through the winter. Back to my Latin roots to celebrate the coming of spring – let the party begin!

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