Last week, FAST members had the opportunity to gain a better understanding of propulsion, feel and stroke rate during two special swim clinics with four-time Olympian Sheila Taormina. We started with a session in the classroom where she talked about aspects of freestyle stroke technique that the fastest swimmers in the world have mastered. Her new book, "Call the Suit," focuses on what happens with the underwater pull to propel swimmers forward. She talked about how the Pareto Principle applies to swimming, mastering the vital few elements of freestyle that will yield the greatest impact. Next we worked with high elbow positioning with tubing to simulate the underwater portion of the swim stroke. Sheila came around to each group in the room to offer advice and check out our technique. Finally, we moved to the pool to work on some drills. We did some sculling drills, one arm drills (with kickboard), catch-up drill, some streamlining, and kicking. I was delighted she mentioned the importance of streamlining since many triathletes say to me, "Why do I have to streamline? I swim in open water only." Her response, " for training muscle tone, explosiveness, range of motion, and flexibility--it's a free yoga workout." That's why.
The title of her book Call the Suit refers to her mantra in life and sport relating to "take charge." In the card game, Euchre, players often get to call the trump (best) suit during the game. As an avid Euchre player over the years, I would look at my hand and make a decision on whether to call the suit and take charge or pass the chance to the next player. I related this to my upcoming channel swim. When I first started researching the English Channel and a possible swim, I was planning for a relay attempt. It turned out that not everyone could afford a few weeks overseas and time away from commitments. So my relay team was down to just a few people. Last summer several successful swimmers offered their advice: if you're going to spend the time and money to train and swim overseas, just swim solo. While a relay would still be very cool, I took a chance and called the suit--booking a solo swim.
Sure there are the unknowns and lurking questions-- will my back hold up? Am I making the injuries permanently worse with the additional training? How will the sore shoulder hold up? What if I don't get a chance within my tidal window to swim? I looked at what I had in my hand-- supportive & loving husband, family, and friends (plus swim dog), time to train, living in a state surrounded by water, mental focus and drive, an online network of swim supporters, and not to mention, wonderful physicians, massage and physical therapists. I'd say the hand is stacked.