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FAQ: Should I Have Private Swim Lessons?

If you can afford it, it can be a big bang for your buck.

· Triathlon,Coaching,Swimming

First Lesson

I feel responsible when meeting a client for the first time. Why? Because someone has made the decision to part with hard-earned money to work with me and I only have a finite amount of time to produce measurable results. There are the basics to get down that first time (I call it Technique 101) -- so we are speaking the same language. Then, I have to assess the client's status, figure out how we communicate best, take videotape footage above and below water, and get to work on improvements that make sense both to my eye and to their feel. Where to start, how to prioritize, what cues to suggest, what analogies make sense to this unique individual, and then play it by ear from there with trial and error. Last week I had a first session with a triathlete that was remarkable and, I think, worth sharing.

Pool lap times have been truncated for the summer at my normal pool so we had worked hard and waited many weeks to come up with a mutually beneficial time to meet at a local college pool -- she expressed that she was eager to get started. When we met it was clear that she is very fit, but flummoxed by her inability to make progress in the sport of swimming (when most have come so easily).

She explained that she had studied some Total Immersion and is basically self-taught. I asked her goals for the 5 sessions that she had signed up for: she was honest -- she would like to swim faster. She had never gone faster than 1:00 in a 50 freestyle so that was a nice measurable goal for us. Her shoulder had been hurting so I wanted to address ways to ameliorate this. (Note that not all students wish to be timed -- and that is perfectly fine with me. We begin where he/she is --e.g. breathing, body alignment, balance, propulsion -- and go from there.)

Some Video at the Start:

I also took some video on my phone so that she could see real-time what her right hand was doing. We worked on stabilizing her stroke out in front and beginning the catch and early vertical forearm (the entire pull) much earlier. She was fishtailing and legs were splaying, as she was out of balance when she breathed to the left every two strokes and the right arm did its swish out front and never really got into a strong pull position. I introduced her to just a couple of key drills to address what I deemed her biggest problems to tackle first. Her reactions to the drills were very positive. I explained that, just like in teaching skiing (one of her specialties), we deconstruct the mechanics and then try to put them back together in a seamless way.

Some Video at the End:

Notice how much more stable she is. She is generating more power from an earlier and cleaner pull path and maintaining more momentum.

At the end of the workout we had time for 3 x 50s. I asked her to descend them (i.e. increase effort with each one in hopes of a faster time each time). She went 55/53/48. So, she went at least 12 seconds faster in her 50 free in one lesson! Bonus: her shoulder didn't hurt. (This was because she was now pulling with her big muscles and not the shoulders.)

She was extremely facile at taking direction, so this type of time drop should not be expected for everyone. However, I think this is a really exciting example of what a collaboration of coach and student can accomplish in a very short time period.

I joked with another new client the other day that I call it "low hanging fruit" because so few people seem to have been taught correct swim technique. The first few lessons can yield very exciting and dramatic results because such basic and rudimentary concepts are not being understood and utilized.

There is much more to address with my new client over our next four lessons -- and indeed the concepts become more micro -- with more nuanced results and less dramatic time drops. But I look forward to our future collaborations and the fruits they yield.