Wouldn’t it be nice never to have a bad swim?
Swimming with the Alexander Technique is more about an approach to being in water, an attitude to swimming, than stroke mechanics, posture and alignment. It matters that you try to keep your neck free and enjoy the support of the water but if you’re having a bad day, you’re probably not getting those basics right.
Without them, nothing else you’ve learned about stroke technique will really work. If you manage to keep the important stuff at the forefront of your mind, you’ll be much less likely to have a bad day in the pool.
I’ve been doing a lot of cycling over the summer but as the nights draw in, I’ll be resuming my lane swimming sessions with my friends at the Happy Swimming Boys’ Club (HSBC). I would like to hit my target every time we go. It has nothing to do with speed or distance, only with my approach to the swim and quality of experience: I want to enjoy the water and not to do myself any damage. With this clear in my mind, it seems difficult to go wrong.
I reckon I have a 50:50 chance every time I duck under the lane rope of sticking to my plan, of hitting the target. All I have to do is decide to keep my neck free, thank the water for supporting me as it reliably always will, and enjoy the glide.
But something goes a bit wrong and all my experience using the Alexander Technique in the water may count for nothing. It doesn’t matter how much I understand about strokes, or the Alexander Technique. I’m unlikely to be swimming with a free neck if….
….the lane ropes are taken away (waves).
…there are too many people in the lane (waves).
…I can’t keep up with the old lady in the next lane (pride).
…my goggles are leaking/ fogging up (grrrr).
…I’d like to improve my underwater pull because it doesn’t feel strong enough (forgetting basics).
…my friend Simon has lapped me over 200 metres (pride).
…my friend Paul is swimming ugly and creating too many waves, because he wants to catch up with Simon (snobbery).
…my friend Gareth is catching me up (fear).
Reacting to and focussing on any one of these observations is all that’s needed for me to lose sight of my goal and destroy my coordination in the water.
But even with my coordination destroyed, with the simple reminder to myself that I’d like my neck to be free, my head to release out of my back, my back to be long and wide and my knees to go forward in relation to the back, it may all come together again.
This is the fun of swimming with the Alexander Technique. It’s a mental game.
So I’ll get out of the pool either hot and bothered, perhaps with a bit of a headache, or with a spring in my step, feeling like I’ve just done a yoga session, or better still, some Alexander Technique work. Then we’ll go to the pub.
Today’s blog piece is dedicated to my AT teacher Stephen Cooper.