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Ian reports from Lanzarote…

I’ve just got back from another trip to the Hotel Costa Calero in Lanzarote. It’s good to get away. I go there to work on my own swimming, to reflect, to work things out. There are 4 lovely pools there and most of the time, they’re empty.

A few miles away there’s a fantastic training facility – Club La Santa – for proper athletes, Olympians and ironman triathletes.  The climate’s just right for winter training. The Costa Calero is full of civilised middle aged people, the odd golfer or cyclist, enjoying some winter sun.

There’s something about those pools, stretching out across the smart grounds of the hotel. It’s as if they’re a blank canvas you can create something on. In the calm, passive water of an empty swimming pool, you can do as much or as little as you like. The water will continue just to be there.

The water in the larger, 40 and 50 metre, pools is beautifully clean and fresh but unheated. So the pools are very inviting but not easy to get into, so usually empty.If there’s a nice pool anywhere, I’m impelled to get in. It feels like a calling. I started every day this week with a dip. I swam between 500 and 800 meters before breakfast. This sort of distance is a warm up for a proper athlete. For me, it’s enough for the day. In a 20 minute swim, all I want to do is coordinate myself with the water, gently stretch my muscles and cardiovascular system and clarify for myself maybe one or two things. I don’t want to push myself, to race against the clock. I’m not in training for anything. But I don’t normally want just to bob about and play, either.

My real interest in teaching swimming has always been to help people overcome fear of water and to improve the quality of experience for recreational swimmers. Recreational swimming is my thing. I’m not an athlete or one of those men who likes big physical challenges. But sport and exercise are important to me  – watching  Birmingham City, cycling to work, walking the dog.  I like to enjoy the physical strength of my back in the water but not by doing very much or working very hard.

I’ve got two blog pieces coming, from this trip, one on nose breathing, which I think helps prevent gasping by making you slow the breathing phase down – in other words, it keeps your Moro (baby panic) reflex at bay.The other is on what I’m calling 360 Front Crawl, which Steven Shaw showed me  in 1997. Rolling all the way on to my back to breathe seems to be appreciated by my vestibular system (middle ear).

I’ve made a couple of videos.

I put my first bit of video footage on Facebook and received a comment from Bryn,  a Channel swimmer, about my breaststroke.

”…rarely does one see such ineffective arms in a breaststroke swimmer.  Agree this looks stress free, unless you want to get somewhere in which case it is momentum free too.”

Reading Bryn’s comment was a highlight of my week as it helped me clarify my position. I’m conscious of what my arms are doing and enjoy breaststroke for this reason. My arms are in fact effective for my purpose of coming up for air without stress. But I do get overtaken by old ladies so Bryn definitely has a point.  It’s not going to get me from Dover to Calais!

My response to Bryn’s comment was
” I’m not too bothered about getting anywhere. My sole purpose here is inhibition of the Moro reflex. Cheers, Ian”.

That sums it all up for me.

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