If you fancy a change in the pool
There’s joy to be found in the most simple swimming activities, and lots to learn, and to gain, for yourself.
Floating face down, doing absolutely nothing, is a chance for all kinds of change.
If you focus on accepting the support of the water and letting yourself go, important things start to happen.
Look down at the floor. Let your head release from the top of your spine, so your back widens and your arms dangle. Your lower back softens and your knees drop away from your hips. Air comes out on its own.
From this foundation, you can experiment with a bit of movement. Can you enjoy the freedom you found in stillness when you swim a few strokes?
How do you stop yourself from pulling your head back against your spine?… By, 1, continuing to think ‘neck free’ and looking down and 2, caring less about getting anything right with arms and legs, or how fast you’re going.
The novelty of floating face down, weightless and still, never wears off. And maybe it’s enough. Actual forward movement in the horizontal plane seems more problematic for humans than other animals.
An obvious challenge is the location of our eyes. It’s natural to want to look where you’re going but, for a free neck in water, you need to look down. If you’re not attentive to your neck, arms and legs take over and you lose your integrity.
For this reason, I like to be in water deep enough to spend time bobbing up and down, dropping under the surface then gently cycling and sculling to help me pop up, to look across the surface and breathe.
Hanging vertically underwater is a great opportunity to let your head go up out of your body so your back can lengthen and widen.
Treading water is a skill that good swimmers take for granted but being able to do it is a gift. Like riding a bike it’s mysterious to people who’ve never done it, but not particularly technical when you know how.
So, instead of swimming lengths for half an hour, how about a session like this?..
- Work for 5 minutes on floating face down, just giving yourself to the water, letting everything hang, regaining your feet before bringing your face out when you need air.
- Work for 10 minutes on thinking ‘neck free’ as you swim just a few strokes face down, continuing to let everything hang.
- Spend 15 minutes in deeper water, not necessarily out of your depth, playing with treading water, bobbing up and down, directing your head up, away from the bottom of your spine, and letting everything hang.
Try it and see how you feel when you get out.