After two partial days with Sheila Taormina, both swimming with her and then, watching her offer technique feedback on the videos of swimmers attending the Swim Speed Secrets Clinic, it was time for the “real” work to begin!
I woke up early on Saturday, a little disappointed that I would not be able to swim that day because of pool hours, but happy to take a long run on the beach with the vast numbers of early morning shell collectors.
And did I mention that I saw a dolphin? Always a good omen for me.
Then, it was back to Lido Pool for the day’s session.
Technique talk. Drills. Technique talk. Form. Drills. Trial and error, and trial again.
We covered so much that it would be impossible to repeat it all here. (So you’ll just have to come for a session at Swimcrest and find out for yourself!)
Perhaps most notable is that while a lot of information applied to the whole group, each attendee also received the feedback they needed specific to their swim needs. Perhaps a left hand fix, or entry point instruction, or a head position tweak.
Sheila again exhibited her boundless energy, and her enthusiasm for the sport.
This felt especially inspiring to me because I love that she still feels this way about swimming after so many years of this as her life. She truly loves swimming, loves coaching others, and relishes the successes of her swimmers, a feeling I am so familiar with from watching all of my students learn and grow and change in the way they work with the water.
As one of the coach attendees, it was gratifying to watch each swimmer begin to absorb their form changes, and to be part of the team giving them specific feedback.
Sheila was also careful to take moments to point things out to those of us certifying as coaches. “Did you see what she did there? Okay, let’s talk about…” “I like what he’s doing with the left hand. Do you notice the…?”
Her ability to observe and process what she was seeing with each swimmer was fantastic, and I could feel my own observation skills becoming more refined as the day passed.
Another important feature was learning proper tubing technique, a method for reinforcing your swim form and strength training outside of the water.
This was critical for me as I felt it was something I couldn’t quite get a handle on while trying to learn it on my own, and then, pass it along to others. (Then there’s the part about me previously being a bit lazy about strength training, mostly because, true confession, it had always bored me.)
We spent a great deal of time covering how to achieve an optimal pull path with the tubing, training your muscle memory for when you are doing it in the water.
I can safely say that now, I’ve incorporated it into my swim training routine with ease, and that it’s made me much more able to correct my swimmers’ form. What I really like about it is that I can feel it working—and frankly, sometimes I’m amazed my clothes can fit after 10 minutes of tubing because my muscles feel H-U-G-E!!!
Then, it was open water time!!!
Now, we know I am a cold water wimp of rather epic proportions. But when Sheila is doing open water tips, um, you get in that water no matter the temperature!
In another stroke of good luck, Sheila just happened to have an extra wetsuit. The fact that it was my size was even more surprising as she is, um, a teensy bit smaller than I am.
It’s an Aquaman, and I can safely say that it is the most comfortable wetsuit I have ever worn. The range of motion was incredible, and while it feels thinner than my other suits, which are significantly older and don’t have the same quality of fit and feel, it offered me warmth and comfort and, well, it was just fantastic. Another bonus? No choking feeling.
Our swimmers ranged from those who had a lot of open water experience, to one who had NEVER been in the open water before.
Everyone was excited to swim with Sheila and I learned something about my own sighting technique, which had been different in my mind than in my reality. (See? This is why EVERYONE can benefit from good coaching!)
Perhaps my favorite part of our swim was forming a draft line with Ali and Sheila, the three of us swimming together, letting the rest of our swimmers draft behind us, a group of happy open water lovers, swimming together after a long day of work.
That night, it was time for our coaches dinner.
I cannot tell you anything we discussed there. Because it’s all Coaching Secrets.
No. Just kidding.
Actually, it was mostly about sharing experiences, talking about our lives as instructors, coaches, athletes, and balancing all of that with our lives as women, parents, children, parts of a family. It was a time to relax, to talk, to have a glass of wine and to ask Sheila questions that had come up throughout the day.
The next day, it was back to Arlington Pool.
One of the things I appreciate about the Swim Speed Secrets method is that it isn’t dogmatic. It’s about figuring out what works for you to help you become the most effective swimmer you can be, but without jargon.
Yes, there are ways to do things, but it feels accessible and logical and does not feel like trying to learn another language. It’s not an overwhelming amount of information at one time, and that’s great for swimmers who are trying to change their technique.
And the method means there is always feedback. Always video review and discussion and another way to evaluate your own swimming.
And as a coach, getting Sheila’s feedback on my own swimming was incredible. At the end of the clinic, she filmed and discussed each of us, and low and behold, my funky left hand was better! It’s finally moving through the water more effectively and adding to my swimming rather than holding me back.
And then, it was done! And we were the first round of Swim Speed Secrets Certified Coaches!
Before I finish this post, a word about Ali Meeks, who truly made this happen for us all. As Sheila’s collaborator on the Swim Speed Secrets clinics, I could not be more grateful for her energy, her planning and hard work, and her sense of fun and adventure. She’s also a hell of a swimmer, a triathlon coach, and a Miracle Swimming coach who helps adults face and overcome their water fears.
Thank you, Ali, for everything.
The next day, there was time for one last swim before heading back to Massachusetts.
As you might recall, I am NOT a morning person, so that fact that I was willing to get up at 4:45 for a Sheila workout is truly a testament to the quality of her coaching.
And truth be told, the pool did look beautiful, steam rising off of the warm water, escaping into the cold air that made it feel especially challenging to slip out of warm clothes and enter the water.
The age group swimmers were already in the pool when we arrived, which means they were starting EVEN EARLIER.
It was wonderful to swim with the group for one last time before I left.
My body showed the signs of fatigue and it was clear that both my brain and muscles had exerted themselves. But I felt happy.
When it was over, and the final swim was done, it was hard to believe that the weekend had passed so quickly.
One final photo with Sheila and it was done.
Thank you to everyone who made this weekend happen, including my extraordinary husband who gave me this opportunity as a fantastic Christmas present.
In the almost month since I have been home, I am already seeing tremendous gains for my clients and I love having another set of tools in my kit as I work with all of you.
Thank you for letting me continue this work I love.