Bike, Swim

I’m not an Ambi-Turner!

If you have seen the movie Zoolander, you know what I am referring to.  If you haven’t… for shame!  It’s one of the best “dumb” comedies.  The movie mocks the modeling industry with an emphasis on the thought that models are dim witted fools.  Derek Zoolander is the main character who always does the same expression, but people go nuts over it (similar to a Kardashian selfie duck face).  Anyway, in the movie he reveals that he is not an “ambi-turner.”  He can only turn right on the runway, never left  (I am sure by my description, if you had not already seen it you are out there trying to find it on Netflix right now! Sarcasm, because as I write this, I realize how horrible this movie sounds, but I digress.)

I have come to realize that I am like Zoolander in that I have issues with things like turning left or getting my breathing to go with my swim stroke.  It really makes me feel like an idiot.  I mean, I can control my body to push past pain and keep digging deep, but I can’t turn my bike left without freaking out.  I ride on the greenway as a way to start being comfortable with speed and not have to worry about traffic.  When I get to the end, there is a nice circle to turn around in and I always, always go right.  I also realized that the entire span of my ride, no matter how long, has consisted of only right turns!!

As if that is not enough, apparently I am not an “ambi-breather” either!  Last night I went in the pool to practice my new amazing ability to take a breath while swimming and low and behold, I can’t do it right…. Again!  I am coming to realize that there is something to this muscle memory thing and that the only way I will get better is by practicing.  I spent the next 15 minutes face down in the pool holding the wall (like the little kiddie class does) and simply turning my head left, taking a breath, then right, a breath and repeat.

I decided I should be able to breathe after that, so I headed off into a lap.  As soon as I started to try to put it all together, it fell apart again.  I realized that I am letting my brain get in the way.  I am trying to think about making sure my breathing happens.  I am trying to think about my kicks being correct.  I am trying to think about my stroke and pull being right.  I am trying to think about the water getting in my goggles and ways to get them to stay  on right.  I am thinking, way too much!  I’m causing my own body to get confused by my mind.

Back to the drawing board I went.  Face down in the pool, turning to breath again.  I realized that the entire time I am assessing my breath, counting and making sure I exhale properly.  I have to stop over thinking.  Once I can breathe that way and not think about it, I will add kicks to the mix.  Once I can add kicks and not think about it, I’ll worry about the strokes.  It’s going to be challenging and will take a lot not to frustrate myself, but I am determined to make it to the end of that triathlon in September.

I have a pretty solid plan for the pool, but back to the bike.  I always unclip from my “clip-less” pedals (who thought of that name?) with my right foot.  My right foot is my rock, my stop pal and the foot I lean on naturally when on the bike.  I know that in a pinch, I can get that foot out without issue and plant it firmly on the ground.  That could be why I cringe at the thought of turning left.  Maybe it’s the grand scheme of being on the bike in the road, and right turns are safer.  I don’t know, but I have to figure it out.  I did achieve one small goal.  I turned left on the greenway….once.  Baby steps, baby steps.  My next ride will be left turn and adventure filled!  Stay tuned!….


After my last swim debacle, I decided to go ahead and find a swim coach.  This is something that really puts me out of my comfort zone.  I really don’t know why, but it makes me uncomfortable.  If I am really honest with myself, I think I am scared.  I think I’m scared that I’ll be told to just give it up.  I think I’m scared of the thought that I can’t do it, or shouldn’t do it because I am too old, or not fit enough.

I made the call and met with a great lady by the name of Kristie.  I told her that when I swim, I feel like I start out great, and then the moment I try to breathe in, I get water with my air.  It freaks me out and then I have a hard time recovering.  For the first time, I told a total stranger that I was afraid.  I told her I was afraid that my fear would take over and I would not finish.  A crash, a flat, an injury even, would be ok reasons to not finish but the thought that my own mind would get in the way and cause me not to finish was terrifying.

We went to the end of the pool and she asked me do some bobs up and down just breathing out while under and in when I came up (obviously).   She told me to make sure I take it slow and breathe out with both my nose and mouth.  I had been breathing out of my nose the whole time, afraid if I didn’t let it all out there I would get water up my nose.  (I am also terrified I could contract a brain eating amoeba during the open water swim, but that is a story for another time.)  I finished the 5th bob and came up to discuss it with her.  She immediately told me that I got water up my nose on the 4th bob.  How did she know that?!  I immediately assumed she was made of magic.  She informed me that while I made the motion of coming up and breathing in, I did not actually take a breath.  Because of that, I had less air to let out and water went up my nose.

I tried again, this time she asked that I focus on going slower and making sure I did not let out all my air when I was under and to take a nice full breath when I was out of the water.  I did it again and it was like a light bulb went off.  I didn’t get any water and took full breaths.  She asked that I swim a bit so she could watch how I take my breaths while actually swimming.  I headed off and told myself not to worry about my form since I could get the most information from her on what to improve upon if I just did what came naturally.

After a couple strokes I went to take a breath and got water.  I tried to get it out but ended up having to stop.  “What did you do?” she asked.  I took a moment and knew exactly what I did wrong.  I let out all my air and then I went to take a breath I just opened my mouth and only water went in.  How could I not realize I was letting out all my air?  How could I not realize I was coming up for air and not really taking an in?  I felt so dumb but so happy all at once.  Knowing the issue leads to solving the issue and I was half way there.

Kristie suggested that I try to breath between fewer strokes and suggested I practice just finding a rhythm of my own.  I took her advice and successfully swam while taking my breaths.  I was ecstatic!  It was a major breakthrough for me, but now I was open to having her tell me what I can work on as far as technique.

I was pleasantly surprised when she said that I had the general idea down and that it would not make sense to spend a bunch of money on fine tuning my technique right now.  She said I needed to focus on making my kicks more “fluttery” because every so often, I am doing a bicycle kick.  I knew this already, but was glad she concurred.  She said my arms were fine and I had the general stroke down so there is little to work on there unless I was really going for perfection.  I told her I was not looking for perfection, I just wanted to finish.

She had me do a few more drills and let me know what I could do both in my home pool and in the city pool when I was able to go.  My biggest challenge is slowing down.  She said I should not be concerned with how quickly I get to the end of the lap, but with how much energy I have left when I get there.  That first swim left me rattled, so much so that I skipped swimming in the city pool this week, aside from this lesson.  It rained the day I was scheduled to swim, so that was as good an excuse as any but it was an excuse none the less.

This 30 minute lesson changed my outlook on so many things today.  It helped ease my mind, not only in being able to finish the swim by the time the triathlon is here, but it also helped me feel just a little more comfortable with talking to someone with expertise in things I am struggling with.  I left that lesson hopeful.  Hopeful that I would not only finish, but be able to do so with energy left to hit the bike and run hard and finish my first triathlon.  I am eager to do something I have not been eager to do since I started training…. get back in the pool.

What rattles you?  Have you ever had one on one expert advice?