The Flip Turn

A brand new month of the new swim competitive swim "Flip Turn" technique for my body to achieve for the Transplant Games of America!

The Competitive Swim Training has officially surpassed a month, and Today marks the start of month two and Day 5 of Competitive Swim Training. 

I've been regularly swimming up to four days a week and throwing in one day of weight and strength training and walking laps with vigor and windmill arms.  My voracious hunger pangs post-competitive swim training have lessened thanks to protein-enriched thick and creamy Greek yogurt (I am now a poster-child for "Voskos"!) or crunchy nuts (I am having a loving and love affair with almonds) or fiber-filled apples before after training.   My 13 laps and 30 minutes of swimming I've done for at least three years of my life because ten laps was too little and fifteen laps was too overload that I ended up in pain the next day has unexpectedly upped to 45 minutes to an 1 hour of swimming each session that combines my lucky 13 laps with the competitive swim training techniques that I've learned at each session. 

Alas, I give myself a solo applause for me.  **clap, clap, clap, clap**

After a most draining and annoying day at work today that left me with simmering frustrations boiling inside me (as I am one to bottle everything in and erupt when least expected..frightful image!), I was actually craving the pool and ready to let out my fury at this Day 5 of Competitive Swim Training.  How productive to let a bad day at work bring out the killer whale in me!

I inhaled the wafts of chlorine and saltwater with gusto when I opened the door to the Aquatics Center.  A bright grin took over my face.  I was in my water world home.  I was home.  Why wasn't I just born that killer whale?

With my smiling pink starfish flip-flops slapping on the wet pavement, I sauntered to the fins cabinet to find my 5-7 green and gray fins and cherry-red kickboard.  I dove in with such vigor in the warm water pool that I nearly knocked out a little blonde-haired boy with light blue goggles.  At least, I think he was blonde-haired considering that I can see just about nothing without my glasses.  I darted back and forth with such zest, yet I was still struggling with flutter-kicking with the flipper fins that weighed everything below my waist completely down. 

When I was on my fifth lap and landed on the other end of the pool, I caught a glimpse of my Swim Trainer with a huge grin on her face and lit-up eyes as she shouted over the noises: "You are getting it, girl!"

Rather than responding with my usual giggle and sweet smile, I bluntly said to her: "I have to talk to you about these damn fins!" 

Yeah, I thought, it really was a bad day at work, because it was not like me to turn into a verbal frying pan. 

I could not completely read her facial expression without my glasses, but it appeared a cross between her trying to hold back laughter with a twinge of confusion and fear in her eyes.  "What's wrong?  Are they hurting your hip and lower back?"

"They are like cement blocks that weigh me down.  I feel like I swim a whole lot better without them rather than with them."

"Okay, fair enough.  You are not allowed to wear them when you compete anyway.  The fins are just a tool and especially for you to try to straighten your legs when you kick because you keep bending your knees, which is the way your body has been compensating for your hip and knee problems.  Let's see you swim with them and without them, and as fast as you can."

With the adrenaline coarsing through me, I pushed off the wall, flutter kicked, sliced my scooped hands into the water, rotated side and side, and only surfaced for a big gulp of air.  I did 100 free.  The first 50 was with the fins and the second 50 was without the fins.  Swim Trainer whistled and cheered: "Awesome!  You totally have the rotating down, hands, arms, and breathing!  Only problem is still your kicking.  You are still bending your knees too much.  Remember that it is all about the flutter kicks."

A rush of pride filled me that I was finally putting the pieces together to fully master the freestyle stroke that I had been swimming incorrectly for over 20 years of my life, but, I could not help being my worst critic with focusing on my weakened lower extremities that was seemingly destined to be the devil of me forever.  Without me even saying anything, Swim Trainer said: "Don't be hard on yourself.  You just have to keep working at it."

She then made me do the backstroke.  Not surprisingly, my body resembled a curved baby cradle with my head, arms, and legs struggling to stay afloat while my belly was sinking.  My sister, who was an even more avid swimmer than me with swimming in open water swim competitions, was the one who had tried to teach me the backstroke.  Her voice rang in my head: "Everything up.  Belly, butt, legs, head, and arms.  Pointed feet like a ballerina, but you kick, kick, kick." 

With my sister's voice in my head, I managed to do 50 back, but my upper right arm that had begun to develop soreness this past week was beginning to throb.  Swim Trainer cut into my thoughts with saying: "I think you are ready to learn what you always wanted to learn.  The Flip Turn."

That is when a big, beaming, and genuine grin stretched across my face.  For as long as I could remember, I had always wanted to learn the flip turn AND jumping off the block.  I felt like I had won the lotto!   I internally chided myself that I could not have been doing that bad if Swim Trainer actually felt like I was ready to move on to something new and especially something that I had ALWAYS wanted to learn, and watched other swimmers do with admiration and envy rolled into one.  Whoo-hoo!!  I began to do a happy wiggle in the water, which made Swim Trainer bust out laughing. 

"It is all in pieces.  Lift your arms like this."  Her arms stretched upward.  The sides of her arms were pressed against her ears and formed a tightened triangle. Her hands were flattened and over one another tightly. 

She explained: "We do this, so no water gets in.  Your feet go against the bottom of the wall and then you push yourself off with your arms and hands like this to streamline into the water.  A little kick in the beginning.  You do your three arm strokes, but don't take a breathe until the third arm stroke.  The goal is for your body to get as close to the bottom in the beginning, but then your body is naturally going to rise.  At that point, you are going to want to gulp in air, but you will do three more strokes and then take a breathe." 

For at least the next half hour to forty-five minutes, I tried to push off with both feet at the bottom of the wall, but the left foot was the one that continued to push off with it naturally moving to the middle of the wall to push off.   The streamlining into the water was actually relaxing and exciting because, when I did push off, I ended with being nearly in the middle of the pool.  The turning around when landing on the other side of the pool to push off was even more challenging as my feet continued to fight in confusion of when to actually push off the wall.  After practicing for at least ten times or so, I felt like I had done some dizzy's tango dance and was getting all confused with the information and body parts' movement overload of pushing off, three strokes to finally take a breath, swim normally while still trying to overcome choppy and bended knees kick to achieve the flutter kick, turning around to push off again, three strokes back to then breathe again, etc.  With my last couple of flip turns in motion, I was in such a conundrum that I would stop myself and shout at Swim Trainer: "I'm so confused!  Am I taking a breathe now?  I feel like I am going blue in the face, so why do I have to take a breathe after three strokes?!"

Swim Trainer said that we need those three strokes in after a push off because taking a breathe would interrupt the streamline or push off motion.  Nonetheless, there was only so long that I could hold my breathe until I pretty much passed out and sunk. 

When I came up for air after pushing off for what must have been the eleventh time, she shouted robustly: "Okay, do it again!"

I internally groaned, and I could tell that Swim Trainer was losing her patience when she was screaming towards the end of our session with her flailing arms (not that I could really see her): "Mary!!  Mary!!  Come back here!"

I doggie paddled to her, as this was the only stroke I could manage after my dizzying push off dance. 

"You get what I need you to do for the beginning of making this flip turn happen, right?  You seem a little confused."

I took out my spongey orange ear plugs, took a deep breath, and confessed: "Yeah, I think I get it. It is just confusing of when to take a breath, the strokes, and having to have both feet push off the wall.  I just need to practice it.  It is just a lot of movements to remember in one."

"Yes, and this is your first time doing it.  We are asking your body to change its way again."

I chuckled rather bitterly and muttered more to myself than to her: "Yeah.  Change.  Something I'm not very good at, and my body can totally vouch for that."

I could feel my self-pitying persona crawling its way towards me about how awful I was with change and how I felt like I was always battling for control over my body rather than working with it, but I warded off the self-pity before it came closer.  I had nothing to feel bad about.  I had everything to feel good about.  Already month two and Day 5 and I was on my way to a whole and brand new swim technique.  WOOT!!!  :-)  It was all thanks to swimming and training for my passion and advocacy that my bad day did not seem so bad after all. 

I slowly got out of the swimming pool and Swim Trainer clapped me on the back and said: "Just keep practicing it!  Every time I see you, you are getting better and better and it is all that practicing!"

I flashed a toothy smile in response. To reward myself, I headed over to the whirlpool that welcomed me with its hot and soothing ripples as soon as I stepped in.  I closed my eyes and let the water massage my pleasurably painful aching body that was on its way to athleticism and showing the world the whole purpose of me doing this ongoing training for the Transplant Games of America: Organ Donation and Transplantation really and truly does work. 

Signing off for now and until then Keep smilin',



"Confessions of a Kidney Transplant Recipient"

There are over 113,000 individuals waiting for a life-saving organ, over 90,000 of them waiting for a kidney transplant, and up to 20 people die every single day waiting for a life-saving organ.  One organ donor can save up to 8 lives and enhance up to 52 lives who need muscles, tendons, and tissues.  To register as an organ donor: http://www.donatelifenewyork.org

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