Sunday, February 7, 2010

Blame Australia

So here’s a really dumb new swimming problem I’ve discovered that I have:  my flip turns.

See, I first started getting somewhat proficient with this swimming thing about six years ago when the whole family decamped for Australia where Mr. Coach was doing his teaching sabbatical.  He was working long hours at the Australian Institute of Sport there in Canberra (it’s like one of our U.S. Olympic Training Centers but with a looser dress code and more beer).  The kids were young so I wasn’t able to get out for daytime runs very much.  But I was able to go for lap swimming at odd hours like 10 or 11 p.m. because that’s how it is in Australia.  They are not kidding when they say swimming rules Down Under.  We were living in a city of about 300,000 people:  Canberra had only one running track (at the AIS behind locked gates) but at least seven 50-meter indoor pools that were open to the public no less than 18 hours a day.  So just for the convenience alone, I was doing a lot more swimming than I had ever done before, and the habit has stuck with me ever since. 

Fast forward to Florida and six years later.  For the first time since Australia, I’m having to share a lane with more than one person.  At my home pool at Mr. Coach’s university, I rarely have to share a lane and when I do, it’s only with one person and we just each take one half of the lane.  (And I’m not telling you where this pool is because I don’t want you showing up, thinking you can get a lane to yourself.)

So there I am, tucked in with my kids and the college kids, eight or nine to a lane, and I come flipping off the wall…and nearly plow right into whomever was behind me.  This happened several times until I figured out how to either swim far enough ahead of people or far enough behind them that it didn’t matter.  And of course it’s a towering testament to my swimming inexperience that I couldn’t figure out what the heck was wrong until a week later when we got back home.  (I didn’t want to bug my husband with it because he had enough on his plate, dealing with a sociopathic bus driver and the daily onslaught of strained pinky toes on the team).

So you know whose fault my inability to flip-turn without giving myself a hernia was?  Australia’s.  I remembered that I had learned how to flip turn down there and come off a wall -- in a clockwise direction.  Which is how they circle-swim in shared lanes in Australia.  You flip over, push off and hang a right.  And that really works well for me because I’m so dominantly right-handed.  In the U.S., however, you need to hang a left coming off the wall unless you want to do a corkscrew to get yourself over to the other side of the lane (hey, I’ve met swimmers who like to get dizzy doing corkscrews). 

OK, so you who have been swimming since you were toddlers are right now saying, “Ah ha ha, that dumb Mrs. Coach!”  But you know what?  You probably never thought about this until I brought it up.  You learned how to do your counter-clockwise flip-turn when you were 3, and that was that.  Granted, it’s not impossible to make the switch but, just like learning how to drive on the other side of the road, it’s a skill where I can’t just zone out and let instinct take over.  I’m always going to have to remain ever so slightly self-aware and remember to turn left and not right.  And that’s just ridiculous because I’m American and I am programmed to flip-turn like an Australian. 

1 comment:

  1. Mrs. Coach,

    You bring the best insight and perspective to swimming!

    Thank you for all you do.

    We will miss your blogging...


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