Monthly Archives: November 2010

Safety ropes and comfort zones

Yesterday we took Oscar(6) and a couple of his friends to an indoor climbing wall for a birthday treat. They were all a bit tentative at first but by the end were managing to scale heights that they hadn’t expected they would manage. What was interesting,standing back and watching,was the differences in attitude that they had to learning something new,that was also quite scary.(Can you see where I am going with this!)

The instructors that were working with the kids were excellent. They gave the children the assurance that the safety ropes attached to them were very effective and providing plenty of encouragement. For some children the challenge of reaching the top was enough to outweigh their fears of falling. For others something else was needed.

The instructors were encouraging the more anxious children to make small improvements in the height that they went each time and although this pushed them out of their comfort zones it enormously increased their confidence.

As long as there is an assurance of safety,as a teacher,you have a duty to push learners out of their comfort zones in order to increase their confidence and improve their abilities.

More caterpillar than butterfly

On Sundays we try to go for a swim as a family: me, Victoria and our three boys Arthur (9), Oscar (6) and Albert (3 tomorrow). Now the two older boys are able to play on their own,Vic and I get the chance to do a bit of ‘professional development’ while Alb floats about in his arm bands.Yesterday we were attempting to teach ourselves butterfly.
When I went for a swim this morning I continued to try out my butterfly with varied results. Trying to learn a new stroke puts you in touch with the difficulties that  people have when they come for lessons with you. I found myself doing things that I tell my clients not to do all the time: pulling my head back too far, stiffening my neck, putting in too much effort at the wrong time, causing resistance with my arm recovery. This was mainly because I was trying to swim a length to get the feel of the rhythm of the stroke.
What I now need to do is break it down and practice individual components of the the stroke while focussing on staying relaxed and not stiffening my neck.

Fear of water. Yes,even you.

Apart from swimming teaching I have another job which involves working up a ladder. Generally speaking I am very comfortable working at heights but occasionally I a have to go a couple of rungs higher than usual. The mental effect of this is an induced fear of falling and the associated physical manifestation of this fear is a stiffened neck and a reduction in the freedom of my movements.
If you have an obvious fear of water you are going to get a similar feeling as soon as you enter a pool. Unfortunately any stiffness in the neck, back or limbs will reduce your buoyancy and affect your balance,making you feel more ill at ease. This can lead to more anxiety,more stiffness…a downward spiral.
If you do not have an obvious fear of water,even if you consider yourself to be a strong swimmer you may have a level of anxiety that is affecting you physically in the water and addressing this can help you to considerably improve your stroke.

Little Challenges

I had a great swim this morning. Up at 6.30. Quick cup of tea and a walk up to the pool in the dark, cold drizzle of a November morning. I spent a good fifteen minutes practicing rolling from my back to my front leaving my arms at my sides. Kids set themselves little challenges as part of their play (how many conkers can we collect?). I decided to see how little effort it can take to roll.

 I started out actively trying to rotate my hips to force myself to rotate. I then gradually reduced the effort I was putting in . Eventually I was gliding on my back through the water, arms at my sides with a very gentle kick , letting my hip drop deeper into the water  followed by shoulder and finally my head with hardly any effort at all. The sense of freedom was great. I then applied the principle to my stroke and did a few laps of the pool with a much easier sense of movement.


The clocks have gone back and the leaves are rapidly falling from the trees. The seasons are constantly shifting.I was swimming with four other swimmers in the fast lane today. As a training technique they were swimming closely together trying to spur one another on. They were enjoying the challenge of improving their aerobic fitness and the competition with each other.

Getting in the pool and doing the same work out every time doesn’t really provide the opportunity for change. It’s important to spend time trying different things out in order to change and improve your stroke. Start by trying to use as little effort as possible in order to avoid fighting the water. You may find that by exerting yourself less you may move more easily through the water.
Don’t just get in the pool and do the same movements every time. Try something new.