Available to everybody including me…
“ The four competitive strokes are by their nature restricting. Their purpose is to get us through the water as fast and efficiently as possible. For competitive swimmers, even the best ones, doing too much of this leads to injuries. It isn’t really natural.”
Learner swimmers need to focus on enjoying the support of the water and develop a feel for it through play, instead of being restricted by the form of competitive strokes. They shouldn’t be too fixed on the goal of being able to swim lengths for exercise. Swimming up and down without freedom of movement does nobody any good.
I explain all this with enthusiasm to people attending our course and encourage them to be bold and do their own thing.
Then I go off to the pool and swim lengths, almost exclusively using the four competitive strokes, albeit with the intention of freeing my neck.
But if I want to swim with the Alexander Technique, the cornerstones of which are non-doing and direction of energy, I really don’t need to be using conventional strokes.
I have photos of myself as an infant, always tilting my head to one side. The twist that causes this is related to mild hearing difficulty, left eye/ right hand dominance and a retained baby reflex which hinders independence of the head from the neck and back when turning. It persists in every activity of life for me. So swimming the four strokes, even though I can execute them well, with all the head movement it entails, creates problems for my neck. Floating face down on the other hand, and doing a bit of movement from that foundation, does me the world of good.
On my last swim of the summer holidays, I went for a 20 minute dip at Aberporth. I told myself to be creative and decided not to do anything that could be construed as a proper, conventional stroke.
I started with some crawl but rolled all the way onto my back every time I needed to breathe. It felt odd, stopping and starting, like a learner. But I knew it would be better for my neck and I kept going till I arrived at the last buoy from the shore. On the way back I began to play with breaststroke. At first, when I popped out of the water for a breath, I looked to the left and then to the right, to help stop my head from fixing in its twist as I rolled it out to breathe. Again, this felt a bit silly but there was nobody around.
Then, without any real planning, a new breaststroke sequence began to emerge. Face down, head resting underwater, I did a big arm sweep and a kick then a smaller sweep and another kick, before popping out for a leisurely breath on the third stroke. I was spending more time underwater, relaxing, and less time bobbing up for air. This produced a definite rhythm – my own rhythm. I felt like the ‘bloke on holiday’ I try to encourage non-swimmers to be. And my neck was fine when I got out.
“You were a long time,” said my friend Clive.