Don’t Flip Out Over Your Back Stroke…

photo by stevesdigicams.comI don’t remember not being able to swim. That doesn’t mean I’m a brilliant swimmer or anything, it just means I’ve always swum for as long as I can remember. But I have to say, taking proper swimming lessons with Karl McEntegart at DCU has been a revelation and such a rewarding thing to do.

Over the last few months he’s been ironing out lots of little faults in my swim technique and showing me why I do certain things, and why some things are more effective. I had a long break out of the pool when I was off climbing mountains in Russia and Spain during the summer (tough life) but getting back into training this month,  I found my split times were better than when we started and I was really thrilled with that.  That’s progress.

Today was yet another Eureka moment, when we had a look at my backstroke. I rarely swim anything other than front crawl. I only experimented with back-stroke out of curiosity when I was kid and never for long, because it felt slow and clumsy.  I’d  quickly get bored and flip back to front crawl again.

Don’t Flip Out Over Your Backstroke…

Today Karl showed me that I have to roll before I lift my arm out of the water, to open up the shoulder and get a better rotation on my arm. It felt a bit like doing yoga in water. I did not know that you needed to do that. I never noticed people rolling when they were doing their lovely, professional looking backstrokes.  I never spotted it in any swimming pictures that I’ve seen either, so it’s something that just never occurred to me to do.

The difference was amazing, and that, combined with getting my toes to break water on the kick, transformed the whole stroke. All of a sudden I was moving smoothly and quickly through the water, and for the first time, I actually felt the potential power of the stroke. I think I’ll be doing a lot more of it in future.

Get Active and Get Your Paws Wet…

Moral of the story? If you are an adult swimmer there is no harm at all in getting some improver classes, old dogs (or bears) DO learn new tricks. If you can’t swim, get out there and learn, it’s a fabulous sport and will support any other training you are doing. If you have kids, please make sure they can swim.. you’re giving them a life-long gift, and may someday save a life.

I am still thrilled that I got to do the Liffey Swim this year, and complete it.  Even if I was the very last person out of the water, I can always claim that I led the race for 30 seconds (I got a head-start)…   I’ve got a few swimming plans for next year and I’m going to keep plugging away in the pool during the winter and swim in the sea as many weekends as I can. I’ll let you know how I get on.

Check out Karl’s classes at DCU on or search for a pool and classes near you on

*Pic from:


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