Monday, November 9, 2009


Walls: an essential component to swimming, an unavoidable reality of life.  I'm not going to get too existential with you on this topic, but it seems fitting right now to talk about dealing with the walls of life and swimming.  Lately it seems like nearly every time I turn around, I bump into another barrier.  The reality, of course, may not be quite so dramatic - but the feeling exists nonetheless.  Naturally, it feels like there's always a sort of domino effect when things go wrong.  One after another, issues arise and it begins to build what can feel like massive walls getting in the way of progress.  In swimming, you are constantly bouncing between walls.  The way you utilize the wall can give you an edge over a competitor or even propel you to victory.  Each wall has to be attacked precisely and with strength.  This can only be achieved through massive hours of practice.  Practicing perfect feet placement, a strong push off, a tight streamline, a powerful breakout.  I can't help but think that the same is true out of the water too.  Each wall makes me stronger and helps me with the next - as long as I use it to my advantage.  Sometimes people talk about 'breaking down' walls.  Rather, I think walls are placed in our lives for a reason and it's up to us to use them as a place to quickly plant our feet and push off to speed us along the lane of life.  Leave it there as a reminder of how to deal with the next one, but know that you have pushed away from it a stronger person.  Hanging onto a wall won't get us anywhere.

. . . and hanging onto the lane line will only get you yelled at.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Drill review - Freestyle

Another quick review of the drills that I did last night at the pool, this time for freestyle:

I have to say, last night's freestyle drills were pretty much a 180 from the previous night's backstroke drills.  I had a lot of problems and really struggled to get through some of these.  Part of the reason, I know, is breath control.  I somehow have to figure out how to build my lung capacity so that I can get through these drills - especially when I move to working on underwaters.

The first drill I worked on was a varied recovery drill.  I liked this drill and it was a nice warmup for the evening.  I don't know if I got a lot out of it and had a hard time figuring out when to breathe because it felt unnatural during the fingertip drag recovery and definitely couldn't breathe during straight arm.  Only breathing during the high elbow recovery didn't seem to give me enough air to get through the drill completely.  I'll get it eventually.  Here's the video and instructions for the drill:

Next up was a 6-kick switch drill.  Again, this was a difficult one to get through.  Eventually, I just starting kicking really fast so that I could get air again.  Unfortunately, I feel like my kick starts to break down and becomes less of a core/hip kick when it gets that fast.  I did a few laps of this drill to try and get it right, but I didn't want to keep at it for too long, since it seemed to be adversely affecting my kick at that point.  Here's the drill:

Finally, I worked on a slow exhale drill to help with breath control.  I had some difficulty with this one, but still did a few laps to try and get the hang of it.  This will probably be a staple of my warmups from now on so that it becomes more comfortable over time.  Check out the video here:

I did a pretty tough weight training class before I got in the pool, so my body may have already been a little taxed by the time I did some of these drills.  That may have affected my ability to really get at these drills.  No excuses though.  Working out harder than I think my body wants to will make me stronger and will continue to increase my endurance.  One major discovery through doing this particular set of drills is that I need to really work on breathing and lung capacity.  I'm not sure how to do this, but I'll figure it out - something tells me it will involve constant, repetitive practice.

Again, big thank you to for these drills!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Drill review

A quick recap of three drills that I practiced last night at the pool:

This first drill I did on Friday with my coach.  She had me doing the Shoulder Pop to concentrate on getting my shoulders out of the water and getting a better feel for a more effective body roll.  Nothing fancy here, pretty sure every swimmer has done this one - gets the job done though.

Next is another drill that is a tried-and-true component of most swimmers' practices.  The Double Arm drill is especially helpful for over-reachers like me - and it has really worked well for me so far in getting my arms in the correct position for starting my pull.

The last drill that I worked on last night was the 4 Back 3 Free Catch.  When I first saw this drill, I was a little hesitant to try it because I wasn't sure I would be able to do it properly and thus not get the benefit from the drill.  However, I gave it a try last night and I not only did it well, I liked it a lot!  This is a fun one (I think), and was super helpful in mentally connecting the pulls of the free and back.  If you haven't done this before, I highly recommend giving it a try in your next practice!

Thanks to for the videos and instructions of these drills.  Check them out for tons more drills and practice sets!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

And so it begins

I had my first practice with my new coach Kristen on Friday.  It was awesome to finally have someone there to analyze everything and give me some drills and advice on how to fix things up.  There were some aspects of my swimming that I thought were decent, but in fact need a lot of work - and vice-versa.  I actually thought that my backstroke wasn't too bad, but turns out that it's pretty ugly.  Ok, really ugly.  I was over-reaching and my kick was way too big.  We worked a little on getting my arms in the correct position and fixing up my body roll, which I'm still having a lot of problems with.  I got into the pool today and spent just about the entire hour and a half on my backstroke.  When I concentrate on the body roll, it feels really out of control and my stroke begins to break down.  I'll work on it more this week and hopefully with practice it will feel a little more natural.  My freestyle kick is too bendy at the knees, so I'm working on keeping my legs straighter and kicking more from the core/hip.  My breaststroke kick is also in need of work - I'm leading too much with my knees, and that is going to take some serious time and lots of drills to get that looking better.  Much to my surprise, my butterfly and flip turns aren't too bad!  Happily surprised about that.  (So Mel, maybe I'm really a butterflyer...)  I will have practice with her again on Friday and I am planning on getting in the pool each day this week to practice.  I'm hoping to be able to hit up the pool during lap swim in the (early) morning, and then do some lifting/cardio/crosstraining in the afternoon or evening.  All-in-all, the practice was great (to quote Kristen, "...everything is fixable") and I'm so excited to work on making improvements!

If anyone has any drills that help with backstroke (pretty much any aspect of the stroke) or breaststroke kick, I would love to hear about them! 

Sunday, October 25, 2009

New week, clean slate

It's been a bit of a downer week.  I had some car issues early in the week, had a less-than-stellar workout in the pool on Tuesday, and was under the weather Wednesday and Thursday.  By Friday, I was really looking forward to my first practice with my new swim coach.  Unfortunately, I woke up Friday to a text message from her saying that she wasn't going to be able to make it to practice and had to cancel.  Don't get me wrong, I totally understand that stuff comes up - I was just a little bummed because I had been looking forward to really getting to work on my swimming.  Well, tomorrow's the beginning of a brand-new week and my butt will be in the gym, continuing to work hard and get stronger.

On a way more fun note, check out this super-cute TYR suit that I found online at

It definitely has my name written all over it - thankfully they're sold out in my size so there's no temptation to buy!

Also, all you swimmers out there should vote for the Golden Goggle Awards!  Here's the link to vote:  Golden Goggles 2009

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always gotten...

I decided to shake things up a little.  My workouts seemed like they were becoming a little less effective, mostly because I wasn't as sore as I had been a few weeks ago when I started really working out hardcore.  Now I know that soreness isn't necessarily an indication of effectiveness, but I knew that I needed to cross train more than I was.  I decided that I would try out a spinning class - partly because they seem to be super fun and also because my extremely fit cousin recommended them.  So I'll set the scene for you:  Monday rolls around and I'm all excited for this whole spinning idea to help with cross training.  The class is at 6 pm and I had to run a few errands for my mom in the afternoon beforehand.  Well wouldn't you know that my super awesome boat of a car had to go and bust two tie rods right in the middle of the mall parking lot, leaving my vehicle stuck with tires pointing in all different directions and unable to move.  Let me tell you, the old ladies trying to get a prime parking spot on their way to the JCPenney styling salon were none too pleased.  So after making a few phone calls, I get the car towed to my garage.  At this point, I'm a little irritated and flustered, but I'm still really looking forward to this class.  I figure that I will use it as a bit of an escape from the day's craziness.  I borrow my mom's car and make it to the gym right on time for spinning.  As luck would have it, there was one bike left in the last row, which was perfect since this was my first time and I wanted to be able to see what the honor-roll spinners in the front row were doing.  We get started pedaling and I'm thinking "Yeah, this is nice - a brisk bike ride with fun music, awesome!"  And then the warm up is over and what I would describe as the most vomit-inducing 45 minutes of my life began.  It was painful and horrible and torturous.  My legs burned with the fire of a million suns.  I can't even count how many times four-letter words came into my head.  The entire time all my legs wanted to do was stop - immediately - and walk out of this nightmare that I had gotten them into.  Maybe a year ago, or even a few months ago, I would have grabbed my towel and snuck out like a kid trying to bust out of detention.  But my head and my heart just would not let that happen.  I was going to get through the entire class - come hell or high water (or, more appropriately, come puking or passing out.)  There was absolutely no way I was going to let the pain beat me.  I have too many goals and have worked my butt off too hard to let anything beat me.  And I did it - I kept going and finished the class.  If I wasn't on the verge of being physically ill/crying, I would have given myself a pat on the back.  Of course, just like any new, high energy workout, I'm sore and being reminded constantly that there are a million little muscles that I never knew existed.

I can't wait to go back.

Yes, you heard that right.  I got such a high from pushing myself way beyond what I thought I was able to do that I just want to do it again.  ...although maybe not right away, I'm still sore...

AND (cue drumroll), I have my first practice with my new coach Kristen on Friday!  I'm way pumped for that and can't wait to really get to work on technique and strength in the pool.  I will be sure to update after practice!


Also, a Happy Birthday shout-out to my brother Vinnie who turns 26 today!  He's out in Austin, TX livin' the dream - hope you have an awesome day bro!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

BIG news!

Ok, so this news might not be quite as *super* exciting to some people as it is to me...  But for me, this is a major step towards my goal.  I am so pumped that I now have a swim coach!  My first practice with her will either be this Friday or next week sometime.  She is an instructor at the YMCA that I workout at, so the cost isn't too bad - and I have made some sacrifices financially to be able to make this happen, since I'm still looking for work.  I will probably just practice with her once a week and work on the skills that she helps me with on my own during lap times at the pool.  Needless to say, I am soooo excited to take this next step and start to get to work seriously on my swimming!  I will definitely update after my first practice - wish me luck!!


Friday, October 9, 2009

Master of your domain...

(High five to the person that can identify that quote.)

Ok, short update this evening.  Today I received some info from my local Masters club - it's definitely interesting and probably something I will pursue in the near future.  It sounds like an avenue that would get me going in the right direction with competing.  If anyone out there has been involved with Masters swimming, I would love to hear about your experience!

On another note - no pun intended - I wanted to get some ideas for new music to add to my ipod playlist that I use during my workouts.  Here's what I've got so far:

1.  Say Hey (I Love You) by Michael Franti & Spearhead
2.  Waking Up In Vegas (remix) by Katy Perry
3.  On a Mission by Q Da Kid & Jermaine Dupri
4.  Remember the Name by Fort Minor
5.  Dreamer by Chris Brown
6.  Uprising by Muse
7.  Got Money by Lil Wayne & T-Pain
8.  SexyBack by Justin Timberlake
9.  I Gotta Feeling by Black Eyed Peas
10.  Let It Rock by Kevin Rudolf & Lil Wayne
11.  Keeps Gettin' Better by Christina Aguilera
12.  Pop Bottles by Birdman feat. Lil Wayne
13.  Notion by Kings of Leon
14.  Forever by Chris Brown
15.  A Milli by Lil Wayne
16.  Hotel Room Service by Pitbull

What should I add??  Obviously, it needs to be upbeat and fun - suggestions please!

Tomorrow I get to lift at the gym with my Strength & Conditioning coach - I'm excited to hang out in the 'big boy' weights area with the dudes.  I usually do all of my weight stuff on the circuit machines, so this should be interesting.  I will certainly update with any ridiculous stories, so stay tuned...


Saturday, October 3, 2009

Act your age

When we were young, how many times have we heard that saying - 'act your age'?  At some point in time, a few years down the road from hearing that phrase so often, we realize that acting our age may no longer be such a fun thing.  This thought has entered my mind a few times, particularly since embarking on this swimming thing full-on.  One of the demons that I have to fight is this idea that I'm too old to be starting such an intense journey.  I know this is all in my head - and it definitely has not deterred me.  It is, however, one of my biggest fears in this endeavor.  I combat this fear with two things:  going to the gym to prove to myself that I'm getting stronger and my body is up to the challenge, and to remember that my age is out of my control but how I deal with this fear is what I can control.  My birthday is coming up, and I have decided that I'm not going to celebrate my calendar age of 28.  I will instead celebrate with my friends and family how old I feel, which I have decided is probably 23 - completely arbitrary, but the number doesn't really matter.  I don't care what I didn't do ten years ago - I could have been doing this then, but it obviously wasn't in the grand plan for me.  Maybe I wouldn't have been able to follow it through or have the strength to make it happen at 17 years old.  It's all about living to the max and working 110% to make my life everything I want it to be, no matter my age.  This is it, the one life I have been given, and I'm not going to waste any of it on regrets or waiting for tomorrow.  Each day counts, each lap counts, each rep counts.  This isn't about putting pressure on myself - it's about motivating myself and convincing myself that I can do it, no matter my 'real' age.  Every day that I'm in the gym, I become more focused - I no longer am in the mindset of 'if I can do it', rather 'I will do it - it's just a matter of time.' 

That being said, I can update all of you on my progress...  I'm feeling much stronger and really working my butt off in the gym.  I get in the pool a few times a week, but it's not a major focus right now.  The pool workouts I use to keep my feel for the water and work on breath control.  I'm waiting on really training seriously in the water until I get a coach.  I'm afraid of doing too much in the pool and developing bad habits or poor stroke technique that will be hard to shake once I have a pro working with me.  Thanks again to my readers for the kind words of support - it really means so much that I have people cheering for me!


Monday, September 28, 2009

For your viewing pleasure...

Whenever I'm looking for workout ideas/inspiration, I turn to one of two places:  My brother/Strength & Conditioning coach and the internet.  My brother Dan is an awesome athlete - not to mention a terrific sports writer (check him out on!).  He played college lacrosse for Dayton, who had an incredible season in 2009 - CCLA champs and National runners-up.  He teaches me solid, fundamental exercises as well as important details like number of reps/sets, etc.  I also run new workout ideas by him and he gives me recommendations on modifications or alternative exercises that can help me focus on core strength, which is one of my main goals.  On the internet, there are a plethora of sites that have workouts and fitness tips.  One that I have found particularly helpful is  There you can find tons of videos - the dryland workouts are my favorite.  Here's a workout session with the guys at Auburn - it's pretty sick:

Or, if you prefer, the Mel Stewart workout (from

You have to hand it to Gold Medal Mel - he certainly gives the Superman-esque athletes at Auburn a run for their money...

Tomorrow it's off to the gym for cardio and weights!  Thanks for all of the positive feedback so far - I love it!!


Friday, September 25, 2009

Butterfly and Battle Wounds

Oh dear butterfly, why do you hate me so?  You have such an innocuous name to be so torturous.  Yep, added some laps of butterfly to my workout today.  I usually don't work butterfly into too many of my workouts because, well, let's just say horrendous can't even begin to describe how I feel that I am swimming it.  Just close your eyes and imagine a cat being thrown into a pool.  I'd say that is probably how I look when attempting fly.  I think it has to do with the hip thing - I'm not getting nearly enough of that crazy Michael Phelps-ian undulation thang going to give my arms a decent chance to get a stroke in.  Now here's the crazy thing - anyone who knows me (or who has attended an open-bar wedding reception with me) knows that I have the hip action of Beyonce on the dance floor.  No lie.  Why can't that translate in the pool?  I mean, come on, I always have music going when I'm swimming - and trust you me, it's all good booty-shaking music.  I'm going to keep trying - and I know that as I continue to build core strength with dryland, the swimming will improve to an extent.  Or maybe I just need to channel the Michael Phelps/Beyonce thing.  I'll keep you posted on how that works out.

Now to the battle wounds...  Well, I have to admit, I may be the clumsiest person this side of the Mississippi (I hear there are some real klutzes out in California.  I digress).  To defend myself on this, I must ask you to keep in mind a few points: firstly, the pool I use does not have lane lines, also the bottom and sides are painted the exact same color, and lastly there are no ladders on the side that I swim on.  Now you probably can't wait to hear this - it's really not that ridiculous, I swear.  So I'm doing a run-of-the-mill freestyle, only a few laps in, and apparently got a little too close to the side wall.  How close you ask?  Well, close enough that I have a really cute concrete burn from mid-hand to mid-forearm.  Oh yeah, sexy.  However, it is definitely not the most painful pool-induced mini-injury that I have incurred.  Let's just say backstroke + super hard concrete back wall - paying attention = you get the point.  Well, enough of this silliness for today.  I think tomorrow I will introduce you guys to my awesome strength & conditioning coach - stay tuned!


Thursday, September 24, 2009

One day in plus motivation...

Ok kids, first day of reporting.  Nothing particularly noteworthy in the workout column - did an hour on the elliptical and topped it off with 100 crunches.  I took it a little easier today, since I kicked my own butt yesterday with core work.  Tomorrow I'm planning on more core exercises and pool time.  My workouts in the pool are what I need the most guidance on.  I mostly focus on kicking and building endurance, but I know I need help with stroke technique and turns.  I've been in the pool working on this for a while now, so I think I'm to the point where I need a professional to evaluate and critique my skills (or lack thereof).  There are a number of swimming videos out there, and I have studied a few in order to learn some of the core elements to each stroke and I try to work on those points when I get in the pool.  If anyone out there has any tips/suggestions on improving sans-coach, I would be very interested in learning.  I do plan on getting a coach eventually - in fact, I was 'shopping around' right about the time that the company I was working for shut their doors.  No job = no dollas = no coach.  However, my current coach-less situation really isn't as terrible as it may seem.  I am putting most of my focus on dryland - getting in shape and working on my endurance is of top priority.  Being in top physical form is crucial for me.  Once I achieve some semblance of fitness, the hunt for a coach will become more important.

I also wanted to share with my readers (of which I hear there are a few of, so thank you very much!!) a really awesome blog that I came across recently.  It is authored by Garrett Weber-Gale, an Olympic gold medalist and a fantastic writer.  When I first came upon it, I had to read it twice, that's how much I connected with what he was saying.  The points that he makes can apply to so many facets of life - I really hope you enjoy it as much as I did:  Garrett Weber-Gale's blog "How to Turn Disappointment into Positive Outlook  


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Here we go...

At 27 years old, I suddenly found myself unemployed and bored to tears.  My days became awash with job-hunting, napping, and constant worry (not to mention job-rejection).  I realized that my job had become my life, and it was a terrifying reality to come to grips with.  I went from being a hard-working marketing manager with a comfortable salary and a dynamic workload to, well, nothing much at all.  I had to find something to do - something to wake up to, to give me motivation and a sense of achievement.  I have always had a passion for swimming.  I was a water baby.  I remember photos of myself as a baby and my dad at parent/child swim lessons.  My brothers and I took swim lessons for years at the local rec center.  When it was time to find my own place, I chose an apartment with an indoor pool (quite rare where I'm from...) so that I could swim whenever my heart desired.  Whether I was any good at the sport, who knows.  What I do know is that I love the water and nothing, absolutely nothing, beats the thrill of a great swim.  I decided I was done waiting.  I told myself that I could do it - I could train and work my butt off and maybe I could compete on a swim team.  This was it, the wake-up call to end all wake-up calls.  I now had infinite time on my hands and could spend 100% of my time on me.  If not now, never.  However,  I have always been incredibly afraid of failure, even as a child, which I know is part of the reason that I always left sports when it was clear that I would be entering a competitive level.  Now, so many years later, I had to confront perceived failure and somehow rise above it to survive.  This was baptism by fire - thrown into a situation that could turn out one of two ways: massive depression or creating my own new success story.  It's time for me to put my big-girl swimsuit on and not rest until I'm there - where my dream meets my reality.

Here's the idea: I'll blog as often as I can about my workouts, swims, and the journey to my goal.
Why, Lauren, why?  Well, partly selfish accountability reasons (you know, those tough days when the absolute LAST thing you want to do is put on the sneakers and get ready for a rousing game of 'how many crunches can I do until I throw up' - any additional accountability is beneficial), as well as maybe giving someone else out there the 'thumbs-up' to make your dreams happen (that's pretty lofty, I know - but I can dream big, that's the whole idea).

Buckle up, it's going to be a ridiculous ride.