Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Heddi Porter on training with a coach

I have been wanting to train with a swim coach for some time, but was looking for one that had experience with one-armed swimmers. I wanted someone that would understand my limitations and how to compensate for them, but as you can imagine, that's not an easy thing to find.

Well I recently had a really lucky break. I found out that one of the paralympic swim coaches lives in Seattle, and this Saturday I had the great fortune to have my first training session with Kiko VanZandt. We spent only about an hour together, but I can already tell that her work is going to completely change swimming for me.

The first thing she noticed was that I'm breathing too late in my stroke. When she had me practice breathing earlier, I noticed that I got a lot more twist out of my torso, and finally understood what other swimmers meant when they talked about the "snap" they feel as they rotate through the water. Kiko is gearing her coaching towards longer, open-water swims for me, because triathlon is my focus, so getting good rotation is important.

She also noticed that my arm position was off, so she gave me a drill to practice that has me extending my arm completely, both in and out of the water. I'm supposed to pretend I'm scraping the ceiling and the bottom of the pool. Although she said this isn't proper swim form, it will help teach me to reach in the water, and keep my elbow high out of the water.

Kiko also had me practicing flicking my hand down at the wrist right before it enters the water. I immediately felt more energy in my pull, with the extra burst that added.

Now I get to practice these changes and get good at them before our next session. I'm so excited to finally have someone with experience teaching physically challenged athletes working with me on my form.

I'll be doing my first Half Ironman next year, and although I'm confident in doing the distances separately without a problem, it will be key to come out of the water with energy to spare if I want a good race. I can't wait to see how I improve my swim time by then!



Anonymous said...

Hey thanks so much for this. Keep em posts coming, find them so interesting. Anyways where did you take your swimming lessons ? I'm keen to take it up while I'm still young.

Heddi said...

Hi Alisha,

I'm in Seattle, and had my lesson at the Medgar Evers Pool. Kiko doesn't work for them, though.

I went to a Mary Meyer Swim Clinic once, and thought is was a good option:


Good luck--swimming is such a great sport!