Case in point today in the pool. There was a man who jumped in the pool just as I was finishing my swim. He was fit, in his early 40s like me, and took his first lap with the kind of gusto and gnashing of water reserved for qualifying for Nationals. As I was the only person swimming in the pool at the point he entered, it was impossible not to notice his, ahem, enthusiasm in the water. I made a mental note to keep it long and graceful, my stroke that is, and finished my mile and climbed out of the pool. By this time, the guy had slowed dramatically. His stroke was pretty good, but his timing was all off. Specifically, instead of putting in one hand while the other was finishing pushing the water behind him, he was doing something called “catch-up” stroke (where the one hand doesn’t start a stroke until the other hand has basically touched it.) This stoke is, simply put, used as a drill in swim practice to make you notice your stroke. It does not make you go fast. Indeed, it slows you down to a crawl.
So as I dried off on deck, I wondered whether this fit looking guy would appreciate a wee bit of advice from a fellow swimmer. I watched him long enough to ascertain that he was not doing this stroke as a drill. And I figured, what the hell. So I walked over to his lane, waited for him to hit the wall and turn around, and interrupted his swim.
“Do you mind if I give you a bit of advice?” I asked.
“No,” he said, with a hint of WTF in his eyes. You know the look. That slight cock of the head and ever so slight squinting of the eyes. I mean, what was he supposed to say? I had the guy cornered.
So I explained the catch-up stroke vs. the ever more efficient regular crawl stroke, and how the speed of the crawl is made in the glide when the one hand has just pushed the water down past your ass the other hand has just entered the water and is stretching out to catch the next handful of water.
“Thanks,” was all he said when I was done. I stood up and walked away, because I figured it would be rude or stalker-ish to stand there on deck and watch and make comments to him like a mother-figure or coach. But I did look over my shoulder as I walked out the gate, and yes indeed, he had changed his whole stroke. He had ditched the start-and-stop nature of his old stroke and was trying out the glide.
I’m hoping he appreciated my advice. I mean, I wasn’t trying to pick him up or make him feel less than. I was just trying to help. Was I wrong? How would you feel if someone did that to you?
I’ll answer that question myself now, as it was the reason I walked over to the guy instead of just walking out. One of the guys I swim with regularly one day asked if I would accept some advice on my stroke, and he told me how my comment about watching a certain cool-looking white church on the hill while I was doing my backstroke told him that I wasn’t doing the stroke right. I should be looking straight-up into the sky with both ears in the water, not sightseeing. It would raise my can and hips to be on the top of the water, making me more efficient and faster in my stroke. And he was right. I think about this little piece of advice from Rudy every time I do the backstroke now.
Have you ever given unsolicited advice, and if so, how did it go?