In the days I merely thought of someday doing a triathlon, my final obstacle was to become comfortable with swimming. Of course I could "recreationally" swim. I remember attempting to do laps at the olympic sized pool during college-- I was thoroughly daunted by the fifty meter length, as well as the strapping young lads that occupied the remaining lanes. I believe I made it there a total of three times for fifteen minutes each. A year later I found myself in over my head (literally, not figuratively) practicing the required swimming for a lifeguard certification class. The lifeguard on duty during my sessions must have thought I was a case, for who was this girl, dressed up in her recreational swimsuits, with technique and endurance so poor she had to stop and rest for several minutes at the end of every length? My thoughts in becoming a lifeguard was that I would always have a place to train. So I completed the cert, got a job at the place I was practicing, and have managed to keep saving lives since. :)
This year I am finally looking into buying a wetsuit, with six triathlons lined up. I was shocked at the water temperatures when I moved to Colorado, but since I figured I would do two sprints a year in the peak of summer, maybe the wetsuit wasn't necessary. It would only build character, right? In my first CO tri, the 2010 Loveland Sprint, I spent the entirety of my 20 minute swim time doing back stroke. When I tell other triathletes I lifeguard, they say, "Oh, then swimming must be the easiest for you." Obviously, I beg to differ. For four years I have been swimming, and it has taken me every single week of those years to be a decent swimmer. It will most likely be four more years until I am a great swimmer. I now teach swim lessons and find that it helps to be a relatively new swimmer, being able to relate with stages of my students' learning curves.
As with everything in life, there is always something to improve upon. Some day I want to be a triathlon coach. For now, some advice I can offer as a swim instructor is that swimming is how efficient you can move yourself through the water. Every kick, stroke, and breath affects that ideal body position, where we can glide through the water, not fight it. Work on those techniques, and your body will learn its rhythm. If you feel like you are working TOO hard, you probably are! You will improve with hard work and look back proudly at the accomplishment.
With Memorial day around the corner and parents wanting their kiddos to be able to survive the dog days of summer, I am just about waterlogged teaching lessons for hours on end. Pruniness and the everlasting chlorination does NOT make me want to stay in to train another half hour at all, much less get in the pool when I don't have to. My foot is a huge motivation, however. I get so frustrated with injuries and illnesses affecting my lifestyle, and I desperately want to be running before the Denver Tri. Only a few weeks away... and there is one other who has been impacted with my inability to run. Her name is Phoebe, and she cannot keep up with a bike, nor is a fan of swimming, especially now that swim/bike training has taken precedence over our run time.
-Lynsa Nguyen is a massage therapist, swim instructor, fitness instructor, and lifeguard for the City of Lakewood Recreation Centers.