When swim coach Tom Ward first met Christine, "she could only manage about four strokes of front crawl before holding her sides in pain." He asked himself how long the 61-year-old newcomer would last. To his surprise, Christine bought 20 sessions up front.
"I always wanted to have proper stroke lessons," Christine reflects, but she'd had difficulty making time for it. "You're always working if you're a teacher," she notes dryly. Now a retiree, she trains regularly with Tom in the Performance Endless Pool® at his studio, Passion Fit.
"I was very keen in improve, and I've got the time now," she says matter-of-factly. "I've made a big improvement."
"When we first started," Coach Tom recalls, "she found it so difficult, stuff that was very fundamental. … The progress she made is absolutely phenomenal. Seven weeks on, she can now swim up to an hour in the Endless Pool!"
Christine gives Tom some of the credit for her progress. "Tom is a very good teacher. He's very enthusiastic, but also he's quite patient." She also credits his Performance Endless Pool. "It's extremely good," she declares.
Perhaps most useful, she finds, is the underwater video recording, which is simple to do when you're swimming in place in the Endless Pool. "He can take pictures from front and side on his iPad. So you can see your own faults," she says. "It's easier to correct.
"It's very technical. You get better quite quickly." For instance, "I was putting my hands in front of my body, which I was completely unaware of. I had kind of a flick when my wrists came up. So I'm working on keeping my hands straight."
When retiree Christine first attempted to swim in Coach Tom Ward's Endless Pool, his expectations were low. To his surprise, she immediately paid for 20 sessions. "The progress she made is absolutely phenomenal," he now reports. Christine has noticed her own "tremendous progress" as well as compliments from other swimmers and the ability to run up stairs without feeling "breathless."
"In one Endless Pool session, she made an absolutely phenomenal progress in that one hour," Tom gushes. When I mention this to Christine later, she immediately knows which session Tom meant.
"That was the arm," she says without hesitation, recalling how Tom used his underwater video system to point out an inefficiency after each arm re-entered the water. "The pulling through has speeded me up tremendously."
After each correction, Tom can match her progress by speeding up the Endless Pools current. "It made me swim faster. You can see immediately if what you're doing is having an impact."
Between sessions with Coach Tom, Christine practices in the 25-metre pool at nearby Cheltenham Ladies College. "Its quite satisfying to swim lengths. You feel the progress."
Of course, she has more validation than just 'feeling' the progress. "I'm now too fast for the slow lane," she says proudly.
The regulars at the 25m pool were quick to notice that she'd been taking lessons. "I've had lots of compliments. They've said, 'It's amazing.' One of the ladies in the fast lane said, 'Your swimming really has come on, hasn't it?' I'm very pleased."
Christine's husband, Pat, sits in on some sessions. "I was well impressed with the Endless Pool," he says. "It is very effective. It's very evident to me that my wife's improved. She's swimming absolutely flat now; her legs were drooping a bit before. It's amazing, the improvement."
An accomplished age-group triathlete, Tom Ward trains in his Endless Pool with his own Team Passion Fit. He first tested an Endless Pool at the IRONMAN World Championship; "in that one swim, I was able to make some fundamental adjustments," he found. As he told us in last week's post, he maintains a welcoming atmosphere at Passion Fit, not just for seniors like Christine but particularly for domestic abuse survivors who use triathlon as a means of empowerment.
"I'm much fitter," Christine has noticed. "I really can feel the difference from all the exercise. I can run upstairs, and I don't feel puffed out by the time I get to the top. I would feel breathless."
Tom has noticed too, and his pride in his student is evident. "Everything she does is easier. I get goose bumps talking about it now. Her confidence is absolutely fantastic."
He adds assuredly, "She's lost weight." Christine cannot confirm or deny this. "I don't weigh myself, so I have no idea. But I can definitely feel the muscles in my stomach."
With differences that she can see and feel, Christine seems more optimistic about staying active. "I have made tremendous progress. I'd like to keep swimming for as long as I can."