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Why Can I Swim Well Some Days and Not Others?

I am a adult swimmer who has swam in the past, but over seven years ago, and now I have decided to get back in the water and get my confidence back again. The only reason I gave up swimming for a while was following a serious road traffic accident back in 2005.

I have now been taking lessons for four weeks, and have found myself getting better and better at it. However i had a lesson this evening and was in pain with my leg, and no matter how much and how hard I tried I just could not propel myself through the water or even push off from the wall. I felt like a failure and disappointed after doing so well. My teacher said maybe you are just having an off day, or it could have been the pain or the fear of falling? I don't know which but I hope to do better next week.

Do you have any advice for me on why this happens, that on some days I can swim quite well, but on other days I just can't seem to swim at all?

It’s good to hear you have made some nice progress with your swimming since your accident. I hope it continues.

As for your ‘off’ day, there could be several reasons for this, some of which could be related to the pain you are experiencing in your leg. Without knowing the exact nature of your injury or the source of the pain it’s hard to comment.

With that in mind though it is worth mentioning that a breaststroke leg kick action will have far more impact on the lower back, pelvis and hip joints than an alternating kick on the front or back (front crawl or backstroke kick). If you are mainly swimming breaststroke then this may not be doing your leg pain any favours.

Why do we have days when it all goes well and days when it doesn’t? Unfortunately learning to swim, or in your case re-learning to swim, is like learning anything. We have good days and we have bad days and it’s not until we are fully competent at something do we consistently have good days.

Probably not what you wanted to hear!

In your case you do have an issue with your painful leg, presumably from your accident and this could be, partly at least, the source of your problem.

My advice to you would be on days when it feels like its not coming together, take a step back. By that I mean go back to practicing some of the aspects of swimming that you know you are good at. It could be simply floating, submerging, lying on your back with a float or a simple exercise with or without a float.

The point is, doing things we are good at builds confidence and reminds us that we have made some progress, especially if they are things that we once found challenging.

Then we can go back to whatever it was that wasn’t working that day and approach it with more conviction and determination, rather than getting caught up and a viscous circle of trying and failing and generally feeling rubbish!

Keep in mind that swimming is great for your body, whatever your shape, size or ability. It burns calories, keeps our joints moving, is a great psychological escape and is fantastic injury rehabilitation.

Whether you’re having a good swimming day or a bad swimming day, you’re always doing some good.

I hope I have helped and I wish you every success.

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