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Matej Grožaj
Personal coach
Z-Health Practitioner

Swimming: Women in training

zena v bazene
Swimming: Women in training

In this blog "Swimming: Women in Training" I bring you the observations of five (non-)swimmer clients who approached me to learn how to swim or improve their swimming technique.

Each of the clients knew what she wanted to achieve - to improve her health, learn to swim, work on swimming technique or conquer a specific goal. Their reasons - why they approached me as a coach - were different, the physical condition and health condition were also different at the beginning of the cooperation. However, expectations, fears and feelings had in common to some extent. The trainings were a challenge for each of them - with significant demands on their time, fitness, coordination, psyche, emotions and especially imagination.

Women today face challenges at every turn, they are fully busy, and excellence is promoted everywhere and it chooses its price. Their life stories are interwoven with various events - in the family or at work - and these affect performance in training. High expectations of rapid progress can also "wave" them strongly. And where to fit that training into an already fulfilled family schedule?

All these circumstances create pressure that they have to deal with. Training takes time - the ability to cut from family time only for oneself, at the same time it requires patience - "drill" and again only "drill" will bring the desired results, and often a strong will to overcome one's own stagnation - a "surprise" that can appear in the training process and for which only a few are prepared in advance.

plavanie s doskou
Swimming training woman - breaststroke - legs

In the posts below, you will find for each swimmer a record of their training process in the water. In the videos, swimmers demonstrate the technique of swimming breaststroke, isolated technique of movement of arms and legs, as well as realize these movements in different breathing combinations. At the same time, I attach their personal statement, what brought them to me and how they perceived the training process. I believe that this will help you create a more realistic picture of how it works in training.

I believe that the openness of these swimmers, their own words and movement expression, will give the necessary courage to those of you who do not believe in yourself or are going through a complicated period and finally convince you that it is worth trying to learn how to swim 😊

Before we get to the specific stories, I would like to write something about the technique of performing the breaststroke swimming method by individual swimmers. In the pictures you can now see how diverse the individual technique can be. I chose the same moment in the breast technique that precedes a kick of legs - note the different position of the body, the position of the limbs, the position of the head:

Soňa, Miška, Mirka, Táňa, Monika

A different exercising of the breaststroke is okay, as it depends on several factors.

The difference in swimming technique by individual swimmers is influenced by their physical predisposition, current mental mood, level of awareness of their own body and its control, fitness, but also injuries they went through and, last but not least, the time they devoted to training.

It is therefore not necessary, and indeed not desirable from a health point of view, to fit into an ideal pattern of movement. Individual training is set up to take into account your current possibilities and develop the ability to optimally move effectively in the water for you so that you gain health benefits, joy of movement, self-confidence, mental and physical endurance in your allotted time space and thus meet your expectations and prove to yourself that you will achieve it too.


Soňa (36): "To swimming training with Matej I was actually forced"

But not to discourage you from the beginning, it literally saved my health, directed me to new solutions, taught me a lot about myself and my body, and brought me the knowledge that a personal trainer can be more than a good decision :)

It all started 6 years ago when I went through a fracture of my right shoulder without proper curing (yes, this can happen), which I couldn't fully use for almost three years. Problems with the neck and torso, arm tingling, hormonal imbalance/weight gain were gradually added to the shoulder, and after a difficult period in the family and at work, the whole back, especially its lower part, was in pain. I felt a lot of chronic pain, I lost stability and confidence not only in my own body, but over time also in myself and my judgment. For the last year I have been practicing alone and with physiotherapists 4 hours a day so that I can walk at least 100m straight. My energy was sufficient only for half a day, then I worked from some not existing reserve. The doctors said that at this pace, I could end up on the surgery table or in a wheelchair within a year. Before the accident, I was a healthy and active person. After the injury, the sports I managed to do became more and more curtailed.

Feeling cornered, after a long search and even longer determination, I chose instinctively swimming, as I lacked more movement, and purposefully Matej, as I did not want to hurt myself even more. From the very first training, Matej was very accommodating, empathetic and, most important he knew what I needed and how to proceed in my specific condition. I was a "duck" swimmer with my head above the surface, so I had to learn from the basics.

The beginnings were difficult despite Matej's insularity and support. The coach didn't swim for me and to come to the pool, even though everything hurt, the day didn't even start properly and there were still a lot of responsibilities ahead of me, I also had to come to the pool. It took several months of regular training to learn how to breathe properly, relax a stressed body, dampen frustration, and start cautiously enjoying small progresses.

In the water, I found out how much I was not in control of my body and in what tension I functioned. On land, for some strange reason, I didn't experience it so radically. Such an unexpected mirror for me started further changes in work and life so that my body and mind calmed down, which in turn brought advances in swimming. That connection was and is fascinating to me.

It also had an impact on the quality and range of physio exercises performed - not only I noticed it, but also the physiotherapists themselves.

Since the end of summer, when my back stopped hurting acutely and we got used to each other in a new, improved form, I have been making even more progress in swimming. As an activity, I liked it so much that maybe I would even buy a swimming cap to better learn other swimming styles. When Matej told me at the beginning that it was all about the head, I should have believed him right away and I would have saved myself a lot of time, a lot of trials and errors. Swimming with him was, without exaggeration, the best thing that happened to me this year.

Miška (41): "The biggest obstacle was my fixation on the wrong technique"

I went swimming for about 2 months before I approached my trainer. The reason, I decided to do so, was incipient pains in the neck area, which resulted from improper swimming technique (note - more info on spine issues in this blog). So the main reason for approaching the coach was to learn the proper technique of swimming breaststroke and later the freestyle.

My ideas and expectations were in terms of quick mastery of swimming technique, but the biggest obstacle was my fixation on the wrong technique that I had acquired during my life.

By swimming with a trainer, I learned the correct technique of swimming breaststroke, eliminated many bad habits, some still need to be worked on 😊and gained better self-confidence when swimming.

Mirka (39): "That's it, that's what I want to try! I want to swim across the Danube!"

I thought I knew how to swim - after all those completed swimming trainings, courses and summers in the water. I considered swimming, and in fact still do, to be the only sport I am good at. In recent years, however, I have not often gotten into the water, either for duties or for convenience.

About a year ago I learned about the challenge event of swimming across the Danube. That's it, that's what I want to try! But I couldn't train myself, I lacked the discipline and fitness I thought. After every pool, I barely gasped for breath and my heart beat like wild. I managed a maximum of 25 pools and was completely devastated. It didn't work, I didn't feel a progress. In May, however, I took courage and signed up to this challenge to swim the Danube. But I'm not able to manage it myself alone, I realized. And I started looking for a coach on the Internet. And I found Matej.

Already the first training session was a cold shower for my swimming confidence. Just all wrong, I did everything the other way around. Still taut, on alert, needlessly disposing myself, pushing for speed. Well, we had a lot to work on. First of all, we identified that swimming breaststroke fits me better and will be more suitable for the upcoming challenge. However, it was necessary to completely overhaul my individual swimming style, improve the timing of breathing, grip of arms and legs.

I entered the Danube with more confidence and did not even drown (which was my modest goal).

Therefore, together with Matej, I can continue to work on my technique, especially on "turning off" my head and driving away unnecessary thoughts that make me return to old swimming habits. I feel that the workouts push me further and have an effect, even though I sometimes swear at them in my mind.

Táňa (57): "One day I will defeat the "frog" in myself!"

A few years ago, when I moved abroad for a work stay with my husband, I asked myself how I could fill my free time in the country where we operate, and swimming seemed like a reasonable solution. The catch was that I knew how to swim anyway, but I wanted to learn the right technique.

I met Matej, told him what I would expect from our trainings and he set to work. At that moment, of course, I had no idea what kind of long-distance run I was going for. In the water, I began to get acquainted with myself. With my feelings of body perception, breathing, various imbalances that I did not realize on dry land and which immediately manifested themselves in the water. Sometimes I hit my limits, which we started to push. I have found that in the water, even the slightest movement of my head or adjustment of my arm or leg can ultimately greatly affect swimming technique and thus drain or save my strength.

I'm learning to be relaxed in the water (which is sometimes difficult for me) and use it to the advantage of performing my swimming style correctly. There have been a lot of training sessions since our first workout, we even trained virtually dry exercises during Covid that helped me later on my return to the pool.

Today, after almost ten years of training with Matej, swimming is one of my favorite sports. I remember my beginnings with a smile and I am happy to be able to swim the freestyle in the pool and open water for several kilometers.

It was interesting for me to find out that in the end, learning the technique of swimming a way that I hardly know (freestyle) was perhaps easier than "rewriting" an already poorly established technique (in my case, breaststroke, which I swam like a frog). And we continue further, Matej with his individual and empathetic approach always manages to set up training the way it is interesting for me and at the same time pushes me further. He knows he has to provoke me out of my comfort zone sometimes. And I am grateful for that, because then I say to myself – yes, it is never too late to fulfill dreams and goals, even if it is often difficult and unimaginable. So one day I will beat the "frog" in myself and my breaststroke style will be coordinated and, most importantly, effective thanks to Matej.

Monika (48): "I drank a lot of water until it worked for me..."

When I decided to learn freestyle, I practiced Aikido regularly and also had a personal trainer in the gym and for running. I've run a hobby race here and there, but when I took part in a triathlon relay as a runner, I started peeking around swimming 🏊‍♀️.

I learned to swim breaststroke as a self-taught, I liked diving in the pool as a child, but I had a lot of respect for freestyle. So I started looking for a coach. Before I found Matej, I tried training with two other trainers – it took about a year to get to him. Anyone who has tried individual training knows that the coach has to fit you. I like individual approach and professionalism. I don't want to chat in training and it definitely bothers me when the coach does not pay full attention to me and, for example, constantly "checks" mobile phone🤨. And the coach also has to be consistent in what he does, but at the same time empathetic enough when I don't have my day...

Despite the fact that I had been training for a year before, at the beginning with Matej – to my surprise – we started from scratch. No "warm up by freestyle". We started with basic exercises in the water to relax the body and to correct the position of the body on the surface. And a lot, really a lot, of breathing practice. When it was necessary and I was lost what to do (water is uncompromising and will swallow you in the second when you don't do something right), Mato led the training directly in the water – he demonstrated directly in the water what he wanted from me and that helped me a lot and gave me confidence.

But let me tell you straight, my freestyle beginnings were very difficult. I'm not a sporting talent and for everything I know now I was working hard 🤦‍♀️️. So I drank a lot of water until it worked for me and I also tested Matej's patience and coaching skills. When I'm not doing well, I'm not exactly a nice client... 😖

But the whole effort was definitely worth it, it made me mentally stronger, and when you experience the right sliding in the water, suddenly it all fits together, the technique works, you just start to look forward to exercise more in the water... The water world opens up and you swim on the belly, on your back, make rotations, turns, jump an arrow from the starting block... You enjoy the silence under the water, the clear head when you spin 25s in the pool and in summer you just swim across Draždiak lake for pleasure. I don't regret a minute of this hard training...

After about a year of joint training, I attended a week-long swimming training camp in Tenerife led by Matej – an unforgettable sports experience for me – a big thank you Matej! Here he managed to combine running 🏃‍♀️on the cliffs along the sea in beautiful landscapes 🌴, yoga 🧘‍♀️and swimming in the salt pool and in the sea 🌊 – for me TOP. It was intense and exhausting, but we took a big leap forward in a week. And we even trained in the upstream pool, where they analyzed our swimming technique like for a professionals – great experience! (note - more info also in this blog).

I have been training together with Matej for over nine years. In addition to the freestyle, we also improved my breaststroke technique, of course with my head under water. And thanks to Matej, in addition to swimming, I also tried Ashtanga yoga, scuba diving, free diving and hardening – things, for me in the past, completely beyond my comprehension... I broadened my horizons, what I can actually achieve and I understood that it is only and only my prejudices that unnecessarily hold me back from what I want to try in sports 😉. So, I'm definitely continuing to train...


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