Wednesday, 20 August 2014 21:05

Introducing Coach Suzanne Atkinson…

suzanne atkinson poolMy first memory of swimming was at the age of about 5 years old when I desperately wanted to learn to swim. My parents signed me up for "tadpoles" at our local club.  I remember being asked and encouraged to jump from the side of the pool in the deep end into the waiting arms of our swim teacher, Craig.   All these years later I remember crying, screaming and being terrified of that jump.  I'm not even sure that I jumped but the moment is etched in my memory. 

However the very next lesson i witnessed a miracle…a tow headed 3 year old form my neighborhood swam 25 yards across the deep end of the pool…without floaties!   That was my turning point.  What was there for me to be afraid of? I wanted to swim as well as Benji! 

Swimming became my passion for the next 10 years.  Morning swim practices, weekly swim meets, winter training, learning all 4 strokes and excelling at Butterfly because I was one of the few who were willing to swim it in a meet…so I practiced it a lot. 

But by 15 years old I was burnt out. I was lucky to not have any swim injuries, I was still young but I was weary from the 5 am wake ups and the cold shock of jumping into the pool each morning.   I wanted to do something different with my free time and swimming took a back seat for the next 20 years. 

So, when I suffered a herniated disc with nerve injury followed by surgery, swimming became a natural modality for my rehabilitation.  I figured with my swim background as a child, it would be perfect! 

After being cleared to swim 2 weeks after surgery, I got into the pool and swam a length… the swimming went fine but my neck and back BOTH hurt…just from 30 seconds of swimming. What was I doing wrong? This is supposed to feel good! I was filled with so much frustration at that moment! 

Thankfully I was introduced to Total Immersion Swimming by one of my attendings at Geissinger  in Danville, PA.  He loaned me the DVD of lessons and I immediately went out and bought the book, intrigued by the title, "The Revolutionary Way to Swim Better, Faster & Easier". 

After reading the book once, and watching the DVD…without ever doing a single drill…I went back to the pool and my neck and back pain were gone.  Just disappeared! The simple act of reading Terry Laughlin's philosophy and teaching methods cured my pain.   From that point on there was no turning my back on the swim techniques that allowed me to get back into the pool.  

However it didn't stop there.  I started doing triathlons, swam from Alcatraz Island and became a triathlon coach.  My competitive swim background combined with my self-taught Total Immersion made swimming the most enjoyable part of my training. Any day I swam was a great day! How could it not be?  But still feeling like I was missing some vital pieces, I eventually took a weekend workshop and subsequently became a Total Immersion Certified Coach.  

Over the years with my own experience turning to swimming to rehab from injury progressing to becoming a competitive swimmer and triathlete once again, I have enjoyed bringing fundamental principals of Total Immersion to swimmers, health seekers, triathletes and people recovering from injury.  

No matter what your speed or your motivations might be, the water contains essential healing properties can't be found on land.   The immersive effect, pressure on the body's limbs, removing gravity from achey joints, finding that "swimmers high"…any of those things might be the key you're missing in order to unlock that promise I read many years ago…"Better, faster & easier". 

This column is for anyone using swimming to improve themselves, not just triathletes or competitors.  Stay tuned for tips and advice that blend with philosophy and an unique outlook on how swimming can improve your day to day life and outlook. 



Published in Swimming