ArchivedLogs:Limbs and Liquids
|Limbs and Liquids|
A swimming lesson, and a discussion of liquid dynamics
<XS> Pool - B1
Like any indoor pool, the room is lined with tile and smells faintly of chlorine, the rippling water occasionally casting wavy reflections across the walls when the sun shines through the high, narrow windows at just the right angle. Unlike many, the facility is respectably large, of Olympic length and of sufficient breadth for a respectable number of lanes, with an array of retractable diving boards set up at the deep end.
Early morning is not a time of day popular with many teenagers, and has therefore become one of the periods in which one of the less visible members of staff at the school seeks out a little peace and quiet in public settings. Right now, Mariot is a few laps into a training swim - her front crawl elegantly efficient, the pace relentlessly steady rather than a frenetic pursuit of fast times.
As might be expected, her attire is presently rather limited, seemingly consisting of nothing but a racing-backed one-piece.
Normally not a morning person herself - grumpy at the best case in her morning classes - Elli's presence at a voluntary physical activity might either be a sign of the approach of the Horsemen, or evidence of just how much caffeine she must have had that morning. Still, stepping out of the women's locker room as she blots her face with the fluffy white towel, Elli looks somewhat surprised to hear the sound of splashing as her eyes scan over the surface of the blue water. She hesitates only for a moment before placing the towel down on one of the benches and walks over to one of the diving boards at the end of the pool. It is not the most perfect dive, water splashing messily over the lane and onto the edge of the pool, but it is enough of one for Elli to disappear beneath the surface of the water, coming up a few feet away and shaking the water out of her eyes and hair. She starts with a slow crawl, making her way slowly down the lane.
Mariot is herself rather surprised to register another presence in the pool - though it takes a few moments for the realisation to penetrate her mid-exercise reverie. Still, she makes herself finish her present length before hitching an arm up onto the edge of the pool, lifting herself a little as her other hand clears water from her face so that she can gaze out over the great expanse.
It takes Elli quite a bit longer for her to reach the end of the pool than it does for Mariot, strokes through the water rather messy at the edges, even at this slow rate. When she reaches the end, though, she too grasps the edge of the pool with one arm, panting and shaking the water out of her hair and face. "Damn," she mutters to herself, breathing heavily. "That's a lot longer than I remember it being," she grouses, in a half-mutter of annoyance as she tries to catch her breath.
Cracking a grin, the older woman offers a low laugh. "That you can do it at all puts you ahead of most of the population," she assures the breathless youngster. "Swimming +twenty+ metres without a break is considered proficient by many standards. Fifty's much more impressive."
The blonde's accent is educated and British, her tone amiable... and her toning impressive, given the tensing of muscles to support her present position.
Elli's own accent is far less cultured, and the student looks up with some surprise as she is addressed. "Well, Coach said I should try taking up swimming again during the winter to help with some of my endurance on the football field for next season. I guess I haven't lost it all, yet. But I'm wiped," she says, with a little laugh in her voice. "One lap is enough for me, I think." she says, lightly.
The student's eyes scan the older woman for a moment, that same look of surprise still hanging on her face. "I didn't mean to interrupt, Professor. I didn't think you'd mind, considering how big the pool is," she says, gesturing with one hand half in the water.
"It uses a different array of muscles, to most other sports," the Briton agrees. "But it +is+ very good indeed for endurance and general toning. I could help, if you wanted. And don't worry about it. It's not as if I own the place."
After a moment, she offers her free hand. "I'm Mariot Gall, by the way. Notionally, I mostly teach history here. Swimming, however, is one of the things I'm also signed up to cover, for those who want some formal tuition."
Elli lets go of the wall to swim over to the plastic lane barrier and stick her hand over it, firm and slippery grip squeezing the other swimmer's hand for a moment before she drops it to take hold of the wall once more. "Elli. Zamora. I think I might have taken a class with you last year. History of pre-colonial Africa."
The student glances around the pool and shrugs her shoulders, a slight reddening of her cheeks matching the dip of her head. "I think I could use the help. Endurance has never been my strong suit. Much more of a sprinter than a marathon runner, anyway. Part of the reason Coach wanted me to swim."
Mariot's own grip is strong - though with no evidence of super-strength crushing, fortunately. "I'll gladly help out with some coaching, now that I'm back where I'm meant to be. I've been away for a good bit of this year, helping to try to set up some contacts for the school back home. But it'd be good to have a chance to help out in the pool. Rather a change of pace from trying to interest pupils in history."
A burst of laughter is immediately followed by a sheepish look, not quite able to meet the other woman's eyes. "Sorry, Professor. I can imagine that for some students that might be... problematic." The speed of Elli's speech has slowed, each word carefully chosen as redness burns on her cheeks. Abort, abort, change the topic! "I, uh, would appreciate it. I'm not even sure where to start other than just doing more of this," she says quickly, looking up and gesturing back and forth along the lane. "I took lessons way back when I was a little kid at camp, but, that just taught me to swim, not to swim well, or for a long time or anything." A little shrug of her shoulders. "I just kind of figured I'd get better the more I kept doing the same thing."
Mariot offers a rueful smile. "Oh, I can offer tuition in ethics and foreign languages, too," she says dryly. "They're even +more+ popular than the study of history, in this benighted country." Her grin is swift and broad, her voice free from rancour. "But for the swimming... I believe I can help quite a lot. There's a +lot+ of technique to it, if you want to take it seriously. Whether you're going for raw speed or endurance, you want your muscles to work with each other. But, much like most people never +actually+ learn to run properly, most swimmers aren't getting nearly as much benefit as they should from the effort they put in."
Elli grins and shakes her head, splattering little drops of water in a semi-circle around her. "Ethics especially, I'm sure," she says, laughter strung through her tone. A chuckle even escapes her, and she briefly lets go of the wall to roll her shoulder back and forth, stretching it out before she returns her hand to holding her up. "How do I start, then? Is there a class that I can sign up for or something?" she asks, tilting her head to one side. "I didn't see it in the handbook, but I wasn't looking for it, exactly, so...."
"Swimming's considered to be solely extra-curricular, here. Not even part of the physical education curriculum, which I personally think is an oversight," Mariot cheerfully admits. "We can sort things out to suit you, but I could give you some pointers now. And on dry land, if you want, so that you can see more of what you're doing and talking's easier."
"Please," Elli says, rolling her shoulder out once more. "Somehow I'm not sure that it would be a great idea to fall asleep in the pool, and there's only so much that caffeine can be expected to do." Elli dips beneath the surface of the water, letting go of the wall, and when she bursts through the surface once more, it is to reach up to the edge of the pool with both arms and haul herself up over the edge and onto the floor once more. She runs her hands over her arms and legs once, quickly shucking water off of her and onto the floor, before she turns to go fetch her towel. The air is, after all, cooler than the water.
Mariot bounces smoothly up and out, the motion clearly well-practiced, made simple by her evident athleticism. Her suit is higher-cut over the hips than might be considered appropriate for a student, but otherwise appears practical in intent.
The teacher also takes a moment to slough off water, before offering another smile. "Like most things, the basic idea is to get the maximum benefit for the least effort. So, if possible, we want everything you do to help to move you in the direction you want to go... and to be as smooth as we can make it, so you're not wasting effort working against yourself."
Elli wraps the towel around herself in a gesture that's almost shy, tugging it tight around her body and folding it into itself to hold it in place. "Reduce the amount of energy that you waste." Elli hazards, hands coming up to slick back her hair and squeeze the bits of water that hang there. "Or is it about maintaining form so you have an easier time in the long run?" A pause, and one cheek caves in slightly as she chews on it, thoughtfully. "Or... both?"
Mariot reaches up to smooth her wet hair securely back from her face, offering another smile as she nods. "Good. Yes, it's about both. Running'd be a good comparison, in this regard. For most people, it's just about getting your legs to move as fast as possible - that's bound to make you go quickly, right? But you'll also see people wasting huge amounts of energy in it. Running off-balance, with their legs moving at an angle so that they lose energy to the side, not pushing off at the best time, running flat-footed, not making full use of their stride, not knowing how to accelerate or how to hold form once they're up to the best speed they can maintain...."
Toned musculature shifts smoothly across her shoulders as the Briton shrugs. "There are a lot of detailed techniques that can be pursued, whether you're lifting weights competitively, sprinting, running marathons, learning to kick a ball as +best+ you possibly can, or whatever. We shouldn't have to do much, to give you some ways in which we can make each stroke you swim smoother, which'll let you get a better work-out from it. And, I hope, enjoy it more. It +hurts+ less if you're doing it right, than if you're fighting yourself."
Elli nods, eyes fixed on the older woman as she listens, rapt. She nods along as Mariot describes, chew-chewing on the inside of her cheek. "That... makes a lot of sense." she says, and it sounds almost like a surprise to her as she says it. "It is fun already, but it's a lot of work," she says, with a laugh. One hand runs through her hair, and she glances at the clock along the wall. "When can we start?" she asks, turning her gaze back to the teacher. "I'm not doing as many athletics this term, so I have more free time when I'm not doing homework."
"I can give you some basic pointers now, if you like," Mariot cheerfully volunteers. "See if I can give you a few things to think about. As with anything like this, you'll quite possibly find it makes you +worse+, briefly, as you try to change what has - sort of - worked for you thus far. But we can certainly set up some regular sessions. It'll be good to have a reason to spend more time here, myself."
"Please," Elli says, with a warm smile. "I know about pushing through the burn. You don't get better without it hurting. Wouldn't make much of an athlete if I didn't," she jokes. "I don't want to take up too much of your time, though. I'm sure you get sick spending so much time with us students. I'm sure I would." A brief pause, and her lips quirk into a smile. "Though I'm not sure I'd be able to resist throttling some of my students. Perhaps teaching isn't quite the profession for me."
"Oh, don't worry. I'm trained in non-lethal suppression techniques," Mariot responds - poker-faced, until she cracks another grin. "I admit that some students are much, much easier to deal with than others. But... having someone who +wants+ to learn, who's specifically chosen to pursue something? That can be a real joy, I assure you. And... I do +like+ spending time here. This'll be an excuse to put in a bit more work in the pool, myself."
Laughing, Elli shakes her head. "I'm afraid I probably fall somewhere in the middle of most of my professor's 'want to throttle' lists. I'll do my best to stay near the bottom of yours, if I can. Perhaps it's for the best that I'm not also in one of your classes this term, in case you decide to try and drown me in the pool." She grins and shrugs her shoulders, hands moving to tighten the towel a little bit more around her. "What's first, then?"
Mariot chuckles...then thoughtfully purses her lips. "Mmmm. Let's go back to running. I mentioned that the default assumption is that the goal's to make your legs move as quickly as possible. But if that were the case, you'd go fastest while running on the spot, wouldn't you? Similarly, you can put a +lot+ of effort into a stroke, but not necessarily be doing that much to make yourself go faster."
"So... like running, what's the actual +point+ of a swimming stroke? What's a running-stride or a swimming-stroke meant to do, to actually get you to move faster?"
There is a pause before Elli answers, and when she does, it is hesitantly. "I mean... when you run, you're really pushing away from the ground. Just making your legs go up and down doesn't actually get you anywhere except make you look stupid. So... I guess it's the same when you swim?" It sounds more like a question than an answer, with the inflection that the student puts on it. "The point is to push against the water. The more you push, the more you go forward." There is a hesitation, and Elli chews more on her cheek. "Right?"
"But then how does the force that you push matter? I mean, if it was just as simple as pushing harder against the water, then the form wouldn't really matter, would it?" Elli flicks a droplet of water off of her nose and looks over the other woman with a quick flick of her eyes before settling on her face, hesitantly, almost shyly. "So... it has to be more than that."
"One of the big things to grasp is that you're +pulling+ yourself through the water," Mariot says, smiling as she nods. "Your legs can provide a bit of a push, but... you've probably done drills, while learning, of working just with your legs? You really don't move very quickly, do you? Indeed, professional swimmers 'go to the legs' seriously only when they need extra speed - the effort required to kick is pretty big compared to the impetus you actually gain from it."
"The major skill comes in getting the most out of anything you do to drive yourself forward, while doing as little as possible to work +against+ that. So, much like in running, you want everything to work together, as much as possible. Move the leg in the right way to complement the arm-movement, so that your whole body works together in it. Angle your hand so that when you're pulling back down your body, you catch as much water as possible. Even just +holding your fingers out+ rather than swimming with them curled or in a fist... that'll make a difference."
"And that sort of drill, we can do on land, so that you can see - and get a feel for - what I'm talking about."
You say, "I hope so, since I am not really sure what you are talking about," Elli confesses, with a small smile. "If I'm applying force backwards, how am I pulling instead of pushing? And how do I coordinate the movements of my arms and legs? My legs are much stronger than my arms, so how does not using them as much make me go faster?" A chuckle escapes from the younger woman and she mimes putting her hands against the side of her head before exploding them outwards, complete with a little sound effect. Splorch.
"I'm better at doing than I am hearing. Sorry, Professor," she says with an apologetic smile. "I think it'll be easier for me to understand when I can /see/ what you're talking about.""
Mariot chuckles. "Think about the basic mechanics of it. The layout of your body. In a kick, how much of what you're doing +actually+ goes backwards when you're in the water? It's not like running - you're on your front, or your back. So the movements that would move you forwards on land... those move your leg up and down, more than anything else. The +back+ bit of anything you do is quite limited. With you arms, however..."
She reaches up to full extension with one arm, then brings it arcing forward and down, hand held flat with the palm towards the ground, until it's sweeping back past her hip. "That one arm-movement has covered a distance from a couple of feet above my head, down past my waist. And +all+ the way, not just my hand, but the whole arm, will be pulling me forward. The whole time it's in the water, I'm pulling against the resistance the water provides. And my arm weighs a lot less than my leg, so I'm moving a lighter object to get a bigger amount of thrust from it."
"If you're happy floating on the surface, we can let you test this yourself, easily enough. Help you to get a feel for it."
Elli listens, teeth having for the moment traded cheek for lip to gnaw on thoughtfully. "And when you move your legs up and down, you aren't getting nearly as much motion, and it's in a different direction." she says, slowly. Another nod, and she glances back towards the water. "Oh. Sure. I need to shower in not too long, though, before class." She unwraps the towel from around herself, folding it side over side into a neat square. "But I still have some time.
Mariot once again nods agreement. "The major bit of power you get from a kick comes from below the knee, once you've already moved your leg forward - against the water, against the way you actually want to be propelling yourself. Every bit of movement you make to push something forward... that slows you down. Which is why the faster strokes have the arms move forward +out+ of the water. Even breaststroke has you form your arms into a sort of arrow-shape to move forward, then spread wide to catch as much water as you can when you draw them back."
"It's back to trying to get the most benefit for the least effort," the teacher explains, moving to perch on the edge of the pool, then slip into it. "You +can't+ really move your legs except in the water; but you +can+ get your arms in position to help you, by moving them above the water - where it's much easier to do so. Now... if you can lie on your back in the water, we can let you compare things a bit. Just +feel+ how much effort you expend to do a kick with your legs, compared to a kick with your arms. And we can measure how far you go with each one."
Elli turns and steps away only long enough to place the towel on the floor where it will not get wet before she turns back to the pool. Unlike Mariot, she is not nearly as graceful when she gets down into a sitting position before sliding into the water. The back of her swimsuit catches on the edge of the pool, and she has to adjust it with a dirty look at the concrete edge before she turns her attention back to her professor. "On my back, right."
It takes a little bit of effort for her to remember how to float - a few moments of flailing as she tries to shift her weight onto her back without sinking into the water, but it does not take too long before she is floating on the surface of the water. "Alright," she says. "A kick, and a stroke." Each is given equal weight and force, and there is a look of concentration on her face as she tries them out experimentally.
"I'd recommend making them slow. Get a feel for how the water resists your movements - that's what you need to use to propel yourself where you want to go. And minimise, whenever you have to work against it," Mariot advises. "Get a feel for what you're working with." For her own part, she's treading water with little apparent effort.
Elli repeats the movements, once on each side, then again, varying the speed slower and then faster. "My legs are certainly a lot harder to move, but..." She trails off, frowning, and tries the movements twice more before turning in the water to swim back over to Mariot. Her water treading is not as effortless, but she manages. "The movement is shorter, though. A burst of effort, compared to a low, long burn of it."
Mariot nods approvingly. "And you can alter your arm-shape much more easily. The 'obvious' thing is to windmill them around as quickly as possible... but when the goal's to +catch+ water, you start to move them a bit differently. Legs... that's a lot harder to do the same sort of thing."
"That's why flippers help so much, isn't it? Because they let you affect so much more water, but they do so in a way that catches the water and throws it. That's why they're flexible, not just extensions of your feet." Elli guesses, a smile tugging at her lips. "That makes sense, I guess.""
Mariot grins. "You could make things as big, but stiff... but then they'd drag more whenever you moved them forward before kicking back. You want to be able to +flick+ them. And you can do that to some extent with your feet - heck, world record holders often have +huge+ feet and hands, for much that reason! But your arms are the things over which you have the easiest control."
"That... makes a lot of sense." Elli pauses, dragging her hand almost experimentally through the water. "Alright. Well... how do I shape my arms, then? My hands, I guess, more than my arms. Should I cup them, or make them flat and long? And should I try and flick them as I bring them together?" The teenager's movements quicken for a moment, fighting a little bit to stay above the water as her rhythm falls apart for a moment.
"The best place to move water is from in front of you," Mariot explains. "Water flows into a hole, right? So... create a bit of one in front of you, and water'll flow into it. Including the water supporting you. It's not +quite+ that simple, but that's the general idea. Better to pull water in front of you and under you, then way out to the side."
"Alright. Let... let me see if I can give that a shot." Elli says, hesitating for a moment. She shifts in the water, turning into a front crawl. Her pace is slower than it had been the first time, hands sweeping and thrusting through the water in a careful pattern. She doesn't go the full length of the pool - not even close - but she does go a handful of meters before swimming back to Mariot. "I... don't know if it was any different," she confesses, treading water once more. "I was definitely thinking about it a lot more, though."
"Don't worry about trying to get it perfect right now. As I said, there's a good chance that you'll get +worse+, at first, as you fight what you've picked up as habits thus far." Mariot grins, and shrugs. "But... that's quite possibly enough for now."
"Alright," Elli says, chuckling. "Getting worse is rather a talent of mine, actually. I try and specialize in it, whenever possible." She turns, though, still smiling as she makes her way to the edge of the pool and clambors up out of it. "When can we do this again?" she asks, even as she heads back to capture the fluffy towel she had previously set down and begin to dry off the dripping water.
"Tomorrow, if you like," Mariot says, after levering herself smoothly out of the pool once more. "I might even let you do a bit of +swimming+, if you want to..."
Elli laughs and grins at Mariot, giving her a warm look. "Tomorrow afternoon, I hope?" she says, lightly. "I'm not sure how much caffeine I can possibly drink before I end up in the medbay, but I suspect it is less than I will need to keep getting up this early in the morning."
"I'm sure we can sort something out," Mariot says with a laugh. "Email me, maybe? Or I can drop you a line, once I track you down in the registry."
Nodding, Elli smiles. "I'll email you then, after my first period class." she says, nodding her head. She glances at the clock and swears quietly, under her breath. "I'm going to be late to my first period class if I don't hurry and get dressed. Thanks, again, Professor!" she says, flashing Mariot a wide smile and heading for the door to the women's locker room. When it swings open, though, for the moment the room beyond is visible as she passes through it, it does not resemble the locker room at all, unless someone has moved the girl's dorm rooms down into it.