From skydiving to swimming; searching for symmetry

From skydiving to swimming; searching for symmetry


I may have first noticed this as I was hurtling towards the ground at around 122 miles per hour on my first 15-second delay: my body does not move or hold itself symmetrical with any ease at all.


I was a teenage skydiver – only ever 25 jumps to my name, but still, I did it. 


The jump I refer to was captured by one of Langar Airfield’s instructors on his head cam. (I wonder if he still has the footage…?)


And what did his footage reveal? …a spinning top.


This just won’t cut it:

Spinning-top skydiving position, demonstrated on the ground for safety


This is more like it, but still not perfect:

More symmetrical: maybe a chance of surviving longer periods of free fall without tangling the deploying parachute because of the body’s ‘you spin me right round baby right round like a record player right round round round’ motion

But actually, there are still issues with my ‘symmetrical’ posture that would mess up any kind of hurtling descent.

But I don’t skydive anymore so why should I care? 

Well… surely the ability to create symmetry in one’s body is a reflection of equity in range of movement in both sides of the body… muscles’ strength and length being developed to similar degrees side-to-side, patterns of use – what you’re putting your body through day-to-day, and SURELY the ability to move symmetrically is about being able to sense all parts equally (asymmetry as a reflection of blind spots in the body?).


PLUS I need to get my swim coach off my back: I’m learning butterfly stroke with my ex-competitive swimmer  / slave-driver mum, Maggie Stephens, and she is a stickler for Even Stephens (see what I did there?) ranges of motion on both the right and left sides of my body. Pah. 


THIS is how butterfly is done, with elegance and symmetry:

Symmetry in motion; mum’s beautiful butterfly. She hadn’t done this in around 40 years at the time of filming. Just think what she’d be like if she had practised!

And me… it’s the opening frame that counts here: wonky!

Asymmetrical arms as a beginner butterfly student: I’m better now, stronger, less like a deranged dolphin with a cleft tail…


Goal: creating more even ranges of motion between right and left sides. 


This should mean that when I do back stroke (where I can’t see so well where I’m going) I don’t go tazzing off to one side, and when I’m next thrown from a great height I’ll have a single view of the horizon, rather than many, rapidly whipping by. 


Question: I’m a regular-footed (left leg forward) budding surfer – perfecting my pop up means building explosive strength unilaterally. What to do?


What to do: 


Bowman’s brilliant Alignment Snacks and webinars – all of them!


Work on my balance (surely balance at least in part relies on body symmetry and one’s ability to detect it in the first place, i.e. proprioception) BOSU balance ball / slack line anyone? 


Make conscious choices around which side is assigned to what: (Oh no, do I have to think too?) i.e. which hand I open doors with, which foot I put forward, how I sleep… Just don’t make me whip cream with my left wrist; that’s NEVER worked.


Surf both sides: Get goofy on the ground, then take her to the water and figure out some RIGHT hand breaks. Yeeeeoooow!


For cackily-tight upper body: rebuild strong, supple shoulders as nature, not the office, intended. The key here is in de-clustering the muscles of the shoulder girdle, chest, arms, torso, getting rid of those scapular wings (think space, open that upper back, the right length = the right strength) and reintroducing an external rotation to the humerus. Easy huh? Not hardly!


And… climbing in my outdoor adventure playground.

Why was I wearing SHOES?!


A footnote to Langar:

The training certificate – wish I hadn’t lost the log book, full of those lovely little skydiving man stamps
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