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Ok, admittedly a vague question about swimming...(15 posts)

Ok, admittedly a vague question about swimming...MrDan
Feb 24, 2003 1:30 PM
I've just started training for my first sprint distance tri's a few weeks ago. The bike will go well, run ok, but swim is just miserable. I'm learning to relax more in the water, but god, anything more than 100m at a stretch seems "unfathomable" I'm going to stick to it but he-- can anyone offer encouragement/suggestions?!? I swim 3x a week at present, and I'm learning to slow down and relax and trying to make sure I've got the bilateral breathing working. If I kick I'm pooped! Will the endurance come?!?
re: Ok, admittedly a vague question about swimming...brider
Feb 24, 2003 3:08 PM
Are you trying to do a 6-beat kick (three foot kicks per hand entry)? If so, UNlearn it. Now. I had to do 6 weeks of pull-bouy swimming to unleran it, then I started out again with a 2-beat kick. Remember, you only get about 3-4% propulsion from the kick, but when done vigorously, as in a sprint, it consumes over 50% of the oxygen. The main point of a kick in long distance swimming is to aid in body roll.

Make sure you're exhaling when your face is in the water so that you're not trying to both exhale AND inhale when you roll for a breath. You just don't have time to do both, and you'll end up short-changing the inhale, setting you up for oxygen debt. Don't necessarily think of slowing down, think instead GLIDE. Long strokes. Good catch. Strong pull. Feel for the still water. One thing you'll see amoungst the really good swimmers is that their hand will exit the water IN FRONT of where it entered. How is this possible? Sculling action during the stroke. A lot of people will talk about the "S" in the stroke. What that really means is that your hand will trace an "S" relative to your body, but in reality its path isn't much of an "S" relative to a stationary observer.

This seeming stream-of-consciousness rambling on some vague points of swimming brought to you by a cold-riddled, muddy-headed brider.

Sorry if that didn't help. My head isn't too clear today. Hopefully you can pull a couple good points from this and maybe get some better explanation from some one else.
Thanks, what I am doing... and what is a pull-buoy?MrDan
Feb 24, 2003 6:14 PM
I am learning to swim without intentionally kicking. I'm using it to roll as you say. There are so many things to try and work on! I am indeed exhaling into the water, but I always feel a bit starved for air. I try to remember to keep my head down fairly far into the water looking straight down at the lap lines on the bottom, and roll the entire body for the breath. There is always this slight amount of panic in me that I know is consuming a fair amount of energy, and I'm hoping will dissipate soon. I'm thinking that I just have to start extending my effort to 150m, then 200, 250 etc. Like they say about cycling... if you never go 30mph... you'll never go 30mph... and so I must resign myself to the exhaustion factor. I was completely blown away on Sunday by a "fish" in the next lane which just made me feel so damn inadequate!(sp again!).

So, does this bouy somehow tie around your ankles and you drag it behind you? I do have access to a swim instructor, but I'm reluctant 'till I have some endurance in the water... should I wait or seek help NOW?!?

Thanks for the info thus far... go take a hot shower and warm up!
oh, and the "S" ...MrDan
Feb 24, 2003 6:24 PM
The "S" pattern of the hand/arm... To actually see the form of the "S", would an observer have to be directly under the swimmer, looking skyward to see the shape or looking at the swimmer from the side? (Yeah, I'm confused!)
The other thing I'm doing is putting my hand into the water just ahead of my cranium and extending my arm forward under water (per Laughlin book... which I haven't read in its entirety...) then starting the pull once the arm is fully extended while immersed in the water.
Relax and build the distance you can swim freestyle. . .js5280
Feb 24, 2003 10:38 PM
When I started swim training last winter, I could only do one lap and would be out of breath. Slowly I could do more and more laps as my technique improved and I was able to relax and get my breathing down. I adopted something from Friel where I would try to slowly cut down the rest time between laps. For example 100yds w/ 40 sec rest interveral, then move toward 30 seconds rest, 20 sec and so on. Once I felt pretty comfortable at that distance, I added a lap or two, and allowed more rest time. That helped slow me down and focus on technique while building the number of laps I could do.

I'd suggest using your coach now. Swimming is about technique, technique, and technique. Especially for triathletes, it's all about efficiency over the long haul. Don't worry about speed right now, good technique will get you speed. Using the coach now is going to help you get your stroke down so you don't develop bad habits. For example, if your eyes are looking straight down, your head is probably too low. The water line should be above your goggles and below your hairline.

My first sprint, I could only freestyle 2 laps, side stroke a length, then repeat the 2 laps. Got me through the swim which is really all you should worry about the first few times. Don't worry about other people, usually you're matched with swimmers of similar speed for sprint/pool swims. I recommend training on the inside lanes, not the outside. This will help you swim straighter because you won't have the wall as a reference. Also, once your stroke feels good, share a lane with someone now and then. Swimming with others often causes you to tense up a little and hold your breath. This practice will help you relax when sharing lanes at the event. Sounds like you've got good dedication so stick with it and you'll do great.
Couple words on bilateral breathing. . .js5280
Feb 24, 2003 10:44 PM
Usually you have a favored side for breathing. For me it's to the right. I can breath on the left, but I'm definately not as strong. I think it good to practice both, but I'd focus mainly on your strong side with occasional switches to improve technique and also give those muscles an occasional break. Once you've gotten your stroke down, then work on your weak side.
Thanks everyone! & bilateral breathing...MrDan
Feb 25, 2003 6:19 AM
I also heavily favor one side ... my left. I realize I'm trying to sort out too much at once. How long did it take for the endurance to "arrive" in your case, thats my main concern, I assume I'll see something measurable in a month. Thinking of doing 800 meters or more at a stretch seems sooooo remote! I know I'll have to work up to a couple k to actually make a reasonably comfortable swim. Ahhhh patience, "known by many, achieved by few."
Hand entry and bilateral breathing.jaybird
Feb 25, 2003 8:47 AM
Hey Lieutenant Dan,
I just have a few suggestions on developing fundamentals. When you get in the pool you dont want to try and work on a hundred different things at once. Just focus on one or two things at a time.

You should reach your had out as far as possible before it enters the water. There is more resistance in the water than the air, so you do not want to really push your hand forward once it has entered the water. I am familiar with the technique that they are talking about but it is more of a fine tune once you have establised an efficient stroke. The other thing to keep in mind is that your hands should not overlap on their entry point. i.e. your right hand should enter on the right half of your head vice versa. Think stretch, pull, recover...

Do not worry about bilateral breathing yet. The main purpose of bilateral breathing in competition is to be able to see your competitors on either side of you a little better. While this can come in handy it is not an essential. I personally can breathe to either side but I prefer my right. In 95% of the races I have been in I breath exclusively to the right and the other 5% have been to check out competitors or to find a little calmer water. As your comfort in the water increases, this will be easier to do.

A pull buoy is a set of two foam cylinders that you hold between your thighs. The main purpose of it is to minimize your leg movement and to keep your legs floating, so you can isolate your upper body.

For your head, try to look about 5-7 feet in front of you. The surface of the water should hit you on your forehead, just above your goggles.

For training, try swimming for 10-20 minutes straight. Dont worry about speed, just try to keep moving for the whole time.

In summary, stick to the basics at first.

Sorry for the book...

swim Forest swim!!!

what is a pull-buoy?brider
Feb 25, 2003 3:40 PM
It will be either two foam cylinders tied together with a rope, or a foam peice shaped like an hourglass in cross section. You put it between your thighs, which keeps your legs in plane while you don't kick. Some people add a small inner tube wrapped around the ankles, but for me, that screwed up my turns too much and made my feet too bouyant, so I didn't use one.
It will come, stick with it!tribro3
Feb 25, 2003 10:20 AM
Don't worry and be patient. Stick with your training and you'll reap the rewards in your results come race time. Believe me it can get frustrating but hang in there, it takes a lot of time and patience.

Here are some swim specific training articles that might help you out. Key is to go into your swim workouts with a set plan, helps to avoid getting bored and burnt out.

happy training and racing,
Good swim stuff (drills, training programs, etc.) at too (nm)js5280
Feb 25, 2003 3:30 PM
Thanks you have all renewed my spirit !!! I shall persevere!! nmMrDan
Feb 25, 2003 11:36 AM
re: Ok, admittedly a vague question about swimming...heloise
Mar 1, 2003 7:50 AM
If you don't have access to a coach, the Total Immersion book/videos are a great help. It's all about balance and relaxing in the water.
Swimming easier....duncanmx
Mar 1, 2003 1:09 PM
Hey, not quite sure what point you are at in swimming to date, but I can fire off a few tips your way.

Most swimmers trained by Red Cross, etc.. have major stroke errors and expend most of their energy just trying to stay on top of the water. People say "time" will help you relax, but really "time" only brings on comfort, which may or may not help with your fatigue problem.

So, what to do? Well, not having seen you swim I would suggest getting a coach, however I can offer a couple tips...
1) Freestyle (Front Crawl) is the easiest stroke to swim, assuming you have good body position. This means you need to roll from side to side on each stroke to ensure you are using your LATS to pull instead of your shoulders. After you swim you may notice a dull ache just under and behind your armpit, that normally means you are doing something right. Also, bilateral breathing may help if you need to ensure you are rotating to both sides. Easiest way to get used to breathing to your off side is just to alternate 25's. Breath to your left on one length, your right on the next. Once that is semi-comfortable go to a pattern, 2 left, two right, as some people have trouble with the "3 strokes before a breath" aspect. Then roll into breathing every three.

2) If your body position is good, work on keeping your elbow up at the front of your stroke. Think about trying to reach over a big barrel. Your arm should be in that type of position, and your elbow should ALWAYS be above or in front of your hand.

General Hints:
-Don;t worry too much about the 'S' pattern, instead think about using your entire arm to pull, rather than just your hand.
-Don;t cup or squeeze your fingers into a paddle shape or they'll cramp.
-When kicking don't point your feet or they'll cramp too. Just relax 'em. They should just hang loose and your leg motion alone will make em move right.

And for motivation:
A friend of mine started swimming 4 years ago, and was at the same point as you. Last year he qualified for World's.
Todays swim...MrDan
Mar 2, 2003 6:01 PM
Thanks so much to everyone...

I am using the total immersion book, but have
"put it away" for the moment. I'm finding it's all
about rhythm at the moment. Just finding out where
breaths vs. strokes should be, learning to slow down
and not "feel" as though I'm going to sink going at
a reasonably slow pace. I do indeed feel the dull ache
referred to in one of the above posts. I'm not afraid of hard work... it's just more rewarding when you know things
are falling into place. I have a long month or two ahead!

I'm going to put a call into the coach tomorrow! God knows, maybe it's one of you - heaven help us both if so!
Thanks again, and happy racing!