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2010-10-18 2:33 PM


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Subject: Swimming Beginner - Advice Required

Apologies if this is the wrong forum but I desperately need some advice before I lose all motivation.

I am a 40 year old male and I've recently decided to improve my fitness in an attempt to keep my kids from my pension and their ineritance for as long as possible.  I've kept myself in reasonable shape (relatively speaking) over the years but the emphasis has been on weight training rather than anything aerobic.  Over the past 6 months I've started commuting about 60 miles per week on my bike and run/spin a few times a week, and my general fitness has come on leaps and bounds (and I've lost 28lbs in weight too).

With this in mind, I thought that I'd try the Beginner Swim Program and that's where my problems began.  In my enthusiasm I forgot one basic fact:  I swim like a housebrick and always have!!

I have improved a little over the last 3 weeks, using the hints on breathing, but I'm now at the point where I can only complete 4x20m and then 5 or 6 further 2x20m breaststroke before I'm absolutely exhausted.  In this case, the spirit is willing but the flesh is definitely weak.

Can anybody recomend a program that would bring me upto the point where I could attempt the Begginer Swim Program?  Should I continue with the breastroke?  Should I keep adding more 20m lengths, and if so, to how many? Should I start precticing crawl/freestyle despite the fact that I'll do less lengths?  Should I do the exercises on the Beginner Program and just shorten the exercises (x2 instead of x4)?

Help!!!!!!

Thanks in advance,

Steve.



2010-10-18 3:22 PM
in reply to: #3158646

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Subject: RE: Swimming Beginner - Advice Required

While I maybe 20 years your junior, I did just start swiming in June. I have always had solid cardio, but swimming has always been tough for me. Before dedicating myself to improving on the swim, I would be very short of breath after a 50. My previous swim experience would entail swimming 1 lap breaststroke 1 lap freestyle and so on for about an hour. My advice would be: don't do this!

In June I signed up for a HIM and realized that my swim would have to improve leaps and bounds in order to be able to be able to finish. I went from barely being able to swim a 100, to being able to swim the 1.2 miles very comfortabley.

I did so by swimming freestyle exclusively, and swimming 3+ times a week. The first few sessions were very frustrating, it was embarassing having to stop and take a break every lap or so, knowing the lifeguards were wondering if they were going to have to pull me out. After about two weeks of forcing myself to swim freestyle exclusively, I had improved so much that I could swim (slowly) for about 45 minutes to an hour. I firmly believe that if you dedicate yourself to improving on the technique and swiming one stroke exclusively your body will home in on efficiency. As your stroke gets more and more efficient distance/time becomes exponentially easier. To clarify, I swam as much freestyle as I could, when I could go no further I rested until I could go again then repeated ad nauseum.

I would highly recommend talking to someone who knows how to swim, as watching some youtube videos on technique (that is if you can't spring for a coach). Technique has come for me in bursts. At first it was figuring out how to breathe on both sides, next it was where my arms should be in relation to each other at any given time, after that came kicking. Now I'm working on my upper body rotation and how that works with kicking--if I ever figure this out I'm sure I'll find something else that needs work.

It takes a lot of hard work to ingrain a movement into muscle memory. My college coach said 10,000 repetitions before a motion becomes natural/subconcious. If you put in the hours you will improve; focus on tackling one thing at a time and don't deviate from it until it's correct (i.e. feels easy/natural/smooth). One thing that has taken literally years for me to grasp is that when training, you should constantly be thinking about form and technique--this sounds obvious but for me it was not. Learning to recognize how you are moving and what you are doing right/wrong is a huge component of improvement and takes a collosal amount of self awareness.

Best of luck to you! I hope this helps, I'm not an expert by any means but was in your shoes just a few months ago.

2010-10-19 11:49 AM
in reply to: #3158646

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Subject: RE: Swimming Beginner - Advice Required
I was similar to you when I started tri 2 years ago. I could barely make 2 lengths of the pool before having to stop. eventually bit the bullet and paid for a couple of 1-2-1 lessons in an endless pool with video filming above and below the water. Made an incredible difference to me. I am not a natural swimmer and am heavy legged so dont lie very flat on the water but the coach sorted that and smoothed my stroke out. I can now swim for as long as I want to without getting out of breath if I go steady and am good for HIM races. before the lessons my 1500m time was around 40 mins in a pool. Now it is 27 mins.
Also swimming with a club has helped me as the training sessions are structured and there are other people to watch and who will give you advice.
Keep at it you will improve
2010-10-19 1:52 PM
in reply to: #3158646

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Subject: RE: Swimming Beginner - Advice Required
Two words: Total Immersion. It is the biggest reason I'm a triathlete today.

I couldn't swim 10 yards without wanting to die. This program was a complete epiphany for me and, though I'm still pretty slow, I can go the distance.

It took me 27 minutes to swim 450 yards in my first tri, prior to TI. The next year, same race, it took me 15 minutes.

Also, I will say that if you can find a good coach or join a Masters swim team, that will take you very far, too.

Don't expect success overnight, but if you're consistent and practice good technique, you will definitely see improvements.

Good luck!!!
2010-10-19 1:58 PM
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Subject: RE: Swimming Beginner - Advice Required
2010-10-19 2:07 PM
in reply to: #3158646

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Subject: RE: Swimming Beginner - Advice Required
3 weeks is a short time to form a good picture regarding your progress and potential. If you are a DIY person, I think that shortening repeats from the BSP is a way to go. As another poster said, you will want to go 2-3 times per week in order to adapt.

Surviving a swim is all about breathing, swimming well is all about rhythm, relaxation, timing, and physical vocabulary - a coach can help teach you that, watching youtube and trying things out can teach you that, or any number of online services. You hear about TI frequently, and a lot of folks have had success there. A site called goswim.tv has all the video you can ask for, and for a shameless plug, IMO our Finding Freestyle is one of the best (and you can try the first week for free - click below if interested).

r.b.


2010-10-19 2:15 PM
in reply to: #3158646


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Subject: RE: Swimming Beginner - Advice Required

Thanks for your constructive comments.  I'll practice my breathing, try to increase my visits to the pool and research youtube and the links provided to improve my technique.

Will let you know how I get on.

Regards to one and all,

Steve.


Edited by mulletd 2010-10-19 2:21 PM
2010-10-22 1:44 AM
in reply to: #3158646

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Subject: RE: Swimming Beginner - Advice Required
Post a video of your swim and you'll get lots of free (AND mostly good) advice here on BT.
2010-10-22 6:28 AM
in reply to: #3158646

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Subject: RE: Swimming Beginner - Advice Required

Take.lessons!

Technique is very important, and you'll be better learning good technique up front rather than trying to break bad technique later.  Group lessons are usually pretty reasonable and will give you a chance to practice with someone who can see what you're doing right and wrong. 

Beyond lessons, my usual advice to struggling novice swimmers is s-l-o-w-d-o-w-n and relax.  If you're gassed after 4x20, you're probably trying too hard.  Think of swimming like you would running.  If you went out the first day and tried to run a 6-minute-mile, you'd be gassed...and frustrated...What if you went out and walked a mile?  Easy!  So treat swimming like you're taking a walk in the park, not like you're running 100-yard-dashes. 

Stick to short sets (2x20 or 4x20) where you can hold your form for the whole set.  Take a break and do it again.  Trying to swim 8x20 where the first 2 are "good" and the last 6 "splashing and thrashing" builds bad technique. 

2010-10-22 8:10 AM
in reply to: #3158646

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Subject: RE: Swimming Beginner - Advice Required

What worked for me was personal lessons, 6 weeks, 30 minutes 1 per week and then youtube and self coaching.  Also, watching other good swimmers and seeing how their form is different then mine.  I think the key to learning to swim is how you learn to swim.  There are tons of information out there on how you should swim: form, stroke, breathing, etc.  However, learning to swim is not like riding a bike or running, you can't just jump into the final form and assume everything will fall into place.  You really need to look at it as learning how babies go from flipping on their back, lifing their upper body, to trying to stand, to taking one step, to taking two steps, to taking three steps with support, to taking four steps without support, to walking to end of hall way, to running two feet and falling, to running to end of hall way, to not running in the streets...lol.   I think the problem people have is they jump in a pool and expect to go full swimming mode right off and get frustrated at why its hard, why can't they swim, what am I doing wrong..etc.  I recommend set a side 8-12 weeks of going from very basics to advantace skills, with 3 x a week sessions at only 20 minutes.  Look at this as sharp focus sessions vs endurance building.  After 8-12 weeks and you learn the proper form, the you can focus on endurance / other skills like the S-curve stroke thing, flip turns, etc.  Also, if you jump in full force and try to learn too much too soon, you are probably learning the wrong form and your body is remembering the bad form.  In the beggining, its all about patience..not fitness...  But what is great is that after the 8-12 weeks or so, and you graduate into the endurance stage, you don't think about form as much, unless you get tired and try to maintain form.  I personally think this type of learning overall is critical because in OWS, at least in some of the lakes I swam, you basically swimming by feel only...too dark to see your stroke moments.  Tips; drill cards with only one or two form skills per session..e.g. 8 laps just focusing on breathing, 8 laps just focusing on head down..then done or do another stroke for cross training.  If you feel any time you are tired..stop take a break. Its better to take a few minutes break per lap then trying to focus the laps..you are building muscle memory not fitness. Lastly, it helps to have another set of eyes: coach,wife, son/daughter, to tell you if you are doing x right...hey is my hand entering at the  right angle.  What is cool is when you see the break throughs happen in swimming..the end of the lane comes at you allot faster, bottom of pool goes by faster, or you can keep up with the guy next to you.  In OWS, you can't see the break throughs and don't really realize how fast or slow you are going, except when you swim with someone else.  Last tip, when learning to swim freestyle, focus on a SLOW "glide through the water with belly button towards wall and taking very few strokes".  This will address body rotation, breathing issues, hand entry issue, pull issues, expanding the lungs issues.  Very slow speed is better until you get the feel.

2010-10-22 9:54 AM
in reply to: #3166438

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Subject: RE: Swimming Beginner - Advice Required
chenny - 2010-10-22 7:10 AM

What worked for me was personal lessons, 6 weeks, 30 minutes 1 per week and then youtube and self coaching.  Also, watching other good swimmers and seeing how their form is different then mine.  I think the key to learning to swim is how you learn to swim.  There are tons of information out there on how you should swim: form, stroke, breathing, etc.  However, learning to swim is not like riding a bike or running, you can't just jump into the final form and assume everything will fall into place.  You really need to look at it as learning how babies go from flipping on their back, lifing their upper body, to trying to stand, to taking one step, to taking two steps, to taking three steps with support, to taking four steps without support, to walking to end of hall way, to running two feet and falling, to running to end of hall way, to not running in the streets...lol.   I think the problem people have is they jump in a pool and expect to go full swimming mode right off and get frustrated at why its hard, why can't they swim, what am I doing wrong..etc.  I recommend set a side 8-12 weeks of going from very basics to advantace skills, with 3 x a week sessions at only 20 minutes.  Look at this as sharp focus sessions vs endurance building.  After 8-12 weeks and you learn the proper form, the you can focus on endurance / other skills like the S-curve stroke thing, flip turns, etc.  Also, if you jump in full force and try to learn too much too soon, you are probably learning the wrong form and your body is remembering the bad form.  In the beggining, its all about patience..not fitness...  But what is great is that after the 8-12 weeks or so, and you graduate into the endurance stage, you don't think about form as much, unless you get tired and try to maintain form.  I personally think this type of learning overall is critical because in OWS, at least in some of the lakes I swam, you basically swimming by feel only...too dark to see your stroke moments.  Tips; drill cards with only one or two form skills per session..e.g. 8 laps just focusing on breathing, 8 laps just focusing on head down..then done or do another stroke for cross training.  If you feel any time you are tired..stop take a break. Its better to take a few minutes break per lap then trying to focus the laps..you are building muscle memory not fitness. Lastly, it helps to have another set of eyes: coach,wife, son/daughter, to tell you if you are doing x right...hey is my hand entering at the  right angle.  What is cool is when you see the break throughs happen in swimming..the end of the lane comes at you allot faster, bottom of pool goes by faster, or you can keep up with the guy next to you.  In OWS, you can't see the break throughs and don't really realize how fast or slow you are going, except when you swim with someone else.  Last tip, when learning to swim freestyle, focus on a SLOW "glide through the water with belly button towards wall and taking very few strokes".  This will address body rotation, breathing issues, hand entry issue, pull issues, expanding the lungs issues.  Very slow speed is better until you get the feel.



Generally great advice here. Thanks for taking the time to type it all out.


2010-10-22 12:04 PM
in reply to: #3166438

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Subject: RE: Swimming Beginner - Advice Required
chenny - 2010-10-22 8:10 AM

I recommend set a side 8-12 weeks of going from very basics to advantace skills, with 3 x a week sessions at only 20 minutes.  Look at this as sharp focus sessions vs endurance building.  After 8-12 weeks and you learn the proper form, the you can focus on endurance / other skills like the S-curve stroke thing, flip turns, etc.  Also, if you jump in full force and try to learn too much too soon, you are probably learning the wrong form and your body is remembering the bad form.  In the beggining, its all about patience..not fitness...  But what is great is that after the 8-12 weeks or so, and you graduate into the endurance stage, you don't think about form as much, unless you get tired and try to maintain form.

I take great exception to this notion you can advance to "advance" skills in 8-12 weeks or that you can develop any type of endurance swimming 20 minutes 3 X /week.  No one can become advanced like this, unless your definition of advanced is vastly different from the rest of the world. I will agree that 8-12 weeks of drills can improve water ability and comfort, but that's really about it.  From there you can begin a program to get you to advanced.  Most advanced swimmers go 3-5X/week for 80+ minutes.

2010-10-22 2:28 PM
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Subject: RE: Swimming Beginner - Advice Required
  Sorry I wasn't clear, I was referring to the notion that 8-12 weeks would be used for proper swim form skills, the very basics. Yes, I agree that after 8-12 weeks, you will not be an advance swimmer. "Advance" in this context was really a non-beginner and more of an average swimmer and that to become a true "advance" swimmer it may take a very long time, if not years to develop. Thanks for pointing out this clarification.

 

2010-10-22 2:50 PM
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Subject: RE: Swimming Beginner - Advice Required
I watched several of the instructional videos on youtube and would pick out and focus on one of the techniques being shown (e.g. breathing, stroke, kick). Then practice, practice,  practice. Time in the water makes all the difference.
2010-10-22 3:22 PM
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Subject: RE: Swimming Beginner - Advice Required
mulletd - 2010-10-18 3:33 PM
I am a 40 year old male and I've recently decided to improve my fitness in an attempt to keep my kids from my pension and their ineritance for as long as possible.  I've kept myself in reasonable shape (relatively speaking) over the years but the emphasis has been on weight training rather than anything aerobic.  Over the past 6 months I've started commuting about 60 miles per week on my bike and run/spin a few times a week, and my general fitness has come on leaps and bounds (and I've lost 28lbs in weight too).



Congrats on taking the first, and hardest step!  Most people never get this far.

Now just keep swimming! 
2010-10-23 2:21 PM
in reply to: #3158646


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Subject: RE: Swimming Beginner - Advice Required

Thanks to everyone for your very valuable comments.

Having been back to the pool twice since I first started this thread I can now confirm 2 things:

1.  I was definitely swimming to fast too soon.
2.  Both my breathing and swimming technique are poor/non-existent.

In light of this,I'm gona bite the bullet and get some 1-2-1 coaching.  I need someone to point out which areas to work on first to gain the maximum benefit, before trying to improve/fine tune certain aspects to get a much smaller return.

Please feel free to continue making suggestions, I will endevour to try everything and anything that will get me to the goal of my first triathlon finish line.

Thanks,

Steve.


2010-10-23 9:15 PM
in reply to: #3168587

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Subject: RE: Swimming Beginner - Advice Required
I guess everyone has different natural abilities and base swimming technique.  I was in a similar situation last winter, though I didn't start swimming for triathlon, I started swimming to lose weight without running due to chronic Plantar Fasciitis.  I'm also about 5 years older than you.

I started swimming in January 2010, and was initially on a 3x/week routine.  Once I started tracking calories and exercise, I started going 6 days per week since I like food.

My swimming background prior to Jan 2010:  Never swam competitively, though I've been around pools since I was 12, when we moved to a house that had an in ground pool.  I then took lifeguarding classes, and worked as a lifeguard for a few summers (pool, not beach).  I also took scuba diving lessons after high school.  So I never knew how fast I was, but considered myself an expert swimmer, at least as far as being comfortable in the water.

My first few times swimming for fitness back in January, I think I lasted about 25 minutes or so, rotating between freestyle, breast, and back strokes.  Then migrated to mostly freestyle, then all freestyle after a couple months.

For no real reason, I decided to try for a mile, and see how long it took.  I started around 45 minutes,  mostly freestyle, but some occasional breast stroke mixed in.  The pool I swim in is a 25 yard, so 36 laps is a mile.

At the advice of the lifeguard, I mixed in some interval work as well, after doing a mile typically.  Nothing special, just sprinting one length, then resting about twice the time it took, or until my pulse would recover.  Maybe repeating that about 10 times or so.

After a few months, the weight was really dropping off, about 2 lbs per week over some weeks, and I was really starting to feel good.  By June, I started thinking about triathlons, since I had heard about one that was local in Philly.  I used to bike a lot when I was a kid, and ran cross country in high school and a bit in college, so I knew my feet could handle a sprint length run (recall the Plantar Faciitis).  I was also down about 25 lbs at this point.

I did the swim there in about 17 minutes.  Felt a little tired about 1/3 of the way in, but then got in a groove, and felt pretty good the rest of the way.

Since then, I've continued swimming for overall fitness and weight management, and am now seriously thinking about a HIM next summer.  Will do some Oly lengths as well, but the HIM I think is doable, and yesterday tried a timed 1.2 mile swim.  34 minutes in a 25 yard pool, so I'm feeling pretty good about that.

Looking back, I've continued to improve gradually over the last 8 months, and it's been very gradual.  So I guess the message is:

1. Stick with it, even if your stroke sucks, you're still exercising, in fact you're burning more calories with a bad stroke, at least for the same distance covered.

2. Be patient.  I kind of figured out how to swim faster by trying different techniques, and my arms got stronger, I found I could keep them straighter in the water during the power stroke, greatly increasing my speed.

Oh, and the snoring is gone, heartburn is also gone (had to watch what I ate at night), and the Plantar Fasciitis is CURED after over 10 years of managing it with stretches and orthotics.  I guess dropping 35 lbs was the real fix.
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