General Discussion Triathlon Talk » Never officially learned to swim...but here I go... Rss Feed  
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2012-08-14 11:38 PM

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Subject: Never officially learned to swim...but here I go...

First off, I apologize for starting a topic that has probably been done to death but  I searched the online articles and searched the forums and my specific questions haven't been answered yet.

So, I am 31 and have never OFFICIALLY learned to swim although I've swam my whole life- I grew up around lakes and rivers and have been cold water surfing for a few summers now, so I definitely CAN swim and I am not afraid of the water or anything like that.  But I have no clue whatsoever how to start a swim training program, or focus on certain strokes or speed or anything.  

I've kind of developed my own weird style that mostly involves me getting my face wet as little as possible (though I CAN and do swim underwater when absolutely necessary).  I know that must change....

Luckily, my race (Oly) I am working towards is 364 days away....I will probably try and do a sprint first in April or May so either way I have 9-12  months so I'm in no rush.  I do plan to get a few swim lessons eventually, but I honestly feel like right now that would be pointless since I am such a beginner.

I have a 25m pool I can train in near my house that only costs $2 per session.  Smile  My plan is to go do that for about 3 sessions then assess what kind of coaching/training/mentoring I should seek out.

Here are my questions: (remember, Newbie Innocent)

1. Do I need goggles?

2. Do I need a cap?

3. Do average triatheletes do the whole distance in freestyle/front crawl or do they mix up styles as they fatigue? (I am already envisioning myself backstroking the 3rd quarter of the way....)

4. breathing tips...every 3rd stroke? other tips?



Edited by themissj1981 2012-08-14 11:40 PM


2012-08-15 12:36 AM
in reply to: #4363840

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Subject: RE: Never officially learned to swim...but here I go...

I'm a newbie too and swim at my local pool.

Definitely goggles!  You can't keep your head in the water and do proper breathing without them.

I don't have a swim cap...yet, maybe some day.  Although ladies may need one.

I have been doing different drills - pull buoy, kick board, etc.  It's been good for focusing on the necessary techniques.

The breathing I've been practicing is the bilateral - every 3rd.

Just keep at it.  I'm 4-5 weeks in and getting better every week!



Edited by joestop74 2012-08-15 12:37 AM
2012-08-15 5:37 AM
in reply to: #4363840

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Subject: RE: Never officially learned to swim...but here I go...

I'm just learning.  In march I could only go maybe 10 - 15 yards, now up to 300 so I'm improving but a LONG way to go.

I think caps are mandatory in races, no need to practice in one.

Goggle really help!!!!!

I tried bilateral breathing but I was dropping my legs, so I only breath on 1 side.  I breath every stroke on that side and it seems to help.  Keep your face down so your legs don't drop.  Learn to swim well before the race, then if i is wetsuit legal, they really help but don't be dependent on it.

Get the book Total Immersion swimming, it has helped me a lot and I'm also getting swim lessons.

1 more thing, I practice in baggy beach shorts, my swim instructor got on to me and told me to either get the speedo brief things or the tight jammers.  She said a baggy suit is like pulling 40 lbs thru the water...  that is a tough one for me...

2012-08-15 5:43 AM
in reply to: #4363840


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Subject: RE: Never officially learned to swim...but here I go...

Goggles - yes and if you're a girl yes to the cap.  They make some nice breathable cloth ones now. 

I actually would get the lessons now.  You're in a perfect position to start from scratch.  If you get the lessons now you won't have to unlearn bad habits later.  I don't think there is any harm to get in the water and see what you can and can't do and fool around with it but before you start focusing on distance and training I would go get the lessons. 

I also cannot breathe bilaterally.  Well, I can, if I have to, but it's uncomfortable so I don't. 

ETA:  I swim the whole distance freestyle, except I usually breaststroke once or twice at a buoy turn, sight the next buoy and back to my stroke.  It depends how crowded it is.  Last race i didn't breaststroke as I had the perfect drafting person in front of me so I followed her feet the entire race. 



Edited by swimhappy 2012-08-15 5:46 AM
2012-08-15 7:22 AM
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Subject: RE: Never officially learned to swim...but here I go...

I'm absolutely not going to give you any advice on the swim, however I saw something very interesting during the women's Olympic triathlon that you might want to hear.  I would have never noticed it, however the announcer did.  The gal in the lead actually flipped over mid-stroke and started swimming the back stroke to see her competition.  Then she just as flipped back over just like nothing happened.  She never missed a beat.

This got me thinking about using this technique, but in a different manner.  I definitely wouldn't do this to see who I'm leading, I would do this if I need a little change-up or a break.  On the bike or the run you have different ways of breaking up the monotony, but not as much on the swim.  Maybe this technique can help.  Remember I'm no expert, I trying to figure out what is working for me.

2012-08-15 8:08 AM
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Subject: RE: Never officially learned to swim...but here I go...

Goggles yes,

Swimcap not necessary but you might want to get used to wearing one since you will be in the race. 

As for stroke I've only ever practiced freestyle but in a practice tri I did I also used the breast stroke when I became tired. Of course I've sworn to work harder in the pool to help with making sure I can swim all 1500 meters of my oly swim.

 

Total Immersion really helps but remember drills are good but no substitute for hard work. I learned this the hard way. Make sure you do some endurance swimming. Drills everytime but endurance swimming is key. A suggestion that was made to me was 15 drills 30 swim 15 drills for an hour workout. But thats if you really want to work on form. You could also try form day, endurance day, form+endurance day for a 3 a week training schedule

Lastly if you want to get better at swimming the key is simple

Work hard and consistently at the pool. The more you swim the better you get. I think I forgot this, but this last month I've been at the pool almost every day and it's made a huge difference.

I've wanted to puke from swimming so hard, but I've reduced my 100m time by 5-10 secs.

Good luck



2012-08-15 8:17 AM
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Subject: RE: Never officially learned to swim...but here I go...

If your tri is 364 days away, I wouldn't swim a stroke until your first lesson.  Don't be stubborn like me and believe that you can learn through osmosis and increasing volume of an inefficient stroke.

Just my 2 cents.

And welcome to the sport!

2012-08-15 8:19 AM
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Subject: RE: Never officially learned to swim...but here I go...

1.Goggles YES...

2.swim cap unnecessary in practice but many people especially women with long hair prefer it

3.  You can technically use any stroke to finish the race but with that said people in races get a little annoyed with breast strokers because of the extra space you take up and the extra contact...most are used to some contact but the breast stroke seems like it causes more,...if you use it try to get away from the main pack......most people you will see will do the freestyle stroke, but you will see backstrokers....Some will use the backstroke or side stroke as a recovery stroke just in case you lose composure , have to reset goggles etc then they go back to the freestyle

4) In practice they recommend  every 3rd stroke with bilateral breathing...but in races you will see many breath to one side and anything from 2-6 strokes between....if you notice the olympic swimmers last week they were breathing to one side and mostly every stroke (just an observation)

I strongly suggest that since you are just starting I would get back to swimming with your face in the water ASAP and dont learn bad habits...swimming with your face out of the water will create drag and slow you down and even if you are not concerned with speed you will waste energy also.  I would get a lesson.

GOOD LUCK!!!



Edited by FELTGood 2012-08-15 8:21 AM
2012-08-15 8:49 AM
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Subject: RE: Never officially learned to swim...but here I go...

1. Chlorine and saline water irritates the eyes, actually freshwater also irritates but less so. Goggles are a great solution.

2. Caps are handed out at races and required, they carry your number and the colour distinguish the wave your in. In public pools caps may be required to avoid hair clogging up the filters. It's a good idea to get used to using a cap.

3. Crawl is the fastest swim style and hence preferred but all styles are permitted, hence the name "free" style. It's easier to sight in breast stroke and it's a good idea to learn both breast stroke and back stroke as well as treading water in case you may need help.

4. Loads of posts on breathing, check the archives or ask your coach when you get one.

BR

2012-08-25 12:43 AM
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Subject: RE: Never officially learned to swim...but here I go...

OK. had my lesson this morning.  It was worth every penny!

At the beginning I could barely make it across the 25m pool without breaking form, or going to my back, or butterfly stroke or something...but by the end with just a few tips and a little cheating (I was wearing flippers at the end)  I could easily do 1 length of the pool and was almost doing a full lap without resting.

 

I know I can't wear flippers for long....but I still have 355 days till my triathlon and right now I'm focusing on breathing and comfort in the water...so I plan on wearing the flippers for a few more swims until doing a full lap is easy-peasy....then I'll ditch the flippers.

2012-08-25 2:04 AM
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Subject: RE: Never officially learned to swim...but here I go...

Keep up with the lessons, you'll be swimming full laps in no time! I was in your shoes (or flippers) not too long ago, and persistence pays off. I'm now swimming 2000+ yard workouts several times a week and getting faster. I would definitely recommend swimming 3 or more days a week, if time permits. I found I made more progress swimming 3 or 4, 30 minute sessions. I felt fresh every time I hit the water, and was able to maintain form for the whole workout. 

Good luck, looking forward to seeing updates as you improve!



2012-08-25 4:02 AM
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Subject: RE: Never officially learned to swim...but here I go...
Glad things are going good for you.  This March I couldn't swim but maybe 15 yards before I had to stop.  I've taken lessons, and now it is much better, I actually enjoy swimming.  Be warned, the 1st few times you will come out of the pool exhausted, mostly from being so tense, well that was my case.  Then you will start making tremendous gains, then you may have a setback, take a look at what you are doing, then make more big improvements.  Keep trying and you'll be there soon, way before next year's tri!
2012-08-25 10:01 PM
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Subject: RE: Never officially learned to swim...but here I go...
themissj1981 - 2012-08-14 11:38 PM

First off, I apologize for starting a topic that has probably been done to death but  I searched the online articles and searched the forums and my specific questions haven't been answered yet.

So, I am 31 and have never OFFICIALLY learned to swim although I've swam my whole life- I grew up around lakes and rivers and have been cold water surfing for a few summers now, so I definitely CAN swim and I am not afraid of the water or anything like that.  But I have no clue whatsoever how to start a swim training program, or focus on certain strokes or speed or anything.  

I've kind of developed my own weird style that mostly involves me getting my face wet as little as possible (though I CAN and do swim underwater when absolutely necessary).  I know that must change....

Luckily, my race (Oly) I am working towards is 364 days away....I will probably try and do a sprint first in April or May so either way I have 9-12  months so I'm in no rush.  I do plan to get a few swim lessons eventually, but I honestly feel like right now that would be pointless since I am such a beginner.

I have a 25m pool I can train in near my house that only costs $2 per session.  Smile  My plan is to go do that for about 3 sessions then assess what kind of coaching/training/mentoring I should seek out.

Here are my questions: (remember, Newbie Innocent)

1. Do I need goggles?

2. Do I need a cap?

3. Do average triatheletes do the whole distance in freestyle/front crawl or do they mix up styles as they fatigue? (I am already envisioning myself backstroking the 3rd quarter of the way....)

4. breathing tips...every 3rd stroke? other tips?

Goggles, yes. Buy from a store that will let you try them on, they should fit inside you eye socket.Cap, this is optional. If you have long or longish hair I would get one. Latex or silicon, do not buy Lycra.Make sure you have a decent tight fitting training suit, no board shorts or string bikinis. In training you should be working on all 4 strokes. But the focus will be freestyle.Breathing patterns are a personal thing. Don't buy the bilateral Kool Aid without sampling other patterns.As for training. Don't do lots of continuous swims. Sets of 25, 50, 75 or 100 metre repeats should be te bread and butter of you swim training. At first you will be doing stuff like 20x25 with 15 sec rest after each 25. You should progress to fixed send off intervals like 20 x 25 on 40 sec, this means yu swim a 25 and when 40 seconds pass from the start of the 25 you start the next one. Where are you at? Master swimming is your best bet for success.As for training
2012-08-26 9:46 AM
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Subject: RE: Never officially learned to swim...but here I go...

Welcome to the sport! 

Take some lessons as soon as you can (I see you've already started).  Someone watching you can help you get good form and technique starting out rather than after learning bad habits.  They don't have to be private, some pools offer group lessons specifically for adults or teen clients. 

Get some goggles.  Fit is personal, but the goggles should seal around your eye socket.  One common mistake people make is using goggles with the nose piece too wide and the outside edge of the goggles tries to seal against your temple rather than the bony part of your eye socket.  (Touch your temple and move your jaw...the temple moves too, and that makes sealing against it very difficult.

Swim caps can keep the hair out of your face and also protect it a little from the chlorine and such.  Get your hair wet (a lot of women get their hair wet in the shower and rub a small amount of conditioner in their hair before hitting the pool.)  If your hair is already wet from the shower, it doesn't absorb as much pool water. 

Breathing...breathe naturally and exhale while your face is in the water.  It will take some practice to have this feel comfortable.  Starting out, just breathe to one side every time that arm comes out of the water.  After a while, you can start practicing on the other side and eventually bi-laterally.  (It's good to be comfortable breathing to either side even if you breathe every cycle.

Good Luck!

2012-08-26 10:00 AM
in reply to: #4363924


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Subject: RE: Never officially learned to swim...but here I go...
I have to endorse the comment about shorts v briefs. I recently swapped for sort of briefs, more tight speedo shorts, and what a difference. I've been wearing baggy shorts for several years and just changing knocked nearly four minutes off my mile time!
2012-08-26 10:39 AM
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Subject: RE: Never officially learned to swim...but here I go...
With your water experience, you're already wayyy ahead of where I was when I did my first tri after 4 months of water training. (I did know how to swim, but barely.)


2012-08-26 1:01 PM
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Subject: RE: Never officially learned to swim...but here I go...
themissj1981 - 2012-08-24 11:43 PM

OK. had my lesson this morning.  It was worth every penny!

At the beginning I could barely make it across the 25m pool without breaking form, or going to my back, or butterfly stroke or something...but by the end with just a few tips and a little cheating (I was wearing flippers at the end)  I could easily do 1 length of the pool and was almost doing a full lap without resting.

 

I know I can't wear flippers for long....but I still have 355 days till my triathlon and right now I'm focusing on breathing and comfort in the water...so I plan on wearing the flippers for a few more swims until doing a full lap is easy-peasy....then I'll ditch the flippers.



Ditch the flippers tomorrow! Seriously, the sooner the better...just stick to the tips and stick with 1/2 length swimming if necessary, even non-breathing strokes, standup breath & repeat. If you are going to "cheat", better to cheat with a snorkel than fins.
2012-08-26 1:17 PM
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Subject: RE: Never officially learned to swim...but here I go...

31 and you have swim experience? You're already ahead of me. I drowned when I was kid, never learned to swim after that until 33, last November. With lessons and consistent time in the pool, I was able to swim about 32 laps (can't do math and was supposed to do 36) sometime I think in...end of March or April ish? Did my first tri in July, front crawl the whole way. You can do it! I'm glad you're taking lessons - that would have been my first bit of advice.

Yes to goggles!

Yes to a cap - I'm a girl, I am vain, and I love my hair and want to limit chlorine damage. So I soak my hair in fresh water, slap on a cap, and wash with swimmer specific shampoo.

I did front crawl the whole way, but there are plenty of people who side stroke, back stroke, butterfly, breast stroke, you name it. I have to say I'm not a fan of the breast strokers, because they take up lots of space and I've been kicked in the face a couple times. Get in some OWS - you need to practice sighting and not following the nice black line, but that comes later. You've got plenty of time before your first tri (yes, I'd definitely do a sprint before an oly, but some people's fitness is better and I needed a super sprint before my sprint!) so just focus on your swim in the pool.

I never knew how to swim before I took lessons, so I learned bilateral breathing off the bat. It's a good thing to know because you never know if you need to breathe on a certain side to avoid waves/people/the sun. I practiced breathing at all different rates - every 2nd, every 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th...just to play with pacing and such. I also will sneak in a breath whenever I need it, or if I didn't manage to get a good breath on my last turn and got a mouth full of water.

Have fun with training! This place is a great resource.

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