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2014-05-02 10:53 AM

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Subject: Encouragement for beginner swimmers
This is my 4th season of tri training, and I finally think I'm making a swimming breakthrough. I feel like I'm finally ready to join a Masters workout program (in the last lane, no doubt).

I have read many threads over the years on swimming advice, and just wanted to add my 2c about what actually worked for me. They usually are by either beginner swimmers asking questions or experienced swimmers giving advice. I'm kinda right in the middle here so I wanted to give my perspective.

One key ingredient here is perseverance. You just have to put in the time doing the work, be patient, and you'll see results. I think I'm fairly average, long time running dude, got into tri and had to learn cycling and swimming. Cycling was much like running, just time in the saddle, muscling it out (which I now love BTW). Swimming is a totally different matter, as everyone has discovered. The advice you get generally falls into two categories. Most say, to get good at swimming, you just Drill, Drill, Drill. Or, occasionally, to get good at swimming, you just Swim, Swim, Swim.

Here's what worked for me. BOTH! I did lots of drill sets to learn specific skills, and then incorporated that into free swim. I went to several coaches, including TI, a USAT tri coach, and a competitive aquatic center with Olympic hopefuls as coaches. There were things to be learned from all of them. I would highly recommend you seek out some coaching from any of these sources. I think swimming is all about proper technique in the water, i.e. balance, streamlining, and propulsion. But in order to see any results, you gotta put in the mileage (or KMs if you prefer). So it is a balancing act, between learning the right techniques, and then practicing them enough to see results. Sounds simple I know, but it takes a lot of time and patience to see results. In my case, I spent 3 years really learning this stuff, going from barely able to complete a 400m workout, to rolling through 2,000m+ workouts with good form.

Not tooting my own horn here, believe me, I'm nothing special in the water (like 2:00' x100m). I think that most any person can accomplish what I did. But you gotta be willing to put in the work. Once I was able to swim 1,000m+ in a workout, things progressed at a steady rate. This year has been especially rewarding so far, as my workout consistency went up, so did my competence in the water.

So, again, not claiming to be any expert on this stuff, just wanted to share what actually worked for me, and hopefully encourage those struggling with the swim to hang in there and punch through to the other side. If I can do it, you can do it.


2014-05-02 12:39 PM
in reply to: NewDiz

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Subject: RE: Encouragement for beginner swimmers
Thanks for sharing this! I completely agree, and I am about in your situation. I've only been swimming for four years, after coming from a running background, and it wasn't until this year that I felt like I was "good" at it. Totally right about the perseverance and the drills. One other thing I would add is strength -- having a strong core has helped me so much in maintaining that balance in the water.

Also, I NEVER get in the pool without the intention to work on form. There are no "lazy laps" where I just got up and down for the sake of endurance. I'm ALWAYS thinking about form. This has greatly helped.

As a note, I started swimming 2:20+/100 m, and this morning's workout involved me swimming 100 repeats on 1:30. I was hitting them at 1:18! Granted, I felt unusually good today, but it goes to show that just because you didn't grow up swimming doesn't mean you'll never learn. It all comes down to hard work.
2014-05-02 1:44 PM
in reply to: NewDiz

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Subject: RE: Encouragement for beginner swimmers

Congrats on your progress and hard work. 

Mark

2014-05-02 2:05 PM
in reply to: writingrunner

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Subject: RE: Encouragement for beginner swimmers
Originally posted by writingrunner

Also, I NEVER get in the pool without the intention to work on form. There are no "lazy laps" where I just got up and down for the sake of endurance.



This x 1000. There are no lazy strokes or kicks either ;-)

2014-05-02 3:08 PM
in reply to: NewDiz

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Subject: RE: Encouragement for beginner swimmers
Yeah, when you drill down into it, the core strength really comes into play. We added that to our routine and saw significant results, in running, cycling, and especially swimming. Kinda hard to describe, but I put tension on my core, where I feel like I'm sucking my belly button in, but elongating my body as much as possible, almost "hollowing out" in the middle, as I press my head and chest down into the water. This complicated to describe sequence results in lifting my buttocks and legs. Better streamlining means better speed. You can see the difference as the black line goes by!

I just want to emphasize again that it can be done. I was a pretty typical aqua-rock. My legs are very dense from years of running, hiking, etc. They hung down about 45 deg when I first started. I also didn't have as much upper body strength or endurance as I thought. So I was lucky to break 3:00 X 100m with 5 min recoveries! But I just hung in there, tried different techniques, put in the work, and finally started to see some results.

All you fellow aqua-rocks out there, you can do this, too!
2014-05-02 4:16 PM
in reply to: NewDiz


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Subject: RE: Encouragement for beginner swimmers
Thanks for your post of encouragement. I started learning to swim with the help of a coach about 9 months ago. My longest continuous swim so far is 200m (4 laps in a 25m pool) and it took everything I had to do that much. My coach started me off by learning body position and for weeks all I did was float in a pool trying to get my body position correct. He has taught me the proper technique for catch and pull, but we still spend the vast majority of our time working on body position. I believe it's my biggest limiter right now, because with my poor body position it takes so much more effort to move forward. The rare times I get my body position right, I can tell such a big difference in the amount of effort it takes to move forward.

It's funny (ironic) because like many I could bike and run halfway decent, so I just figured I would spend a few weeks learning how to swim and then just take off from there. Reading about people sharing their story that it can take years to learn to swim decently is both encouraging and discouraging at the same time. Encouraging because at least I'm not the only one in the same situation. Discouraging because I was looking forward to doing a couple Sprint tri's this summer but it looks like I'm not going to be able to complete the swim yet.


2014-05-02 6:13 PM
in reply to: nx882

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Subject: RE: Encouragement for beginner swimmers
I'd encourage you to do the sprints anyway. Run what ya got! You can take twice as long as the kool kids and still have a good race. Seriously, the swim is such a small part overall, you can suck (ask me how I know) and still pass buttloads of swimmers on the bike!

Work on pull buoy sets to see what it feels like with your legs up (spoiler alert: Awesome!). Then work on form and keeping legs "quiet" (kicking just enough to float them) to mimic the same feeling.

Another drill that really worked with me. Push off and float. See where your legs end up (mine: on bottom) Now, do it again and extend the arms. Hold it, and see if your legs raise up any. Flexing your glutes a little, along with some core tension, helps. Play with this until heels hit surface (score!).
2014-05-02 9:05 PM
in reply to: NewDiz

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Subject: RE: Encouragement for beginner swimmers
The more you improve you will reduce the number of times I can lap you in a race... I am only splitting hairs at this point


1500 AB Masters 2014: http://youtu.be/uY1ruzHtsZM
2014-05-03 10:53 AM
in reply to: simpsonbo

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Subject: RE: Encouragement for beginner swimmers
This is encouragement for beginners, swim studs get lost. Everyone already knows how awesome you are, etc.
2014-05-03 2:15 PM
in reply to: writingrunner

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Subject: RE: Encouragement for beginner swimmers
Originally posted by writingrunner

Thanks for sharing this! I completely agree, and I am about in your situation. I've only been swimming for four years, after coming from a running background, and it wasn't until this year that I felt like I was "good" at it. Totally right about the perseverance and the drills. One other thing I would add is strength -- having a strong core has helped me so much in maintaining that balance in the water.

Also, I NEVER get in the pool without the intention to work on form. There are no "lazy laps" where I just got up and down for the sake of endurance. I'm ALWAYS thinking about form. This has greatly helped.

As a note, I started swimming 2:20+/100 m, and this morning's workout involved me swimming 100 repeats on 1:30. I was hitting them at 1:18! Granted, I felt unusually good today, but it goes to show that just because you didn't grow up swimming doesn't mean you'll never learn. It all comes down to hard work.


^ Yup, if you focus on your form every single stroke that is one of the best things you can do for yourself.

No need to drill for 100's of yards of drilling. Just a couple laps of drilling then swimming to translate the drills over is plenty.

Being consistent and frequent year round will lead to biggest improvements. So don't take huge breaks in the pool. No more then 48 hours between trips to the water for non-swimmers. Swimming 4-5x a week of 2-3k each time is better then 2x of 2k and one big swim of 4-5k.

Swim hard often, learn to suffer and feel uncomfortable in the water, and swim with people better then you, great medium for immediate feedback.

And my favorite quote that I think really rings from from Paulo Sousa "Technique goes a long way in swimming, but it's nothing without fitness. Working on your fitness works on technique. The opposite is not true."

Translation: If you can swim 25 yards with good form, its not your technique that is your limiter its your fitness, work on your fitness. I think this is a huge part that many people see as being the opposite.
2014-05-03 5:32 PM
in reply to: 0


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Subject: RE: Encouragement for beginner swimmers
New here and had some questions about swim training. I have always considered myself a decent swimmer but never did anything more than just swim, no races, etc.

I started training for my first tri in late June and the plan had for the first swim to go 400 yds but I ended up doing 600. I swam ~150 without a break then broke it up in 25yd increments with a 30-60 sec break between laps. Is that ok for the training(to rest between laps) ? This was my first time ever swimming laps for a purpose and for distance. I think my technique was okay, definitely needs fine tuning, but it wasn't like I was floundering.



Edited by Koapsmith 2014-05-03 5:34 PM


2014-05-03 8:24 PM
in reply to: simpsonbo

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Subject: RE: Encouragement for beginner swimmers

Originally posted by simpsonbo The more you improve you will reduce the number of times I can lap you in a race... I am only splitting hairs at this point 1500 AB Masters 2014: http://youtu.be/uY1ruzHtsZM

So long as you stay right on the bike. 

2014-05-03 10:33 PM
in reply to: brigby1

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Subject: RE: Encouragement for beginner swimmers
Lol.... can usually hold my own. The run is sometimes a challenge but I usually hang on. 1.40 HIM run last year.


2.0 mini me

http://youtu.be/UhuICQ159HE
2014-05-03 10:35 PM
in reply to: NewDiz

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Subject: RE: Encouragement for beginner swimmers
The point was at a certain point you are fighting for crumbs so enjoy the improvement. As a kid it was week by week, meet by meet. It feels awesome to see progress like that.
2014-05-04 6:27 AM
in reply to: bcagle25


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Subject: RE: Encouragement for beginner swimmers
Swimming 4-5x a week of 2-3k each time is better then 2x of 2k and one big swim of 4-5k.


Slow and other swimmers may have time limitations in that swimming 2-3K 4 to 5x week is not realistic. Some of us only have a 30 minute time frame early in the AM or elsewhere to fit in a swim workout. Those at 2min/100 yard will need 40 minutes of non-stop swimming to complete "only" 2K. It is bad enough to swim slow, it is even a worse feeling to hear/read they aren't swimming far enough when, darn, the real world time restraints do not allow for it. The swim more and harder motto isn't always the best advise.
2014-05-04 7:33 AM
in reply to: Billyk

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Subject: RE: Encouragement for beginner swimmers
Originally posted by Billyk

Swimming 4-5x a week of 2-3k each time is better then 2x of 2k and one big swim of 4-5k.


Slow and other swimmers may have time limitations in that swimming 2-3K 4 to 5x week is not realistic. Some of us only have a 30 minute time frame early in the AM or elsewhere to fit in a swim workout. Those at 2min/100 yard will need 40 minutes of non-stop swimming to complete "only" 2K. It is bad enough to swim slow, it is even a worse feeling to hear/read they aren't swimming far enough when, darn, the real world time restraints do not allow for it. The swim more and harder motto isn't always the best advise.


it probably is the BEST advice, just not the most CONDUSIVE advice - there is a difference - but all of us have real world constraints - work, family, school, training, combinations of both - you have to decide which works the best for you with what your ultimate goals are - there are people at my pool who swim at night, while they are doing kids swim lessons; or run with a jogging stroller, hour on the bike trainer in the am while people are still sleeping etc


2014-05-06 3:19 PM
in reply to: NewDiz

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Subject: RE: Encouragement for beginner swimmers
I see so many triathletes that have spun their wheels in the water for years a lot of times unfortunately, on their own, with Masters teams, and Tri clubs. Learn to swim correctly, then start training. Hours of endless poor technique swimming is re-enforcing bad habits. You are training your body and brain to swim incorrectly. This is very hard to break down the road. Ughhhhh...

Find a competent, experienced and passionate/motivated coach to teach you how to swim.

I read something in a post above, about focusing on fitness and technique will come. This just won't happen.... ever. Or all these triathletes banking hours/years of swim training will now have awesome technique and be swimming quite fast. How many times have I been to a group Tri Club OWS and have seen 50-100 triathletes swimming all in poor (sometimes downright terrible) form/technique, struggling to better their times and barely getting 1500m-2500m in during a 90min workout. (And wondering how I banked 5500m.) Forget speed, forget training/conditioning - learn technique. It starts with streamline. Water is 900X more dense than air, you cannot move quickly or efficiently though it unless you are streamlined.

There are secrets to fast efficient swimming. #1 Technique #2 Training Consistency #3 Nutrition.
2014-05-06 3:24 PM
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Subject: RE: Encouragement for beginner swimmers
Originally posted by CoachT

I read something in a post above, about focusing on fitness and technique will come. This just won't happen.... ever.



You are misunderstanding the point I was trying to make.

If you can swim 25-50 yards with good technique but can't over 1000 yards, its not your technique that is your limiter, it is your fitness.

Yes I posted that with the assumption you have good technique for 25-50 yards. If you can't swim 25-50 yards with good technique that you can dismiss my comment.

EDIT: This is also under the assumption that when swimming you are constantly evaluating your technique and thinking about your form each and every stroke.


Edited by bcagle25 2014-05-06 3:53 PM
2014-05-06 4:33 PM
in reply to: bcagle25

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Subject: RE: Encouragement for beginner swimmers
You assume right as this I reinforce constantly: "when swimming you are constantly evaluating your technique and thinking about your form each and every stroke." And every length. And every set. Always.

During training sets, especially longer ones, I pick a specific drill and without executing it I mentally reinforce that drill. Rotate drills and you constantly correct and tweak your stroke. Better technique is, put very simply, streamline, a strong catch, and effective well-timed kick. A simple and powerful trio, but tricky to master.


2014-05-06 5:29 PM
in reply to: 0

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Subject: RE: Encouragement for beginner swimmers
Originally posted by bcagle25

Originally posted by CoachT

I read something in a post above, about focusing on fitness and technique will come. This just won't happen.... ever.



You are misunderstanding the point I was trying to make.

If you can swim 25-50 yards with good technique but can't over 1000 yards, its not your technique that is your limiter, it is your fitness.

Yes I posted that with the assumption you have good technique for 25-50 yards. If you can't swim 25-50 yards with good technique that you can dismiss my comment.

EDIT: This is also under the assumption that when swimming you are constantly evaluating your technique and thinking about your form each and every stroke.



I have to agree with CoachT. The focus needs to be on technique and the fitness will come, not the other way around. Your example is not realistic. If you can't swim 1000 then your technique is bad.

Edited by pnwdan 2014-05-06 5:37 PM
2014-05-06 6:38 PM
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Subject: RE: Encouragement for beginner swimmers
Originally posted by pnwdan

Originally posted by bcagle25

Originally posted by CoachT

I read something in a post above, about focusing on fitness and technique will come. This just won't happen.... ever.



You are misunderstanding the point I was trying to make.

If you can swim 25-50 yards with good technique but can't over 1000 yards, its not your technique that is your limiter, it is your fitness.

Yes I posted that with the assumption you have good technique for 25-50 yards. If you can't swim 25-50 yards with good technique that you can dismiss my comment.

EDIT: This is also under the assumption that when swimming you are constantly evaluating your technique and thinking about your form each and every stroke.



I have to agree with CoachT. The focus needs to be on technique and the fitness will come, not the other way around. Your example is not realistic. If you can't swim 1000 then your technique is bad.


Sorry but that is incorrect. Focusing on technique will work on technique you get no fitness benefits out of this. How will fitness come by working on technique?

If you can swim 25-50 yards with good technique that means you have establish proper stroke mechanics, it is the fatigue (lack of fitness) that is holding you back, not the other way around.

Here is many reputable triathlon coaches and athletes agreeing on the topic and where my original statement came from
http://forum.slowtwitch.com/forum/Slowtwitch_Forums_C1/Triathlon_Fo...

Edited by bcagle25 2014-05-06 6:39 PM


2014-05-06 11:53 PM
in reply to: 0

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Subject: RE: Encouragement for beginner swimmers
Context. ST is not BT and that tweet is not about people who cannot swim 1k.

How could someone not get fitness benefits from focusing on technique? Working on technique requires many many laps of drills.

Edited by pnwdan 2014-05-06 11:55 PM
2014-05-07 6:15 AM
in reply to: #4990708

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Subject: RE: Encouragement for beginner swimmers
I would say that if someone can swim a 25 or 50, but struggles with a 1000 then it's probably both technique and fitness that are the limiter.

I see this type of thinking about swim training all the time on the triathlon forums. The consensus wisdom within the tri community is that it is either technique or fitness. I argue that it's both and you can't separate one out from the other. Both technique and fitness play off one another and interact. The bottom line is you need to train very hard in the pool while maintaining technique. There are no short cuts or weekend clinics that will miraculously transform your swimming overnight. If you want to "transform" your swimming, plan on working hard for 18-24 months both mentally and physically. You have to be present for every stroke while constantly pushing pace, because every stroke counts.

Best regards,

Tim Floyd
2014-05-07 8:52 AM
in reply to: pnwdan

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Subject: RE: Encouragement for beginner swimmers
Agree; working exclusively on technique requires building fitness/conditioning, swimming lengths. Wrapped with a client this morning after an hour of straight technique work; and told him he had also just swam a 1750m workout as well. He was impressed enough with that, aside from he did it all while learning a solid technique.
2014-05-07 10:25 AM
in reply to: pnwdan

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Subject: RE: Encouragement for beginner swimmers
Originally posted by pnwdan

Context. ST is not BT and that tweet is not about people who cannot swim 1k.

How could someone not get fitness benefits from focusing on technique? Working on technique requires many many laps of drills.


Right, and I made the disclaimer that if you can swim 25-50 yard with good form then its your fitness, if that isn't applicable to you then never mind.

Doing many laps of drills is not good enough of a stimulus to build your aerobic fitness and allow you to swim closer to your threshold in longer sets.
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