General Discussion Triathlon Talk » How long to become a basic swimmer Rss Feed  
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2016-09-20 6:12 PM


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Subject: How long to become a basic swimmer
Hi all!

long time lurker, first time poster. Here is my question: How long before I can become what I would call a basic swimmer?

More about me: 1) for the past month, I've been swimming twice a week in a masters swimmer group at Lifetime fitness. I feel I am getting valuable feedback, but my improvement speed is... slow. 2) I am a beginner, no prior experience. 3) last weekend, I tried to go as long as I could. I did 150M (6X25M no rest), and I was pretty tired. I needed AT LEAST 1-1.5 minutes to recover. 4) I am doing mostly drills so far, and I find it valuable. There are things I am doing that I am really feeling the improvement.

Question is...how long before I can swim for like 20-30 minutes before getting tired like this? Are my expectations too high? Is improvement always that slow? The way I feel it is that learning to swim is like learning a totally different skill (like for example knitting or plumbing), and that it takes time, but am I expecting too much?

Thanks in advance for the valuable feedback,
Charlie


2016-09-20 6:51 PM
in reply to: charlie_can

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Subject: RE: How long to become a basic swimmer
I will preface this by saying that every person is different and my experience may be total different than yours.

I was in the same boat as you, no swim training and started at age 46 in 2010. My first day in the pool I could not make it 1/3 of the way across a 25 yd pool without stopping. This was in November of 2010. I went to the pool about 3 days a week through the winter and spring. By later summer of 2011 I did my first sprint tri with an open water swim (500 yd) with a time of about 12 minutes. Swam the entire distance without stopping, but not very fast.

Fast forward to today, were my normal swim workout is around 2000 yds and I have done several olympic distance tris with swim times of around 30-35 min. Still slow, but my endurance is pretty good.

Just keep at it. The masters groups are a big help, from what I hear. I do not have one available to me so my improvements have been all on my own.

You may want to also consider some individualized training.

Best of luck.
2016-09-20 7:31 PM
in reply to: charlie_can

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Subject: RE: How long to become a basic swimmer
Your problem is possibly two-fold: 1) How is your aerobic shape? Ex-couch potato or coming to triathlon as a regular distance runner?

2) Swimming is extremely technique-dependent. With good technique, moving through the water requires less effort. With lessons, and practice, technique could improve rather quickly. But you will need someone to regularly analyze your mechanics and offer feedback and advice.
2016-09-20 9:58 PM
in reply to: charlie_can

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Subject: RE: How long to become a basic swimmer
I started with zero to 750, then moved to zero to 1,650. Check those programs and see if they work for you.
I failed with zero to 1,650 as I was unable to pass week 4.... I quit that plan and decided to go with 50x50. Basically, you just do repetitions of 50 meters. With rest between each 50. My rest vary between 5 to 10 breaths. Obviously, I was not able to repeat 50 meters 50 times, but baby steps. I did 10x50, then 15, and so on. Eventually I did 30 sets of 50 and I did not feel too tired (30 x 50 meters is 1,500 meters...) I eventually moved to 100 and I now do sets of 100s. I did not do any other workout, just sets of either 50 or 100 with 5 to 10 seconds of rest between each set, I completed Oly distance and the endurance was not a problem. So I highly recommend it. My speed also increased, although, it was not my biggest concern at that point. I went from 3 to 2 minutes per 100 (in the pool). All of that within just few months. Trying for 3 times per week, sometimes it was less than that. Feel free to check my log. It is possible
2016-09-21 8:27 AM
in reply to: charlie_can

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Subject: RE: How long to become a basic swimmer

When I decided to get into tri, I followed the beginner swimmer program here at BT. It was very helpful in getting me to a point where I could swim for some time without getting waxed. And, it is designed to be used before you start training for a race. 

Others have said it - technique is important. It's good you're in a master's class, that will be helpful. The negative of that is that you might end up trying to swim harder/faster than you should. Keep working on your drills, and make sure you go at a pace that is doable for you. Gains will start showing up without you even realizing it.

2016-09-21 8:45 AM
in reply to: charlie_can


20

Subject: RE: How long to become a basic swimmer
I know how you feel. Swimming took me a while to "get the hang of" too. No lie, I still get passed in the pool like I am treading water...however...I can swim continuously for 45 minutes in open water so I do get there eventually. Initially, I thought I was making gains when my 50m time started to improve however, I realized that I couldn't keep it up for 2000m...I would get done with 150 and be so out of breath the lifeguard would be watching me a little too intently. Eventually it dawned on me that I wasn't getting enough air while swimming (i.e. not exhaling underwater and turning my head to breathe too late). I did a bunch of drills swimming painfully slow, just focusing on my breathing and it helped immensely. It's easy to get tried quickly when you're holding your breath (just try that running and see how far you get). Work on your technique and the speed will follow.


2016-09-21 8:50 AM
in reply to: charlie_can

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Subject: RE: How long to become a basic swimmer

If you are swimming 2 x's a week it's going to take awhile.  You should try to swim 3-4 x's / week at a min. 

2016-09-21 10:27 AM
in reply to: charlie_can

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Subject: RE: How long to become a basic swimmer
Swimming is not running. Focus on shorter reps for the next 6-8 months and get faster at them. Your objective is to hold your technique not swim as far as you can without stopping. Once you can do lots of 100 reps properly then you can move forward. Swimmers don't do a ton of straight swimming.
2016-09-21 7:30 PM
in reply to: 0


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Subject: RE: How long to become a basic swimmer
Slightly different perspective: i came from a big swim background, but let my (swim) fitness go for 15 years, so had to build my endurance up from zero.

I began by doing short swims but adding 50 yards a day, going 4 or 5 times a week. Once I got to where I coukd swim 2000+ yds straight without stopping, THEN I started working in speed work. IMO, you need to build up enough endurance to be able to hold form. Build slow, and forget about fast reps until you can swim clean, then mix up speed and long days.

I know others will disagree, but it works well for me, and may for you.

Oh, and don't get discouraged if your improvement seems slow compared to your biking or running. Swimming is tough and you just need put in the time

Edited by davejustdave 2016-09-21 7:31 PM
2016-09-21 8:31 PM
in reply to: davejustdave

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Subject: RE: How long to become a basic swimmer
Originally posted by davejustdave

Slightly different perspective: i came from a big swim background, but let my (swim) fitness go for 15 years, so had to build my endurance up from zero.

I began by doing short swims but adding 50 yards a day, going 4 or 5 times a week. Once I got to where I coukd swim 2000+ yds straight without stopping, THEN I started working in speed work. IMO, you need to build up enough endurance to be able to hold form. Build slow, and forget about fast reps until you can swim clean, then mix up speed and long days.

I know others will disagree, but it works well for me, and may for you.

Oh, and don't get discouraged if your improvement seems slow compared to your biking or running. Swimming is tough and you just need put in the time


I am going to jump in and disagree with this advice. It " may" work, but if one wants to improve ones swimming ability and speed, then please follow the advice posted above by Bo.
Bo knows swimming

In your case, you posted that you had a previous swim background, which likely means you were starting over with ingrained technique and muscle memory. Beginners do not have this.
2016-09-22 8:08 AM
in reply to: charlie_can

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Subject: RE: How long to become a basic swimmer
Keep doing what you're doing, and maybe add in an extra day or two each week as others have said. You're on the right track. You need to spend time in the pool and get comfortable in the water. All of us triathletes who took up swimming later in life went through the exact same thing. Just know that it's going to be tiring for a while, but it gets better. I've heard that new swimmers are going to hate it for the first year, and that seemed about right for me.

I just started swimming in early 2015 and basically started from square one. Last month I did my first Ironman, completing the swim in 1:30. A few swim lessons early on, twice a week masters swims, and 2-3 additional swims each week got me from being a complete beginner to a mid-packer in 18 months.


2016-09-22 8:30 AM
in reply to: #5199446


7

Subject: RE: How long to become a basic swimmer
Thanks for the good advice. I am currently training for a marathon in December and once I'm done with that I will definitely bump up my swim training to 3-4 times/week. I think I'll just have to do like some of you and earn my improvements slowly.

I'll also focus more on slow swim
2016-09-22 6:47 PM
in reply to: triosaurus


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Subject: RE: How long to become a basic swimmer
Originally posted by triosaurus

Originally posted by davejustdave

Slightly different perspective: i came from a big swim background, but let my (swim) fitness go for 15 years, so had to build my endurance up from zero.

I began by doing short swims but adding 50 yards a day, going 4 or 5 times a week. Once I got to where I coukd swim 2000+ yds straight without stopping, THEN I started working in speed work. IMO, you need to build up enough endurance to be able to hold form. Build slow, and forget about fast reps until you can swim clean, then mix up speed and long days.

I know others will disagree, but it works well for me, and may for you.

Oh, and don't get discouraged if your improvement seems slow compared to your biking or running. Swimming is tough and you just need put in the time


I am going to jump in and disagree with this advice. It " may" work, but if one wants to improve ones swimming ability and speed, then please follow the advice posted above by Bo.
Bo knows swimming

In your case, you posted that you had a previous swim background, which likely means you were starting over with ingrained technique and muscle memory. Beginners do not have this.



I had volume, but the muscles had forgotten a lot, and I never had much stroke training (read as: any).

I just don't see the value in doing stroke work when your workouts are <1000 yards because your endurance limits them. There is a basic amount of strength/endurance you have to have or develop first. Being able to do a single perfect lap doesnt do much good if you don't have the endurance to maintain it for more than 25 yds before your form falls apart.

Hell, one needs look no further than ANY swim start to see proof of this: all the swimmers start out strong and smooth, and then fal apart and slow down 150 yards into their races....

Chicken/egg. My wife and I go round and round on this too. She was a D1full ride swimmer, I was a lifeguard and water polo player, so she has near perfect stroke but hates long sets, so does a bunch of short intervals (rarely longer than a 200), and I mostly just get in and swim a few thousand, then mix in a few sprints at the end, yet we both consistently win swims in waves of 100-200 people and even manage top 10 overall swim times for races of 750-1000 people in races varying in length from 400m sprints up to HIMs.

Point is, you have two people with 100% different approaches, one "right", one "wrong" by current thought, and both end up going fast.

Way too many people get frustrated with swimming, imo, because they are told time and time again by "experts" there is only one right way to learn, and that's simply not true... this applies to pretty much all sports.

I think it's far more important to find a way to train that a) works for YOU, and b) that you ENJOY enough that you keep getting back in the water.



2016-10-27 8:28 AM
in reply to: #5199589


7

Subject: RE: How long to become a basic swimmer
Update to my situation in case another beginner sees that thread. Last week I did 32 laps: 3 laps regular, one backstroke 8 times. I was pretty psych about it. This week I did 25 laps, it went to 4 laps regular one backstroke 5 times. Keep in mind 3 laps was exhausting to me only 2 months ago.

Don't give up next me!

On a sadder note, lifetime canceled the masters swim so I'm on my own ??
2016-10-27 3:48 PM
in reply to: 0


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Subject: RE: How long to become a basic swimmer

You will likely be able to swim 20-30 minutes straight in less than 6 weeks of training, IF done properly. and going for 4x/wk. Without even working that hard. I think I did it in <3 weeks on 3x/wk swimming, and for sure, I am a very low-talent swimmer.

Right now, you are almost certainly expending (wasting) most of your energy trying to maintain body position with kicking and arm motions, rather than floating effortlessly and pulling yourself along the water.

You might want to read the float drills in the Total Immersion book. Once you learn better body position and aren't fighting the water, you will be able to swim for what feels like forever, albeit very slowly at first. 

Now getting the "MOP" triathlon speed - if you're not talented, that can take a LOT of work, even if you're a dedicated swim student. I think it took me 2 years just to reach the bottom 40% of my AG in a typical Oly swim and I was trying pretty hard.

 



Edited by yazmaster 2016-10-27 3:49 PM
2016-10-28 11:24 AM
in reply to: yazmaster


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Subject: RE: How long to become a basic swimmer
Without reading every post on this, I think I can safely say you will get many varied replies.
My 2 cents: swimming is by far the toughest thing for me. I'm 58 and started when I was 56. I can do Sprint Tri's no problem WITH a wetsuit on. I have spent most of my time working on technique. I swim during the winter about 4000 yards a week. Most people think that is a very small amount. I try to balance it though on the time I spend running, biking, and life.

I still cannot swim 1/2 mile in the open water without a wetsuit. I can swim 1000 yards in a pool with a pull buoy, but I don't like swimming with it anymore unless I am doing my own little "technique check"

For me personally the biggest challenge has been body position in the water. Then, breathing. Not just breathing, but the frequency. I work a lot on these. It can be frustrating to be able to run 6 miles no problem, but feel pretty beat up after doing 10 X50's on 20 seconds rest.

Anyway, in conclusion, the rate at which you learn, and the quality of your stroke, will probably be different than anyone else. BUT, it will take time, and if I could offer one thing, IMO it sure has taken me a lot more time than I wanted. I get into the trap of comparing running and cycling improvements to swimming improvements, which come really slow after awhile.



2016-10-29 8:52 PM
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Subject: RE: How long to become a basic swimmer
Originally posted by Goggles Pizzano

If you are swimming 2 x's a week it's going to take awhile.  You should try to swim 3-4 x's / week at a min. 




Best advice right here ^^^^^^^^^

I never swam a lap in my life and did this

Joined a masters team which you did. Awesome

Swam 4 times a week for at least an hour each session

constantly watched Youtube videos on form. Visualized my form when not swimming. Bought resistance bands to practice form from home

Within the year i went from swimming 1 lap in the pool to swimming 4km. Took me about half a year to get over 1km and then one day it just clicked.

fast forward two more years from that and I swam the Northumberland straight. (14KM)

Focus on from form form--- Mentally focus on form form form. Its hard because there are so many opinions out there but you will find a lot of people saying the same thing. Go from that.. Happy swimming--- Swim a lot more than you are.. Good luck

Edited by zombie2212 2016-10-29 8:53 PM
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