General Discussion Triathlon Talk » Swimming...and my overall anxiety about it Rss Feed  
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2017-05-09 7:05 AM

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Subject: Swimming...and my overall anxiety about it
I'm going to "bear" my soul a bit on this one. I hadn't planned on saying much, but I now my concern about the swim is actually building to some anxiety.

A little background: I have no triathlon experience before. But I train quite a bit and I've run long-ish distance (marathon and below) and done some long-distance bike racing. So, naturally, I've always wanted to do triathlon and this year I decided to do just that. My first race is an oly in late-July, and HIM in late-August.

I've now been swimming 2 times a week (more or less) since January this year. Once on my own and once on Wednesdays with the Masters group of our local swim club. I joined them based on input and everything I've read here.

I've enjoyed swimming with the group for social reasons and it helps to motivate me to go every week, but I dont' really "learn" anything from them. They moslyt do their thing and I do mine. They do offer encouragement. Very rarely, the coach of the fast kids, who swim next to us, comes over and I'll get a tip or two. But that's about it. I'll keep with them simply because I need to swim as much as possible before my two races...

Which leads to my questions/concerns, in no particular order:

1- My 100m splits are getting faster (1:56/100 last session), but I'm not going to "win any races". I'd say I'll be lucky if I can hold 2:00/100 for the race. That's my goal, based on my swimming so far, but based on everything I've read, that's really slow AND I'm not feeling like I can even hold that pace at the moment. So, should I be concerned?

2- I've done lots and lots and lots of intervals, 25s, 50s, 100, 150s, and some occasional 200s. But when I try to go "long" I gas out, and my technique goes to crap. I'm REALLY concerned about swimming non-stop for 1900m based on my dismal results so far. Any thoughts? Tips? Ideas?

3- Breast stroke. I've never really learned it. But I see alot of folks can use that as their "safety" stroke. I watch people in the pool go "all day" slow and steady on breast stroke. They never appear to be short of breath. My "safety" stroke was planned to be side-stroke, which I've used for years. But thoughts about sighting and orientation in open water, and the fact that I seem to be struggling a little with my freestyle stroke, should I use up some some my limited swim time to learn and lock-in the breast stroke?

4- This summer I'll be home visiting family and will have an opportunity to get some private lessons from a swim coach. I could probably get in 4-5 lessons while home. I'm planning to do this, cuz I'm actually a bit stressed about the swim now that I've tried a couple "long" swims that end up being 100s and 200s. See #2. So, will 4-5 lessons about one month before my first race help??

My goal is simply come out of the water and not be completely spent. I felt like I was moving towards that goal earlier in the spring, but my last few sessions, I've just felt slow (regardless of split times), and sluggish...like I'm going backwards as opposed to making any real progress.

It's appreciated.


2017-05-09 7:40 AM
in reply to: flyor64

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Subject: RE: Swimming...and my overall anxiety about it
Originally posted by flyor64

1- My 100m splits are getting faster (1:56/100 last session), but I'm not going to "win any races". I'd say I'll be lucky if I can hold 2:00/100 for the race. That's my goal, based on my swimming so far, but based on everything I've read, that's really slow AND I'm not feeling like I can even hold that pace at the moment. So, should I be concerned?


2:00/100 is not really slow for triathletes in open water; I would guess that in most races that will put you somewhere pretty solidly in the middle of the pack (depending on who shows up).

2- I've done lots and lots and lots of intervals, 25s, 50s, 100, 150s, and some occasional 200s. But when I try to go "long" I gas out, and my technique goes to crap. I'm REALLY concerned about swimming non-stop for 1900m based on my dismal results so far. Any thoughts? Tips? Ideas?


How much rest to you take on your intervals and how fast do you go? Try working on some builds; i.e. 4x50 with 1 ez, 2 moderate, 3 comfortably hard, 4 all out. Take 15s between 50's and then 60s at the end to recover; then do it again. Learning to swim at different efforts and limiting recovery time will help with endurance.

3- Breast stroke. I've never really learned it. But I see alot of folks can use that as their "safety" stroke. I watch people in the pool go "all day" slow and steady on breast stroke. They never appear to be short of breath. My "safety" stroke was planned to be side-stroke, which I've used for years. But thoughts about sighting and orientation in open water, and the fact that I seem to be struggling a little with my freestyle stroke, should I use up some some my limited swim time to learn and lock-in the breast stroke?


Use side-stroke if you're comfortable with it.

4- This summer I'll be home visiting family and will have an opportunity to get some private lessons from a swim coach. I could probably get in 4-5 lessons while home. I'm planning to do this, cuz I'm actually a bit stressed about the swim now that I've tried a couple "long" swims that end up being 100s and 200s. See #2. So, will 4-5 lessons about one month before my first race help??


Probably; it depends on the coach, your stroke, how much time you spend working on what you've been told, etc. However, it is unlikely to hurt so certainly give it a go.

Shane
2017-05-09 8:01 AM
in reply to: gsmacleod

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Subject: RE: Swimming...and my overall anxiety about it
Originally posted by gsmacleod

Originally posted by flyor64

1- My 100m splits are getting faster (1:56/100 last session), but I'm not going to "win any races". I'd say I'll be lucky if I can hold 2:00/100 for the race. That's my goal, based on my swimming so far, but based on everything I've read, that's really slow AND I'm not feeling like I can even hold that pace at the moment. So, should I be concerned?


2:00/100 is not really slow for triathletes in open water; I would guess that in most races that will put you somewhere pretty solidly in the middle of the pack (depending on who shows up).

2- I've done lots and lots and lots of intervals, 25s, 50s, 100, 150s, and some occasional 200s. But when I try to go "long" I gas out, and my technique goes to crap. I'm REALLY concerned about swimming non-stop for 1900m based on my dismal results so far. Any thoughts? Tips? Ideas?


How much rest to you take on your intervals and how fast do you go? Try working on some builds; i.e. 4x50 with 1 ez, 2 moderate, 3 comfortably hard, 4 all out. Take 15s between 50's and then 60s at the end to recover; then do it again. Learning to swim at different efforts and limiting recovery time will help with endurance.

3- Breast stroke. I've never really learned it. But I see alot of folks can use that as their "safety" stroke. I watch people in the pool go "all day" slow and steady on breast stroke. They never appear to be short of breath. My "safety" stroke was planned to be side-stroke, which I've used for years. But thoughts about sighting and orientation in open water, and the fact that I seem to be struggling a little with my freestyle stroke, should I use up some some my limited swim time to learn and lock-in the breast stroke?


Use side-stroke if you're comfortable with it.

4- This summer I'll be home visiting family and will have an opportunity to get some private lessons from a swim coach. I could probably get in 4-5 lessons while home. I'm planning to do this, cuz I'm actually a bit stressed about the swim now that I've tried a couple "long" swims that end up being 100s and 200s. See #2. So, will 4-5 lessons about one month before my first race help??


Probably; it depends on the coach, your stroke, how much time you spend working on what you've been told, etc. However, it is unlikely to hurt so certainly give it a go.

Shane


Agree completely. It's solid advice. I would say if you do hire a coach, hire a triathlon specific coach, just my 2 cents on that.

2:00/100 is a definite middle of the packer. When I started swimming I was slower than that. It was right around 6 months when things started to click and I gained a lot of speed. Keep with it, swim as often as you can. Sometimes it's just about comfort in the water.
2017-05-09 8:29 AM
in reply to: Rooster519

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Subject: RE: Swimming...and my overall anxiety about it
2:00/100 is a good solid MOP time for the pool, likely your time in open water will be slower but that is really not that big of a concern. Your principal concern sounds like getting through the HIM swim without using up your gas in the effort. The only advice I can give, because it sounds like you have a decent aerobic base, is to get some lessons and have your stroke mechanics analyzed. You are probably fighting the water a bit and the best way to get over this is have someone who knows what they are doing look over your stroke.
2017-05-09 9:19 AM
in reply to: flyor64

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Subject: RE: Swimming...and my overall anxiety about it
You have not swam more then a 200 in any practice session ? What type of total distance are you putting in with the 2 / week practices and time in the pool? Can you add a 3rd swim. My guess would with the 200s you have tried you are going out too hard. Try to slow your pace a little on the next goat it. IMO you need to start building to 500's. Once you can do a set of 2, preferable 3 attempt race distance swim. It's not the preferable way to get faster but it will help with your anxiety. I also think you'll get a little quicker on your shorter sets with the extra volume helping you build swim specific muscles. I'd also add your best bet would be tell this to the coach at the masters practice. He or she sees you swim and should be able to give some advice.
2017-05-09 10:46 AM
in reply to: 0

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Subject: RE: Swimming...and my overall anxiety about it
your swim time in the pool is great.. But now u need to build some confidence in open water.. this only comes from practice and whlie you swim in open water you will learn how to pace yourself correctly for the swim leg of the race..

the breast stroke, like you said , can be a go to if you get tired or anxious.. but the best part is to get in the open water and practice and active recovery, where u over do it deliberately, keep going, but breath twice as much, and relax, relax, until your heart rate comes down and then you can get back into pacing and conti...

it worked for me, and i only learned how to swim 3 years ago.. finished a half ironman last year with no anxiety and didnt feel tired at the end of the swim.. which is a great goal for you...

u just need to get in the open water about 3 to 5 times and the confidence will be there

Edited by winstanleyf1 2017-05-09 10:47 AM


2017-05-09 11:22 AM
in reply to: flyor64

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Subject: RE: Swimming...and my overall anxiety about it
You are getting some good advice here IMO, so if you don't mind I will make a separate but related comment on the breast stroke. If you are swimming the breast stroke while in a pack, whether racing or training, be mindful of your kick. Whipping heels have been known to break other people's fingers or seriously clip them in the head if they are coming up on you. Granted, that is on them, but I know I would feel awful if I took someone out of a race due to injury. Wishing you good luck and improvement with your stroke. You are already a little faster then me!
2017-05-09 11:41 AM
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Subject: RE: Swimming...and my overall anxiety about it

Good specific advice above, so I will just say (from one anxious swimmer to the next) YOU WILL BE FINE!  You're an athlete, you've raced before, you know that things will come together on race day if you're following a plan.

I usually swim much better in a race than in the pool (or even OWS practice) because there's a decent draft, plus wetsuit, plus taper.  And I'm a pretty bad swimmer, so that's not technique or strategy talking    Your pace will be fine.  

I think if you're not at the front of the pack, a swim that gets you to T1 (and not completely gassed) is all you need.    In an Oly, the difference in times in the middle of pack is so minimal it's not worth getting upset about.   This is especially true in a HIM - that's really so much about the bike.

Keep up the great work and try not to worry!

P.S. A side stroke is a better choice IMHO, so if you're already doing that - great.  It is also possible to relax and slow down in a freestyle stroke to catch your breath just generally.  But if you need to get your head out of the water to sight, calm down, or get over taking a mouthful of water - then side stroke is very useful.   



Edited by BikerGrrrl 2017-05-09 11:43 AM
2017-05-09 5:11 PM
in reply to: flyor64

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Subject: RE: Swimming...and my overall anxiety about it
I know exactly how you feel. Swimming has caused me anxiety and still gives me some issues with 'panic' at times. I am also an adult onset swimmer, so behind the 8 ball, in terms of early training. Swimming in masters helps but there is likely a lot of low hanging fruit. Watch videos to see proper technique and how to do a proper catch and try to learn to feel the water with your hands and balance your body on top of the water.

Training for the swim is different than for B or R. There is so much technique and frequency is critical to improvement, even without a lot of instruction. With a basic pace of 2:00/100yds, you are not a barge, so that is good. Learning to swim a longer distance, keeping the legs up while going a bit slower pace/effort and while still holding a reasonable cadence/good form can be a real challenge and should be practiced, as has already been suggested. Longer repeats of 500 yds are definitely worthwhile. Tempo pace swimming is a different animal than race day swimming. You should be able to swim the distance of the race at a comfortable pace and do it in open water, prior to the race. Open water has an entire different set of obstacles, none of which cannot be overcome.

I would suggest: increasing your swim frequency to 3-4x/week. You will get a huge dividend by doing this. Being able to swim without having as much stress on you going into the bike is huge. One of these swims should be short and sweet. Lots of repeat 100's. Try doing them with 20-30 sec rest until you see your time slowing by more than 5 seconds on the interval and then take several minutes of complete rest before resuming the short fast repeats. Keep working on it and you will be able to do more on less rest, eventually. One of the swims should be repeats at a relaxed pace, slow enough to keep going comfortably without stopping. Don't worry about the time, just think about technique. Get those arms out, no dead spot, head slightly down, hips up finding your 'balance' point so you don't drag the legs. Kick or do not kick but don't let your legs drift apart and if you do kick, do it enough to keep your body up on top of the water. Others will likely say you need kick sets, but at this level, it's more about minimizing drag through the water rather than having a lot of propulsive kick. But most importantly, learn to be able to swim a long distance comfortably and feel confident about it. Going the distance prior to race day gives you an amazing belief that you can do it ON race day.

I would try to avoid breast or side stroke. Believe in yourself and with practice and you will have the ability and confidence to swim freestyle the entire way. Doing either of these strokes still takes a lot of energy and can risk kicking others. If you are totally anxious or have a panic attack, and I've had them on multiple occasions, just flip on your back and take several slow deep breaths until you are back to normal. Then flip over and start slowly swimming again.

Practice some OWS several times too. When you do them, do a good warm up, make sure the wetsuit is on right and then try doing the first 200yds at goal race pace effort, so you know how it feels.

You'll be fine.
Good luck.
2017-05-10 5:14 AM
in reply to: dtoce

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Subject: RE: Swimming...and my overall anxiety about it
Just a quick thank you for all the input, tips, opinions. It is much appreciated and does truly help with calming the nerves quite a bit.

In no particular order:

- No, I haven't really messed with increasing/decreasing intensities during my sets. I have a swim tonight though, and I will try the recommended 4x50s with increasing intensity, and shorter rests. After reading it, it sounded like common sense, even though I hadn't thought of it beforehand...and now I've kinda smacked my head in a "duh" moment. I'll also hit the coach up for some tips! He's a really nice guy, althought I struggle some with his dialect!!

- Yes, I've swam (swum?) over 200m in one go, but truly, after the 200m turn, it's like a switch is turned off, and I feel gassed and sluggy and my technique is "feels" like crap. I've, more or less, stopped shortly thereafter because everytyhing I've read to date has said continuing the set with bad technique actually makes it worse.

- I'll plan on using freestyle the whole way (afterall, I do have 2 1/2 more months til the first race!!), and only go to side-stroke or back-stroke if in a true emergency...like swallowing/inhaling a mouthful of water. I've now experienced that horrible sensation twice! (Maybe good to get it out of the way early ...)

- Agree completely on getting out in the open water. My best friend here is even planning to paddle along in his kayak for moral support as I "dip my toes" for the first few OWSs I'm hoping to get in multiple OWSs before the races...BUT it's Norway, and today, the 10th of fricking May, it's 1C and has been snowing since last night. The last time I checked the Oslo Fjord water temp, it was 6.2C (around 44F), and likely dropping again since we have a southerly wind with this snowfall. I handn't planned to swim open water until we had at least 13-14C (ca 60F or above) water temp. I have tested the wetsuit two times now though, so I think I'm ready to get out there as soon as it's warmer...

- I'll try to start squeazing in an extra swim per week, going forward. However, I've been quite lucky to get 2/week in. Small kids, lots of hours at work, and access to pooltime (you'd be surprised how limited it can be here.. are contributing factors. It's understood that this will help me if I can do it...if not, I accept that it may adversely affect my two races this year.

- Really solid point about side-stroke or breast-stroke kick in a pack. I've no experience with that, but it makes total sense! I've been "kicked" while sharing lanes, and can only imagine it's quite a bit more intense in the race. My plan, unless convinced otherwise , is to go in the back of the group in the water. I'd no intentions of being in the "thick of things" during the swim. I've enough worries already

Again, thanks for the abundance of responses and advice. I was pretty nervous just putting my fears out there, and it's very refreshing to receive this level of response and concern!
2017-05-10 11:42 AM
in reply to: flyor64

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Subject: RE: Swimming...and my overall anxiety about it

Great advice above, but a few things to consider on race day:

  • be sure to get a warm-up swim in pre-race (if allowed)
  • start on the outside or wait a few seconds for everyone else to start to avoid the turbulence
  • for me, the adrenalin is pumping when the starting horn sounds and so I will go out way to fast unless I make a conscious effort to slow things down... and I mean way down.  If you're not planning on getting to the podium anyway, I would take the first 50 to 100 m at a relaxed pace.
  • again for me, breaststroke in a wetsuit is way more taxing that freestyle and so I limit it to only a few strokes before I go back to freestyle.  If that's not enough, then I flip over on my back, catch my breath and the start again

One other thing, if you find that your swim training and endurance is not improving and you are still feeling "gassed" at the 200 m mark, consider saving energy and cutting back on your kick.  The limited propulsion you get from your kick will be lost if you have to take breaks or end up switching to breast stroke.

Good luck. 



2017-05-11 10:12 PM
in reply to: flyor64

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Subject: RE: Swimming...and my overall anxiety about it
A friend of mine recently finished his first solo Olympic distance triathon (he did a relay last year). He's a runner and has ran many half and full marathons.

In the triathlon, his time for the 1500m swim was 45 minutes. He had much anxiety about the swim when he first decided on this challenge- not so much fear of water, but fear of not making the cutoff time.

Well, he did fine and made the cutoff by 15 minutes. His total time was 3 hours and 10 minutes. Not bad at all, considering the slow swim time and the somewhat undulating cycling route. He ran the 10k in 50 minutes.

Most importantly, he really, really enjoyed the race and commented repeatedly how fun it was and how much less painful it was compared to a half or full marathon. He will be doing many more triathlons, including a half Ironman sometime next year.

So it can be done by non-swimmers. I hope this little story of mine helps.

By the way, I think your swim times are very decent. If you can do that in the open water, you'll be doing great in my opinion.
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