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2018-12-19 12:39 PM


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Subject: Wannabe triathlete can't swim
From reading similar posts I don't think I'm alone here. I'm young-ish (27) and have had a running phase (6 marathons in 3 years with 10k PR of 36:30) and am currently a cat 3 cyclist. I still run frequently for xt and everyone asks me if I do triathlons. I've never tried one because I can't swim freestyle.

Well, this winter I finally got a gym membership, watched a bazillion youtube videos about swimming, committed to swimming 4x/week, and after 3 weeks I still can't swim more than 100m of freestyle without having to stop and catch my breath. I did, however, swim 700m of breastroke continuously last night.

My wife and friend have been swimming with me and offering insight on what they think I'm doing wrong, but I don't feel like I'm improving rapidly, or at all. How long should it take to feel comfortable in the water? I feel comfortable...doing breastroke.

Sidenote: I don't float, but have read this is not of consequence when trying to learn to swim freestyle.

I really want to get this, because I think I'd be pretty competitive in triathlon. I don't want to breastroke the entire swim leg just so I can say I did a triathlon.


2018-12-19 2:24 PM
in reply to: stevendex

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Subject: RE: Wannabe triathlete can't swim

Originally posted by stevendex From reading similar posts I don't think I'm alone here. I'm young-ish (27) and have had a running phase (6 marathons in 3 years with 10k PR of 36:30) and am currently a cat 3 cyclist. I still run frequently for xt and everyone asks me if I do triathlons. I've never tried one because I can't swim freestyle.
 

Welcome to the sport.  27 is young! 

Well, this winter I finally got a gym membership, watched a bazillion youtube videos about swimming, committed to swimming 4x/week, and after 3 weeks I still can't swim more than 100m of freestyle without having to stop and catch my breath. I did, however, swim 700m of breastroke continuously last night.

Congratulations!  700 m breaststroke is pretty good, and doing that when you can only go 100 m front crawl says a lot. 

My wife and friend have been swimming with me and offering insight on what they think I'm doing wrong,
  What do they say you're doing wrong? 
but I don't feel like I'm improving rapidly, or at all. How long should it take to feel comfortable in the water? I feel comfortable...doing breastroke. Sidenote: I don't float, but have read this is not of consequence when trying to learn to swim freestyle.
  Vitally important whether you're doing front crawl, breastroke, or any other stroke. 
I really want to get this, because I think I'd be pretty competitive in triathlon. I don't want to breastroke the entire swim leg just so I can say I did a triathlon.

You wouldn't be the first to breastroke your way to a triathlon finish.  You'll find all types of strokes-- including "wading" if the water is shallow.  

L-E-S-S-O-N-S!!  Swimming is very technical, and since you're starting with the running/Cat3 cycling background with little natural buoyancy, get some lessons!  (Former lifeguard and swim instructor here.)  With little buoyancy, you're likely to experience "sinking legs" and this will be exaggerated if you're lifting your head even the slightest when you breathe.  I'll also suggest you probably need to slow down, especially at first.  I tell people they should swim like they're going for a walk in the park, not sprinting from light pole to light pole.  Additionally, relax!  When you're tense, you're working very hard against yourself.  What's common is for a new swimmer to thrash around trying to get to the far end as fast as possible.  They lift their head, splash a lot, and are generally worn out by the time they reach that 25 m goal!  They employ a "blast and gasp" style of breathing (blasting out the air they're holding in their lungs and gasping for another lungful of air before they commence "drowning" again.)  Imagine trying to do this while running?  

Slow down
Head position (look down at the bottom of the pool or even a little down your torso, water should hit your head above your forehead given your lack of buoyancy)
Rotate to breathe rather than lift your head.
Exhale slowly while your face is in the water and get a "sip" of air when you rotate.  If it helps, hum to exhale.
Kick!  Relaxed kicking originating at the hips to stabilize the torso will help keep your legs "flat" in the water.
Use your elbows.  Your arm should only be "straight" for an instant at the start of your pull and an instant at the end of the pull.  Elbow should be bent while in the air, bent SLIGHTLY when your hand enters the water, and bent during the pull (think of scraping your hand down your torso).  

When you're swimming slowly, you'll have to rotate a lot to get some air.  As you get faster, you'll create a little "trough" next to your head and won't need to rotate as much.  

 

2018-12-19 6:17 PM
in reply to: McFuzz


17

Subject: RE: Wannabe triathlete can't swim
Thanks for the response. My wife and friend are saying a lot of the things you're saying. I feel like I'm thrashing and going too fast, even though my HR is in the 130's, which is comparatively low (marathon pace HR is mid 150's). I do lift my head too high, and my catch with my left hand is awful. My pace is 1:40's/100m which is plenty fast enough; I need to learn better technique so I can slow down.

Actually, can I attach a video to this post? I have some videos of me swimming, I'll try to do that. I swim in a 50M pool only and haven't made it farther than 100m freestyle yet. Prior to three weeks ago I could not put my face completely in the water without panicking for more than about three seconds
2018-12-20 11:50 AM
in reply to: stevendex

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Subject: RE: Wannabe triathlete can't swim
Originally posted by stevendex
Actually, can I attach a video to this post? I have some videos of me swimming, I'll try to do that. I swim in a 50M pool only and haven't made it farther than 100m freestyle yet. Prior to three weeks ago I could not put my face completely in the water without panicking for more than about three seconds


You know, you're 2/3rds of the way toward being a strong triathlete. I came to triathlon from a running background as well, with 10K times a bit faster than what you posted but with less skill in cycling. But I had zero experience in swimming.

To tell you I struggled with the swim would be an understatement. I can't tell you how many triathlons I raced that when I exited the swim the first thing through my mind was "well, the worst part of race is behind me."

To reiterate the point made above L.E.S.S.O.N.S.! You have the aerobic engine to be a solid triathlete, but you'll never be as strong as you could be if your swimming holds you back. You really need someone to work with you one-on-one in the pool. It won't take long. Small corrections can have a big impact.

Good luck.



2018-12-20 2:28 PM
in reply to: stevendex

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Subject: RE: Wannabe triathlete can't swim

Originally posted by stevendex Thanks for the response. My wife and friend are saying a lot of the things you're saying. I feel like I'm thrashing and going too fast, even though my HR is in the 130's, which is comparatively low (marathon pace HR is mid 150's). I do lift my head too high, and my catch with my left hand is awful. My pace is 1:40's/100m which is plenty fast enough; I need to learn better technique so I can slow down. Actually, can I attach a video to this post? I have some videos of me swimming, I'll try to do that. I swim in a 50M pool only and haven't made it farther than 100m freestyle yet. Prior to three weeks ago I could not put my face completely in the water without panicking for more than about three seconds

1:40/100m is pretty fast!  Probably ~top 1/3.  The couple times I did coached lessons, I was able to do 100 YARDS on 1:40 intervals.  

Slow down!  You'll learn to relax more (and in fact, spend some portion of your "swim" time just playing around doing all the silly stunts 6 year olds do) and you won't *NEED* as much oxygen so you can PROVE to yourself that you've still got enough air to breathe in a more relaxed manner.  

Think of lifting your head as putting on the emergency brake!  As soon as you lift, your legs sink and instead of gliding across the water, you're plowing through it.  With your body and legs "flat" in the water, you can pass through an 18" circle.  Lift your head and your legs sink and now you'll barely pass through an 18x30" (or worse) ellipse.  That's 70% more water to move out of the way!  

There's a way to attach video, but I've never done it in posts.  

2019-01-04 11:58 AM
in reply to: McFuzz


17

Subject: RE: Wannabe triathlete can't swim
I tried attaching the video but it just spins and won't attach. Regarding lessons, where should I look? Are there triathlon specific lessons? The pool I swim at doesn't offer adult swimming lessons. I don't need to learn to swim, just need to learn to swim freestyle. I'm in Minneapolis so I would imagine there would be plenty of options.


2019-01-04 10:31 PM
in reply to: stevendex

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Subject: RE: Wannabe triathlete can't swim
As someone who is so far self taught, and close enough to a beginner to remember what your going through, here's my advise.
First what distance are you shooting for and how far out is your race? The longer the distance and closer the race the more I'd suggest personal lessons.
Next look into local tri clubs, they may have club swims with experienced triathletes/ coaches who can help you at a fraction of the cost of lessons. Individual lessons will always be the best option, but as a beginner I think your gains with lessons vs group instruction would be marginal. If you plan on being more than a one and done, a tri club is a good thing to look into for all kinds of other reasons.
Now self taught, like others have said, slow down you can't power through the swim like you can the bike & run (yet). The catch up drill helped me immensely. Do a bunch of lengths slowly with the the catch up drill. Focus on staying long, reach as far as you can, keep your back straight. Then slowly increase speed into a full stroke.
Comming from biking/running you're probably kicking too hard. Think of it like your arm swing in running; it's an important part of the mechanics, but it should be relaxed & effortless. Your legs use up a lot of oxygen for a small part of the propulsion. Also like running try to relax everything not involved with propulsion; shoulders/back should be doing the work, core engaged, everything else long and relaxed. Sometimes I think of it like digging through the water with my arms.
My swimming is probably horrible, but I can now swim for an hour plus. When I started, I could swim maybe 50 m. After about 2 months something clicked and it felt like suddenly I could swim about 500 m.
Keep going you'll get there, get instruction if you can.
2019-01-10 11:01 AM
in reply to: riles32807


17

Subject: RE: Wannabe triathlete can't swim
I'm definitely getting better. Slowly. swimming with a freestyle snorkel has helped. I've experimented with a two beat kick and six beat and not sure which works better/is more efficient for me.

I am signed up for my first tri, a sprint, in August 2019, but I'd like to do 2-3 next year before that August one. First one would be June. I'm not worried about the bike or run distance, but I can't even swim 150m of freestyle continuously yet so I'll stick to sprints next year. A longer bike and longer run would help me be more competitive though.
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