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Swimmers?

altagirl

Moderator
Staff member
#1
So two weeks ago I started swimming - our community gym has masters classes 4 mornings a week at 5:30am. I'm figuring I'll do two days a week and see how that goes. I haven't done any serious lap swimming since I was probably 10? So it's been 30+ years and to say I'm rusty is an understatement. These classes are a good kick in the butt. It's all levels - everything from serious ironman triathletes to, well... me. :smile:

Right now it's borderline frustrating, though I'm seeing progress with every class. But I have so much to think about that it's tough. And I'm all over the place with pace. I generally go in a lane with two slower men - and they're either dropping me badly or I'm running them over. Hah, I guess it will get better with practice!

Anyway - any suggestions or thoughts on getting back into swimming? Thoughts on training gear? I'm basically just doing it to cross train with the possibility of doing a triathlon with a friend. She brought that up and I realized I didn't have any idea what my swimming ability is at the moment, so I decided to go work on it. And it's great winter sport now that it's so dark outside!
 

Kimmyt

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#2
I used to do Masters swim back in the day and age when I did triathlons. I still occasionally go and do some laps when I'm feeling the urge. I really loved masters, until I messed up my rotator cuff from overuse. For gear, a good pair of goggles and if you're doing masters then a pair of fins is really all you need- well, and a suit and cap of course. My favorite goggles were Aquasphere Kaimans, they got me through many a race and lasted the longest/were the most comfortable but everyone's face shape is different. And the fins everyone used in my masters group were Finis Zoomers.

My masters group met at night and by far my least favorite part was walking out to my car after a swim class in the winter. Brrrr. But I loooved that post-swim feeling where you feel like you could eat an entire horse from all the calorie burn.
 

BethL

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#3
I've been swimming masters for 20 years. I originally started swimming, because I wanted to do triathlons. I do not race much these days (once every few years), but I love the social aspect to masters and the fitness too.

Give it some time, maybe even a few months, and then I'm sure you'll start to feel more comfortable in the water. I would say not to worry about speed at all, just swim. If you're catching the guys in your lane (and you want to swim behind them), then give yourself about 10 second before pushing off the wall. Normally we go 5 seconds between swimmers, but we'll stretch that to 10 seconds if we're all catching each other. There's definitely a drafting benefit in swimming (just like with biking). By giving yourself some room (space between you and the person in front of you), you should be able to stop running over the guys. If you're still running over them, then just move in front or move to a faster lane.

For gear - cap and goggles (you might have to try a few to see what works for you) and then maybe fins too. Get some fins that are designed for lap swimming (not the giant fins). Try swimming freestyle with fins; that's a good workout!
 

altagirl

Moderator
Staff member
#4
Thanks for the recommendations! I've been shopping for some fins. They have loaner ones that I've been using, but they have an adjustable heel strap and it comes loose almost every lap. I have to keep tightening them every lap to make sure I don't lose them. Logical for shared fins to have fit adjustments, but not so good for keeping them in place.

I think I'm fairly happy with my goggles so far, but this weekend went and swam with a friend who was refreshing my memory on how to do a flip turn. And every time, my one goggle will leak (only during that movement). I don't know if I just need to tighten them more or what... Hah, the first day I had them too tight and felt like I was giving myself a black eye. Oops!

And yeah - I'm starting to figure out the timing/spacing thing. I think it's also a matter of learning who does what at what speed. The one guy slows to nothing when he's doing drills but is faster than me at regular swimming, but I'm sure over time you just get used to who is sharing your lane and know how to adjust easily. :smile:

Kimmy - I'm right there with you on the calorie burn, and the cold. I walked out yesterday morning and it was snowing and still dark. And I get home and wonder if I'm going to make it up the stairs because I feel so drained! But it's nice to get in a solid workout like that.

It will also be interesting to see how my shoulders hold up. My right shoulder had a rotator cuff injury years ago, and my left one has been bothering me for the last year or so off and on (it's the one I've slammed into trees at speed mountain biking) and I regularly see a massage therapist to keep it going when it gets angry. So far, so good on the swimming though - except that breast stroke feels out of the question right now. That hurts while I'm doing it and I just stopped. Everything else actually feels good overall. I've had a few twinges in that left shoulder while swimming, but afterwards I'm 100% pain free lately, which is better than before I started swimming. We'll see how it holds up in the long term!
 

alicie

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#5
Gear wise goggles, my personal favourite are vorgee missiles. And don't touch the inside of the lens as this damages the anti fog, try not to get the inside wet either. My vorgee goggles, still don't fog after 3 months use 3-5 times a week, but I've not touched the inside at all.

Kick board, hands on the side of it about a quarter of the way from you and try and sit out of the water.

Pull buoy, for pull.

I personally don't like fins but that's just me, they can be quite useful.

You can also have hand paddles.

And your pace should steady once you have technique and breathing correct.
In freestyle I prefer a 6 beat kick and your arms should never glide they should be continuously moving, but not too fast and breathe every 3 strokes.

In a 25m pool I average about 17-21 strokes per length, there's a calculator somewhere that calculates how many strokes you should should per length.

And pacing yourself against others. I usually leave about a length because I know how fast I'm going against others but usually 10-15 seconds is good. I do find lots of people cannot stay at a consistent speed. Learning to pace yourself and against others is very important. Often I pace myself against someone else and stay at the pace as them for a few lengths, I usually have to much slower but I occasionally get someone sprinting which is always fun. I like to compete against others when they don't know I am.
 

alicie

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#6
Oh and goggles should stick to your face without falling off with no straps, if they don't they don't fit quite right.
 

BethL

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#7
Fins that do not stay on would be really annoying! DH has the dmc swim fins (just do a google search). They're expensive, but he really likes them. I have an older version of a similar, now discontinued, fin. You could always just try a basic pair from Speedo or TYR.

Good advice on the goggles. I make my strap really loose, and they do not leak.
 

altagirl

Moderator
Staff member
#8
Hah, swam this morning and about halfway through, it occurred to me that I don't have to keep my face all squinched up when it's in the water. I LOLed. It's like when you're doing something tough in yoga and the instructor has to tell everyone that the strength is coming from your core, not your face.

Also, we did regular freestyle laps with fins today, which I really like!
 

altagirl

Moderator
Staff member
#9
I ended up just buying these (cheap but good reviews)

http://m.swimoutlet.com/p/aqua-sphere-microfin-fitness-fin-10234/?color=9755

I might upgrade if I really stuck with this, but so far so good. They fit, stay put, and it was fun to swim with them today!

I might try some different goggles though. My current ones do stick and stay on out of the water without the strap, but eventually leak. Hah, which might be me scrunching my face up for no reason or that better goggles would help.

Today I also found it funny how I'm vastly different at backstroke. All morning I was letting the two guys in my lane lap me at freestyle. Backstroke for cool down and I caught up with the one guy so I stopped and waited and eventually gave him a full half the pool lead and still caught up to him. (I kept thinking is this guy swimming or just like floating on his back? ) And then the other guy weaved into my side of the lane and ran into me. We were all a mess. Hazards of being in the beginner lane!
 

altagirl

Moderator
Staff member
#12
Okay, swimming ladies... Hopefully some of you can offer me some mental advice for swimming.

I took a month or so off and just started doing actual swimming lessons once a week with a friend (meaning two uf us in the lesson with an instructor) instead of the masters class. It's been enormously helpful (as you can imagine). But - my biggest problem is that I can occasionally get myself into this panic about breathing. And it's almost always triggered by "swim X laps at such and such a pace" - anything that I feel will be quite hard and I need to "keep up", and suddenly I feel like I can't get enough air. (Even if I remind myself that I'm a grown up, there is no one with a gun to my head and if I want to stop I can just STOP.)

The comical part is - he had us do drills where we went from breathing every 3rd stroke, to every 6th stroke, to every 8th stroke, to doing an entire length of the pool in a single breath. And, it turns out I can actually swim the length of the pool in one breath without that much difficulty. Surprise, surprise! YET - the minute I think I "need to" keep going at whatever pace for any extended period... I feel like I'm going to suffocate. Quite obviously this has nothing to do with my actual ability to get enough air. With a minute or two of rest and calm deep breaths I can get it to pass, but then I manage to mis-time something, inhale a little water and I'm back to square one. Other days this never happens at all...

Is this just like... hello, you've swam laps like 25 times in the last 30 years and didn't have that much experience as a kid either, so give yourself a break and it will get easier once your breath timing is second nature? Or is there some additional advice out there for addressing this issue?
 

BethL

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#13
Is the interval a pace that's really hard for you? If so, maybe you're starting to go anaerobic or maybe you're not warmed up completely? I know that I have a problem going hard if I'm not totally warmed up. It might also be a mild panic attack. I would say to definitely talk to your swim instructor about it. The instructor should be able to help you get through this, maybe by starting with easier intervals.

It's amazing that you can do a length of the pool with only one breath, especially since you have not been swimming for exercise very long. I can only do this when I go to sea level and then only before the Boulder altitude training wears off. :smile: Actually, even at sea level I do not think I can do one breath for a length, and I've been swimming masters fairly regularly since 1996!

It's great that you're getting lessons and have a friend to do the lessons with you. This should make a huge difference when you go back to the masters class.
 

altagirl

Moderator
Staff member
#14
It's more that I mis-time my breaths, inhale water and then panic. Which seems to be related to stress (that I'm creating myself) - I stress (trying too hard or something), all the (minimal) technique I have goes to hell, I inhale water, panic... Haha, I'm alternately feeling like a mess and feeling pretty good.

When I was doing the masters classes, I was starting to feel pretty solid in terms of finding a rhythm, but was only breathing to the right. Our new instructor is insisting that I learn to alternate sides (which totally makes sense!) but occasionally makes me feel like I'm going to drown. It's actually hilarious when I'm not panicking, to be honest. Because I'll forget, get past the point in the stroke where I was supposed to breathe, realize it too late, try to breathe with my arm already almost blocking my face... It got way better from last week and when I'm relaxed, I can find the rhythm for the alternate breathing. When I'm stressed at all, I lose the rhythm and it all goes to hell.

Regarding the breath - I think a lot of it is that I did a martial arts class a few years ago where we did a breathing exercise involving holding your breath both full and empty and increasing the time you can do the holds, and "relaxing" around the stress of it. So I can hold my breath pretty easily for a solid minute or more, so once I thought about it, I was like - yeah, I have no idea why I COULDN'T swim a pool length on one breath. I think that drill just reminds me of something I feel confident at, plus I get to skip the whole issue of timing my breathing at all. Bonus! ;) Anyway, needless to say, the the holding the breath skill isn't developed from swimming experience.

Anyway, the lessons feel great. I feel much more efficient and I know after a single lesson, I went to just do some free swimming and felt like the pool got smaller because it took less strokes and way less effort to get to the other end. Today was lesson #2, and we added in several more things that I think will help immensely... I basically just need to keep working on it so I can make these things habits. It feels great when I have moments where they all work together!
 

alicie

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#15
When you breathe are you breathing pretty much completely out under water so you only breathe in when you're head is out of the water. The only time I ever feel like I'm running out of air is when I end up breathing out too much above water.

And for the pace is it by time or do you have one of the little beeper things. The beeper things are much better for pace as you don't have to make sure you are swimming fast enough you just do a stroke each time it beeps.

I forget to breathe at least twice each time I ago or end up choking on water and I've been swimming since forever.
 

altagirl

Moderator
Staff member
#16
I've never even heard of a pace timing device that beeps. Sounds interesting!

I just mean like "swim a lap in X seconds and you get X seconds to recover and repeat 10 times. I have no idea how fast I'm going until I stop and look at the clock on the wall.

And I'm trying to keep my head and neck more aligned and less far out of the water. This is probably part of my problem. Add stress and my form falls apart, since it's not really muscle memory yet. I probably mainly need more time to turn form into habits rather than needing to think about everything to make it happen.
 

BethL

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#17
Bilateral breathing is a tough thing to learn. After all of these years of masters swimming, I still breathe just to the left a lot. Our masters swim coach generally gives us sets where we're supposed to use bilateral breathing for maybe one length of each 100, or something like that. Generally we do these sets at a slightly slower pace. Maybe try bilateral breathing for a few lengths of each set. Eventually it's supposed to become a habit, but I have yet to see that in my swimming. :smile:
 

alicie

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#18
The beeper things are much better, I've only ever used them for 100m and longer ,for sprints the 25m in 20s x10 is easier, I avoid doing it for longer than 25 or 50 though. I find it more difficult to breathe on one side, if I'm not sprinting it feels really unnaturally. I think itll probably just take time to get used to it, just keep doing a little bit more and a little bit more each set and you'll get it at some point.
 

snowski/swimmouse

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#19
I've been swimming laps for more than 50 years, have been an instructor for most of them and have done Masters and other racing. First, the more laps you swim, the more you will find easier ways for ~you~ to get from one end of the pool to the other. Obviously good form (lessons) will make this easier. I feel punished if I have to breathe every other stroke. Breath control is something that has to be built up. Start by swimming as far as you can or the first length on the first breath, then switch to every 7th or 5th stroke to finish the length or lap. Reward yourself by then switching to every third stroke and allow yourself to go to every other stroke when needed. If you keep up this approach, you will gradually increase your options. Another thing I found to be most helpful, do some laps concentrating on ~reaching~ out to take less strokes per length. Spending some time concentrating on how many strokes you take per lap will help ("easier ways to get from one end of the pool to the other") . Perhaps alternating Masters or lesson days with self awareness days would help.
And, as said above, be sure you're blowing out underwater so that you have plenty of time for intake above water. Maybe I shouldn't admit it here, but I'm actually more a swimmer than a skier-note my SD name.... :fear:
 

altagirl

Moderator
Staff member
#20
Thanks for all the advice, ladies! I'm a total noob at this and it's great to get some voices of experience!!

Last week I had my lesson on Sunday and then just did a day at the pool with a friend where instead of trying to specifically work out, I just tried to apply what I learned and the teacher said it was obvious I had done my homework when I went back this Sunday. I should actually try to get in the habit of counting strokes per lap. I confess that it's usually pretty comical when we do masters swimming because I can't ever remember how many laps I've done. I got one of the cheap little lap counters that you wear on your finger because without that I'm hopeless at this point. My friend who I'm taking lessons with says she's a little OCD with counting and that's totally natural to her. Hah, we were talking about running technique and she's doing this run-walk-run technique and was like "I switch every 500 steps" and I was like - oh, do you have a pedometer with an alarm? Nope. Just obsessively count every step for 10 miles because that's what I do. Uh-huh... Me? I downloaded an app that tells you the intervals. The chance of me counting to 500 even once without forgetting to count is roughly 0.0%.
 

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