Swimming, I was talking about swimming before I was so rudely interrupted, as I am training for an Ironman race, running a weaving mill, and whatever other stuff I said (to try to sound busy and important) I get side tracked from time to time, it’s not that I don’t love you, I’m just busy…so……oh yes there I was…..
Flapping around like a deranged, drowning clown is all good and well for the purposes of humour and of course if it gets you from A to B, well, good for you.
I had set my heart on this Xterra Malaysia triathlon thing and I could operate a bicycle and run so I figured my weakspot was swimming.. so I mainly worked on that, I tried to get in a few swims per week with a long one on Saturday afternoons. The Saturday afternoon pool swimming was always a hot affair and punctuated by kids in the condo pool dive bombing me and swimming in my path, not that it would make much difference to my record breaking attempts. I had a little bit of trouble physically getting the distance up, even getting 300 to 400mts was a real effort. I was self scrutinising and then … I suppose.. sense kicked in and I went online to look at swimming techniques.. Youtube has tonnes of stuff about swimming, some is useful, some very much not so useful.
Of course when you start looking at swimming techniques, you will end up on a video that has 12 milion views and which attracted your attention because of the hot chick in the picture and your short attention span, this is normal, I think it’s some kind of modern internet attention span deficiency something or other. The other things that will halt your studies are the most important subjects currently available for research, kittens… 150 billion views, kitten asleep, 187 billion views, cute kitten, then there’s aliens, ghosts, roller coaster accidents, special forces ops.
Yes indeed, it’s difficult to stay focused.
I wanted to feel comfortable when I was swimming, I wanted to breathe well and fuel my muscles with oxygen and just merrily float along, albeit at a reasonable speed and with some plethora of style and decorum.
As a kid I had certs for all sorts of swimming , I wasn’t a school swimmer but I could swim. I was bullied a lot being from a poor family and being a bit of a scruff at the bording school I was sent to, I took swimming lessons as an “extra” at night, to get me away from the monkeys and wolves.
If you take a skill, make it better, then don’t do anything with it for .. oh, say… mmm, 25 years.. no.. make that 27 years, that skill will surely lose some of it’s ninja like edge right?
In my case, I had forgotten a lot of basics and needed to get my head around some simple stuff like breathing. Fish are great at breathing under water, we are not, we breathe air so, I need to make sure, first and foremost that I can breathe.
I started to practice the most basic of things, breathe in air through my mouth, dip my head under the surface of the water and breathe out through my nose, I did this in a semi calm manner, until I felt I was ready to try it whilst swimming. Of couse as soon as I became horizontal, things got a bit messy.
Breathing out under water is easy, really, don’t think about it just do it, but for goodness sake remember to get your mouth sufficiently out of the water to breathe in the next gulp of air. The minor problem with this is the necessity to lift up the head constantly, which my wife kindly pointed out when I felt I was improving and said how I had “got my breathing right”, she’s not really a swimmer, but she could see my head lifting out of the water, when I thought I was turning to breathe like a pro. Well, at least my air in air out was happening. The technique is simple, turn head, breathe air, turn head back to face bottom of the pool, breathe out calmly and slowly through nose so air is expelled fully, ready for next breath, not too fast, not too slow. Too fast, you will be gasping for air when you come to breathe, i.e. you will be wasting oxygen, too slow and you will have air in your lungs, or more likely carbon dioxide as a small residue and you will have less room for that important gulp of air.
I think I better point out, I am not an expert and this isn’t a class, I’m just sharing as indepth as possible insight into how I figured out my swimming technique, but I do hope my mistakes will help you see yours… perhaps…
The very very very impotant thing is actually to try to get a form, learn it and remove the wrinkles, get rid of all the lumpiness and unnecessary parts till you have a smooth, calm technique.
However, saying this is one thing, doing it is another. You can make your own swim technique, you feel great but it’s totally wrong. You will swim like that for years, hating swimming because it’s “not your thing” or it’s “tiring” or even “boring”.
Lets cut ahead a little here, I have found a peace, perhaps a better word I like to use is Zen. I found that swimming can be peaceful and relaxing, sure I get out of the pool breathing deeply and tired to some degree, but during that time before I stopped, I was almost asleep, breathing consistently, gently pulling with my arms and gliding along, slowly, but with a pleasant constant motion. I have time to think about things, I am not sweating and pounding like I would do when I cycle or run, negativity seldom enters my consciousness in the water, even when you gulp some water or your throat gets dry, it’s all manageable, no problem, just Zen, peace, cooling, flowing water. When people say they don’t like swimming, I think they just haven’t acquired the taste or found the Zen in it yet.
So, back to the thrashing dugong… As I had tried to help my wife to learn to swim (yeah I know.. the blind leading the hopelessly lost?), the first thing I would teach anyone is to float…. makes sense right? Lay on your back and inhale so your lungs are full, tilt your head back slightly and relax… always relax.. as soon as you become stiff or agitated, you sink…
So you are floating, ground control to Major Tom, hey wakey wakey… if you can float, then the difference between 3 feet deep water and 3000 feet deep water is the same. Once my wife could float, she wasn’t so scared of water where she couldn’t touch the bottom with her feet. Then we could focus on actually swimming, because we know we could float if we needed to stop, which helps us feel in control, thus giving us the confidence that clears our mind and allows space to progress.
Sound like an expert don’t I.. oh yeah, I am the man.. well, if could ever swim 1500mts in anywhere near the current Olympic time of around 13 and a half minutes.. I would be an expert.. I am a long way from that.. a very… very…. very… long way.
After my wife told me that I was bobbing around, I started to practice turning my head and keeping my head straight in line with my body when I returned to breathe out as I swam. After some practice, I got this part though my wife commented that I was still a bit high in the water with my head.
Back to youtube…. I started to study the form of swimmers, their position in the water and how they breathe, I was actually kicking like breast stroke and paddling my arms like front crawl, It was working for me, so I decided not to mess with that part, but I noticed with my head out of the water slightly, that my legs would be naturally forced down, causing unnecessary drag, also, if my head was straight, i.e. my face facing the bottom of the pool, it might be a bit more comfortable, as I wasn’t holding my head the whole time in a crooked position.
I started practicing this squid like swim motion I had with a better position and better breathing technique… lo and behold, I found my swim was less tiring and of course that meant I could go further, reaching the massive distance of 500mts eventually. I was tired at the end of that half kilometer, but it was a milestone, I was still swimming with a weird technique but I could breathe and that aside, I could start to focus on other things, like arms, feet, sighting and of course, the total distance of 750mts, which was still a long way off.
Rule 3…. Consistency
If there is anything you can rely on, it’s consistency, whether it’s a consistently late friend, a consistently good restaurant or a consistent swim stroke. It’s cool to reinvent oneself, just don’t do it with your swim technique in the middle of the sea.
It’s better to be consistently good at something that sporadically brilliant and infrquently terrible, sure it’s boring to be so predictable, but sometimes, knowing, being sure, trusting in something because it is consistent, will make life a whole hell of a lot easier.