And pork and beans.
Learning to swim is … involved. It ain’t easy. It’s one of those skills — like learning a language — that’s best to pick up when you’re a childrens. It’s doable, but damn.
Over the Summer I went to White Oak Canyon with friends and their kids. I waded out into the water next to the falls, taking photos. The kids got in and were swimming in the deep part like it was the most natural thing. I wanted so badly to be able to do that. I suppose I could have tried but — naw, son. Wasn’t quite ready to attempt to swim in the wild in a frigid not-a-pool.
November 6, 2017 – Reasons & Excuses
Breast stroke. Nope. I’ve never worked so hard to go nowhere and sometimes backwards in my life. Except for on eHarmony. Haha. It’s kind of funny because it’s kind of true.
I’ve been told and am learning that certain builds are better suited to swimming. Long, lean, pliable, webbed digits, with big, efficient lungs or gills, dorsal fins, swim bladder. For recreational swimming, just being buoyant goes a really long way toward being relaxed in the water even if your form isn’t the greatest.
Guess who does not meet any of those anatomical specifications. This guy.
This is where I have to be careful. Not just in swimming, but in life. There’s a fine line between reasons and excuses. A perfectly legitimate reason turns into a lame excuse when you fail to address it or fail to earnestly seek a solution.
I mean, this is life. We don’t all get dealt the same hand. If we want something we have to do the work. The fact that it comes easily to others is irrelevant. Hell, the fact that some people get something handed to them that I may have to work like a dog for is irrelevant when it comes to my individual efforts. If I have to take Swimming III four times in a row to get it, then I’ll take the same class four times in a row. If I’m going to be the slow one, as humbling and frustrating as that is, then I’ll be the slow one. I’ll read whatever, watch the videos, encounter shameless locker room nudity, risk athlete’s foot, get advice, get help, swallow pool water, find company, or go it alone and become a lonely amphibian. (And if I ever have kids, they’ll know how to swim before they know how to read.)
So I’m going to try something new. I’m going to try training at UA before my swimming class. So I’ll do an hour of semi-private training at the gym and then make my way to the rec center. I’ll be all warmed up and limber and not struggling to adjust from the transition of sitting at a computer to maximum effort, thereby squandering the first quarter of the class. There’ll be a half hour in between. Might cool down more than I want but that’s better than going in cold.
November 16, 2017 – Supplemental Learning Materials
If you’re trying to learn and you like to watch videos and find supplemental materials, here’s what I’m realizing.
For basic tips and drills you can watch just about any instructional swim videos. There’s a lot to choose from. I like ones that have slow motion. Recent videos tend to have much better video and audio quality.
Olympians are always a good bet. Can’t go wrong there.
I’m a sucker for Total Immersion and things like it, e.g. Chi Running, although you just get a little of their materials on YouTube because they sell their videos. Plenty of effective drills to choose from.
But, you have to check out the triathletes. A lot of triathletes got into swimming later in their lives. Some pick it up for triathlon-sake. They know the score. Sometimes it’s the details that are critical when you’re learning.
For example, people who are swimming veterans, like instructors, will tell you to try to keep one goggle in the water. Makes sense. If you lift your head up to breathe instead of turning to the side, your balance will be thrown off, your lower half will sink, and you’ll have to waste energy recovering your balance and momentum.
Wait a minute, though. If half of your face is in the water, how do you breathe without taking in water? Out of half your mouth? That seems like an obvious question but I have yet to hear anyone ask or answer that question in a class. The fact is, sometimes you’re going to get water in your mouth. If you’re lucky you can expel while exhaling. If your luck is running chaotic neutral you’ll be drinking that water. If things aren’t going your way during that particular stroke you’re going to choke or get water in your nose and sinuses. Not conducive to being in the zone.
Or that for your catch, you’re not just “grabbing” water with your cupped hand, you’re using your whole arm, at least for the first part.
Lifelong swimmers forget to tell you things like that. Or sometimes they’ll mention a detail just once. They do a lot of things automatically that you do not and will not for a long time. They also try not to overwhelm you with information because they know that beginners are mentally overtaxed trying to consciously coordinate all the necessary positions, movements, tweaks, and watery intrusions.
In a swimming pool you generally don’t have to worry about sighting things in the distance to navigate or making sharp, efficient turns around buoys. You usually don’t have to think about waves and wakes and how that’s going to affect your breathing rhythm.
It’s a much more practical perspective. Of course, I wouldn’t rely on one school or source. Triathletes may not have the best form and are more fit than, say, me, so they can compensate with brute fitness where I can’t. We all have to find what works for us.
Here’s my YouTube swimming playlist. It’s always in flux and I need to prune it but there’s some good info.
I’m able to streamline on my back. That’s an accomplishment. I still can’t make it all the way across the pool like that, though. Just kicking. Sometimes I’m cruising along on kicks and the next second I’m not going anywhere. I’m not sure why. Pointing the toes and clenching the cheeks a little helps keep things in line, but every now and then I’m kicking on a road to nowhere. Come on along.
I have moments of relaxation. Even during kicking drills. I have to find it but it’s there. Then I remember to remind mysef what one of the instructors told me one day: “Come on. Have fun.”
My freestyle is definitely improving. I made it across the pool, like, three times the other day. I was gasping by the end, which is not supposed to be happening, by my own standards, but it is.
I still get winded very quickly even when I’m in relaxed, takin’ it easy mode. It’s gotta be the breathing. Too much, too little, too frequently, not frequently enough. One of those. Or all of those. I can’t avoid it anymore. I have to nail my left side breathing. Hm. My left side is my drowny side.
Damn. I need to practice. I keep saying that but I don’t make it to the pool, for some reason. But tomorrow is a new day.
November 21, 2017
One down and one to go
Another town and one more show
We were all up in the deep end last night. With waist floats and then one go at swimming freestyle across without. My lats were burning all night from the (assisted) pull ups in the gym the other day.
I can do a length now somewhat consistently but still haven’t found my breathing rhythm. I’ve been trying to breathe less. Take a perfunctory breath and exhale fully. If I take a big, exaggerated breath like “I need all the oxygen just in case”, it’s harder to exhale fully so I end up gasping, CO2 compounding, more than breathing. (Soft style not hard style.)
Backstroke? I can streamline and kick on my back now. I’d like to thank my shoulders for becoming a little more mobile. But my backstroke is rough like the high seas. The idea is to reach, elongate, rotate, and to not forget to kick while I’m thinking about all the rest of it.
Anyway, one more class to go in Swim 3 before Swim 3 starts again next week. I should be ready for Swim 4 in January.
Stay hydrodynamic out there, everyone.