LGN 132: Moving on to Swimming IV

Water dance
Water dance
Water dance
Hey!! Get – in – the – water!! Unh!!!


November 23, 2017

Kicking uses up all of my oxygen.

Something has me worried. I don’t know if it’s real or science or just in my head.

Class 10 of 10. I had a bad swim class. It was a workout class.

  • Warm up with 150 yards of freestyle.
  • 25×4 kickboard fast.
  • 100 yards freestyle, counting strokes, aiming for one less stroke each length.
  • 100 yards of something else.
  • 150 yards freestyle cool down.

I didn’t get far. I couldn’t swim a length without stopping 3/4 of the way, at best. And I can’t count while I swim, apparently.

It may have had something to do with the benadryl-like pill I took the night before. That definitely has affects on focus and energy levels. My lungs feel different on antihistamines — slow.

But it’s the legs. Using MyZone in the gym, you can see your heart rate on the monitors. My heart rate hangs out in the greens and blues. As soon as my legs get involved it’s up into the yellows, even with relatively light loads. Any sustained effort, high reps, and I’m quickly in the red.

As soon as I start kicking my heart rate goes up, oxygen being demanded faster than I can breathe? Seriously, ten strokes and I’m wiped. Too tired to breathe rhythmically. Let me tell you from experience, the last thing you want to do is try to take a breath prematurely.

If that’s what’s going on, I have no idea what to do about it. And it’s kind of important. YouTube videos say that kicking provides a minimal contribution to propulsion. For pro swimmers their kicks provide 10 – 12% of their locomotion. For regular folks, it may be more like 3 – 5%. So some swimming techniques only use their kicks for balance. But our instructors encourage us to use relaxed but energetic kicks.

Freestyle breathing left.png

December 6, 2017

Shoulder glitch.

Swimming can be hard on the shoulders. Our instructors have mentioned it but I didn’t feel it until tried to swim fast. There are forces involved.

I’ve got a glitch in my shoulder. Rotator cuff, I’ve been told. I tweaked it on a cave rappelling tour (they didn’t mention that we had to climb back up the muddy, slick rock we rapelled down — tricksy guides) a few years ago and whatever I did to it, it’s not the kind of thing that’s going to heal without medical intervention. It’s not nearly bad enough to need it, though.

I don’t know when/how to breathe during backstroke. That’s partially because I’m constantly splashing water in my face, and when I try to focus on more controlled, better-aligned arms, my kicks get all spastic. I’ve noticed that when I rotate to the side my kick falters. All those kick drills are defenestrated. Getting there, though.

When I can relax, it comes easy. Easier. Soft style not hard style.

December 15, 2017

Perspective is important after a rough time in the water.

I don’t know about this. It’s just not happening. It’s — okay, I need to keep things in perspective.


  • I know how to swim.
  • I can float. (I floated on my back for, like, three minutes in class the other day. Had to scull a little bit at the hips but I impressed myself.)
  • I could fall in the middle of the deep end of a pool and have a very good chance of surviving and even enjoying myself. (A year ago that would have been a death sentence. That’s not hyperbole. I mean funeral, pall bearers, in the ground at Cedar Hill Cemetery dead. From a few feet of contained, calm, clear water. Ridiculous.)
  • I’m worrying about how far I can swim, which means I’m not worrying about if I can swim.
  • I love being in the water.


  • I don’t swim well.
  • I’ve taken many classes this year: Swimming I, Swimming II, Swimming III (x4). Excellent instruction, excellent progress, but I can’t make it across the damn pool (25 yards) consistently.
  • I can’t swim without maxing out my heart rate.
  • I can’t breathe; I’m not replenishing oxygen or maybe I’m not expelling enough C02. My backstroke isn’t great and it wears me out, too, even though you can breathe any time you want, in theory.
  • Breast stroke is … let’s not talk about that yet.

All those classes adds up to about 60 classes. That’s a lot of classes, but in terms of acquiring life skills it’s “only” 60 hours, to put things into perspective. That’s like one and a half work weeks and, to be honest, I haven’t practiced on my own at all since swimming II. I still do the semi-private land-based training at UA two to three times a week also, but nothing makes you better at swimming except swimming.

I just … I can’t imagine being able to swim 200 yards (8 lengths) or whatever the PADI Open Water Certification requires. Float or tread water for 10 minutes?? I’m still working on treading water for 15 seconds (granted, I haven’t practiced at all but that’s because I’m intimidated by going to the deep end of the pool alone and navigating my way around all the serious swimmers).

It’s like if someone told me that I had to bench press 750 lbs. or acquire/save/earn half a billion dollars in order to [insert life goal here]. I suppose it’s in the realm of possibility but it doesn’t seem realistic. At all.

Okay. Bite size chunks. New goal. One lap of freestyle. 50 yds. Down and back. Backstroke goal. One length. 25 yds.

December 18, 2017

I got approval for Swimming IV.

We did the “test” for swim III. I treaded water for 15 seconds in 14 feet. Did freestyle for a 25 yd. length in 7 feet. Twice. And backstroke in 7 feet for 25 yards (with two rests floating on my back along the way but I’m still counting it). I’ve finally found my breathing rhythm for backstroke, which amounts to “exhale while I’m splashing water in my face and inhale during the non-self-waterboarding phase of the arm strokes.”

In other words, the instructor will recommend that I move on to swimming IV. Progress! It’s all deep end, which is intimidating because of how tired I get. Oh well. So long and thanks for all the fish.

December 20, 2017

Video is brutally honest. Aesthetics are functional.

The New Year will bring a new level of class. I asked the instructor to take some video at the end. I really wish I had done that a long time ago. It’s ugly and kind of embarrassing. I do not look good in the water but — eff it. Beauty is functional. Ugly form equals inefficient and energy-draining technique, or lack thereof. I clearly see what I’m struggling with. Clearly I can’t think of two things at once.

Backstroke. There’s a lot of time between my strokes. That explains a lot. I was thinking about breathing rhythm and the instructor’s advice on a cleaner, less water splashy stroke. Didn’t even realize I was pausing. A smoother, continuous stroke and I wouldn’t have to try to power myself through.

Freestyle. Again, I was thinking about breathing, namely breathing to my left. So something else inevitably had to suffer. Look at how short my left arm stroke is. It’s coming out of the water around my rib cage as opposed to down by my pocket. That happens when I try to go fast. That explains a few things.

Kicking. My kick spazzes out during the rotation, mainly because I’m consciously thinking about breathing. And it’s not a tight kick, but that may partially be just a “my body” thing.

I’m not reaching nearly as much as I think I am. And so on. Blah blah blah.

Why doesn’t every class involve video and review? I know I can definitely improve my stroke efficiency when I think about it. I can usually fix things on the spot when I’m aware of them. At least that’s the way it worked when I used to do martial arts.

Pretty cool, though. If you want to get better at something you need a coach, and every now and then you need to be able to see what your coach sees.

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