Today was the first swim of 2010. Good news I didn’t drown. Bad news I’ve been away too long. Ok so here’s the thing. I don’t like swimming all that much and here’s why:
1. Same as it ever was. This was the first swim after months off and my 100 time is the same as it was in peak of my training last year. I guess I could be happy except for the fact that’s such a mediocre time. It’s probably the same time I’ve had since I started tri’s 13 years ago. This probably means I do for a big breakthrough if I swim 4 times a week and put in some serious yardage but for what so I can get passed by more riders on the bike? And probably make the same improvement with a good wetsuit.
2. The scenery stinks. Same black line all the time. Never changes. The only thing that can make it interesting is the swimmers in the lanes nearby. I know it isn’t what I should be doing but I get bored and my ego makes every lap turns into a throw-down even if the guy two lanes over is only working with a kickboard.
3. I can’t dance. Irish/German heritage + Engineer = No rhythm. Swimming is series of intricate movements that must be performed perfectly. Toes pointed, hands cupped, extending my stroke as far as I can, use high elbows, rotate your hips
(but not too much
), don’t cross your arms, and oh yeah breathe. I feel like I’m performing an exotic Latin dance while wearing snow boots. I have yet to spring for a videotaping of my swim but I’m sure it’ll look like stop action photography as I try and remember what part of the stroke I am supposed to do next.
4. Dry Skin. Even though I’ve been in the water an hour immediately afterwards I can feel my skin being pulled tight as moisture in my skin suddenly disappears. I spend the rest of the day scratching my poor dry dead skin.
5. Why does a non-impact sport hurt so much? I did today’s workout all alone in my lane but could swear someone just worked over my arms, back and legs w/ a baseball bat.
goals for 2011:
break 19minutes for 5k
break 2:42 for olympic triathlon probably Anthracite olympic
break 3:16 for marathon ( a long shot but it's fun putting yourself out there)
Great post! I'm with you on all your points. And to top it off, I try to count strokes across the pool - that's when the form disappears (so there's really no need to count anymore).
Don't forget the nice chlorine smell that permiates from your skin the rest of the day. It seems to take a day or two worth of showers to get rid of the chlorine smell.
And the main reason I hate the swim is taking in a big chug of water up the nose at just that right moment when you go for a breath, and a small wave hits your head.
LOL!! Forget Conan and Jay, you should take over the Tonight Show! I totally relate; can't stand swimming. Give me a 10k to run and 50 miles on a road bike and I'm a happy camper. Water is for fish.
Well, I'm completely opposite... I love swimming. I started swimming competitively at age 6 though... so I'm probably coming from a different background.
1. With swimming, technique is much more of a factor in times then pure physical fitness. Many people taking up swimming for a tri are already in pretty solid shape from running... that isn't what will affect their times. It's all about form. I on the other hand am still a ways from getting in good shape, but all those years of swimming competitively means I haven't lost my form totally... I can still hop in the water and destroy people who are in MUCH better shape... at least until my engine gives out.
2. Yes, the scenenry does stink... but you shouldn't just be swimming laps. You should be doing a variety of drills on time intervals, so your mind should stay occupied on working on particular parts of your stroke technique. Not only does this take away from the boredom of just going back and forth... it gets you much better results from your training.
3. I can't dance either. The key is in #2... you do drills. YOu don't think about everything every lap... you do a finger-tip drag drill for 100 yards, working on elbows. Then streamline kick for 100, focusing on head and body position. Then do a one-arm stroke for a 100, focusing on rolling your opposite shoulder up while pulling and head position for your breathes. Then use some paddles, focusing on arm position on your stroke. The repetition of specific drills that focus on a small part of your stroke will over time improve the entire stroke.
5. Stretch. The stretching for swimming is different from running or cycling... and you have to do a lot more of it. Particularly important are lat, tricep and delt stretches. Lats and triceps are where the power from your swimming stroke come from... you need to spend just as much time streching them as you stretch your calves, quads and hamstrings for running.
My view is that swimming is MUCH more "skill" then "strength". There is skill to any sport, running and cycling included. But with swimming the skill side seems to be much more critical. The group I'm training with where we're all getting ready for our first triathlon has several guys who can run very well... but they're still huffing and puffing after a length or two int he pool. Meanwhile I'm tail-end-charlie on the run... but swimming 500 yards at a pop with no real discomfort. I'm not in better shape... I just have a better stroke.
Great thread, thanks for starting it Joe. I think we all can relate to many of your points, and it was fun.
KurtinSC, thanks for adding a balancing view. Swimming is fascinating!! So interesting to watch and see what athletes do well & transfer fitness to the pool. I'm hoping to keep improving my technique in the water. I had my masters' swim group this morning -- good stuff! I think I'm finally getting my breath head position & fluidity/timing down.
Sara Cox Landolt
I hear you on the loneliness of the pool swims, a friend of mine has the H20Audio stuff for his ipod, he let me use it one weekend. Its pretty freaking sweet, totally makes swimming for an hour + worth it. if you are a gadget person, get yourself one of these!!
Joe-There's a lot I can relate to in your post. My skin gets itchy and tight like you describe almost immediately when I exit the pool. Normally I don't mind swimming or swim practice. I do have the H20audio case for my iPod and it truly makes my longer sets go by so much smoother--something maybe to . I do, however, mind when other people forget their swimming manners. Few things drive me more up the wall than when I am plowing along while sharing a lane, and suddenly I have to stop and "sound for collision" because my lane partner is taking his/her half out of the middle. No, I'm not a very big person. . .but really? I once had my pull bouy and my flippers physically moved away from my lane because they were in the way of someone else's gadgets, paddles, kick board, towel, water bottle, tools, sink, ladder and other assorted bits and pieces.
Its so refreshing to see that I am not the only one who can't stand swimming!
I have figured out that there are two types of people in this world: natural swimmers and the rest of us. I struggle with swimming and I never fail to feel like an idiot when I do it.
Allow me to add to the laundry list of complaints:
Buoyancy! When you're a "sinker" like me you expend half your energy just staying afloat - it makes swimming all the more exhausting. Thank goodness for the buoyancy boost from wetsuits, and If I ever encounter a triathlon that does not allow wetsuits, I will be in trouble. BTW, not using your legs during races just compounds this issue as my lower body constantly sinks behind me, forcing me into a near vertical position and further slowing me down and making me more tired - sucks!
Breathing!I struggle to get enough air even at a slow pace. I find it ironic that the faster you go and the harder you work, you still have an opportunity to only get so much air, dammit! I constantly feel like I need to breathe on every stroke just to avoid passing out...
Anyway, if someone has some genius training techniques they can point me to that will help me solve these problems, I'd love to hear about it.
I obviously can't say I hate swimming. I love it. Always have, even when I was stuck in the slow lane all through high school and working as hard as humanly possible purely for the privilege of being "terminally mediocre" in college.
I loved it because it provided a puzzle and challenge that seemed deeper and more complex than all the other sports I'd played (and been equally undistinguished at) as a kid. I finally began to figure out the puzzle when I climbed out of the pool and began to coach at 21, gaining the advantage of perspective I'd lacked while staring at the black line for the 7 prior years. When I resumed swimming at age 38 I was amazed at how much easier and more fulfilling it could be by applying some lessons gained while coaching. Over 20 years later, I'm still improving and find I enjoy - even love - swimming more each year. I'll put that to the test in the next 8 months by swimming 3 marathons - the 24-mile Tampa Bay Marathon, the 21-mile Catalina Channel and the 22-mile English Channel.
While training for these swims I also plan to write a new book on triathlon swimming which will emphasize what I think is the most valuable insight I've gained in the last few years: The very difficulty and complexity of swimming, compared to cycling and running, is a GIFT to any triathlete who embraces that, because solving that puzzle has the potential to develop habits, attitudes and behaviors that can help you solve other problems you may encounter in life. And the complexity of swimming even holds the potential to help improve the infrastructure and functionality of your brain in ways that running and cycling cannot match.
I won't go on at great length right here, but I encourage you to consider reading two books that may inform and inspire you more than any book on triathlon training - "Mastery: The keys to success and long-term fulfillment" by George Leonard, and "The Talent Code" by Daniel Coyle. Or perhaps just read some summaries or reader reviews of these books you can find at Amazon or elsewhere on line. You'll discover that most of the conditions you cite as reasons to hate swimming can be transformed into positives by a shift in your own perceptions.
Damon, when I was swimming competitively, I was definitely a sinker. Carried less then 5% body fat and would be flat on the bottom of the pool with my lungs full of air.
The key for bouyancy in swimming is movement. If your body is positioned correctly, the forward progress through the water should raise your body out of the water... kind of like a boat lifting up as it goes faster. The flip side is speed doesn't come from spinning your arms faster. Instead it comes from an efficient stroke... so you can be moving your arms at a relaxed speed... but your core will be travelling through the water quick enough to keep you afloat. As you work on your stroke mechanics and technique... this will be less and less of an issue for you.
Some things that help with breathing:
1. Be sure you are exhaling while your head is still in the water. This way when you turn to breath, you aren't wasting time emptying your lungs before taking a breath... it's all inhale. (of course if you catch a wave in the face at this moment, you'll be sputtering)
2. Time your breath properly. Your body rotates from side to side as you swim. When you are breating to the right side, your body is about flat at the point your right arm is midway down your torso. As the stroke finishes as your arm goes to your side, your body should continue to turn and if you're taking a breath, your face should start to come out of the water and you should start to inhale. As your right arm comes out of the water for your recovery, your left arm should be starting to pull and your should start to rotate the opposite direction. By the time your left arm has reached the midpoint of your torso and your left arm is coming past your head... your face should be back in the water. This should ensure you aren't splashing yourself in the face as you're breathing.
3. Roll your shoulders. Probably the biggest thing with swimming is getting that body rotation down on the freestyle. It makes EVERYTHING easier once you start doing it right.
I am with you 100% Joe and I am looking for answers. I refuse to accept that I should have to suffer through swimming like its some sort of punishment - there just has to be a better way.
I started by picking up Triathlon Swimming Made Easyand I definitely recommend it:
The book is written by a coach who runs weekend long workshops for triathletes of all levels and he completely acknowledges my experience - that no matter how well conditioned you are and no matter how much time you spend in the pool, if your stroke and your body position is not efficient, you will not get any better (and you will definitely not enjoy yourself). The book focuses on gaining relaxed efficiency, not speed. I read two chapters, picked a couple of things to focus on and immediately improved in the pool. Less strokes per length, less fatigue, more relaxed.
I also picked up the same authors video named Easy Freestyle Swimming:
This is his weekend workshop on a video and it completely breaks down the stroke into simple easy to get drills that you then start linking together to build the stroke with a focus on efficiency. This will take a lot of patience to stop just swimming laps and to actually rebuild my stroke from scratch, but I am going to try it as I believe it might be the key for me to overcome my "issues" with swimming.
: I did not know it was you.
I have watched your video a couple of times and your approach makes a lot of sense to me. I am ready to go back to the drawing board and follow al the drills and stay with it. Wish me luck...