Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Swimming First Thoughts

My son still has the training wheels on his bike. I  tried to take them off a few months back, but he got frustrated and stopped riding it altogether. So, I caved and put them back on – probably not my best “parenting” moment. The truth is, learning a new sport is hard. It takes work and dedication to continue to try even when you know you are terrible at it and even skin your knees up a little bit. Learning to swim laps is very similar. But, since it is all that I’m going to be able to do post-op for a WHILE, I am trying really hard to learn…and failing quite impressively.

Like I mentioned before, a month or so back when I received my knee diagnosis, I asked my doctor if I could bike until my surgery. (I had stopped biking mostly out of frustration of the situation.) I received the ever so reassuring **shrug** and the response of “well, you probably can’t hurt it any more than it already is”. Hmm, okkkaayyyyyy......   His nurse also mentioned swimming. “Do you swim? You can pretty much always swim.”  With that simple statement, I started to look into it.

Now, if water sliding would provide cardio benifits, I would be SO fit!!

I don’t swim laps. Up until a month ago, I had tried swimming laps exactly twice before…. And those times were across a normal play-pool – not exactly Michael Phelps style training. In doing so I learned:

  • I’m not a fish and thus cannot breath under water
  • Related to revelation #1, water in my lungs hurts a lot
  • Water in my ears feels like one of those amazon worms crawling into my brain
  • I can have 5% body fat and still have a muffin top while wearing triathlete spandex shorts

So, when I tried to actually learn how to swim laps a month or so ago with Laura (who is an excellent swimmer), I was essentially starting from square one. Laura offered lots of great tips like “You’d be faster if you didn’t hack and cough so much” and “keep the water on the outside of your body not in your lungs”. Just kidding, she did exactly what I wanted and provided no tips – just let me figure it out on my own. I guess I am pretty thick-headed when it comes to trying to power through things on my own via brute force.

And...well... It is actually starting to work! I've swam 1000yds a handful of times while only choking on water a few times each session. The main issue that I've been having is pacing - I simply go way too fast. Either that or I just suck / don't have the fitness I need. After I do 100 or 150 yards I am GASPING for air and need to take a few moments to catch my breath. But, as long as I catch my breath every few minutes (in spite of still being impossibly hard and even more humbling), it is coming.

I think the thing that surprised me most about swimming is indeed how humbling it is. I've always been an above average athlete and am most certainly a well below average swimmer. I've had the opportunity to be lapped by Laura more times than I would like to admit - which I have no problems admitting bothered me at first. But, I've decided that I'm going to look at it two ways:  First, everyone is a beginner at everything at some point. All it takes is throwing off the training wheels and practicing more (usually after I hack up all the water I swallowed). Second, while I'll likely get better, I will probably never be "great", which is just fine. I've never wanted to be a professional swimmer (their abs? Different story) so just being mediocre is fine. Because, let's call a spade a spade, this is really a bandaid until I can do what I actually enjoy - running. Something my surgery should hopefully get me back to ASAP.

Swimming requires a lot of fuel


maryedooley said...

I found (in babysitting and with my nieces, no kids of my own thank goodness) that taking the training wheels AND pedals off the bike helps kids learn how to bike more efficiently. Because the big thing kids struggle with isn't the speed, it's the balance. so removing the pedals, they're forced to learn how to coast, and balance themselves.

Also, swimming. ugh. I love it and hate it. I used to be on swim team, did pretty well, loved swimming... now? i basically doggy paddle back and forth. my event on swim team was the breast stroke, but apparently when you're an adult, you HAVE to do the crawl. whatever.


Laura said...

Going to break my no-tips thing: you should try throwing some breaststroke in to your normal freestyle routine. That helps me regulate my breathing so I go the right speed, and then I keep using the same rhythm when I switch back to crawl.


Rebecca said...

Watch some youtube videos on how to swim. The biggest revelation for me was "body roll". Your body should roll in the water, so when you turn your head to breathe, it doesn't have as far to go- same with your arms. Also, don't hold your breath till you absolutely have to breathe. Breathe on a regular stroke- every 2 or 3 arm strokes, take a breath whether you need it or not. I was 18 before I learned to swim properly. You will get better.

Shinianen said...

When I finally gave in and wore ear plugs (water in my ears drove me nuts), I actually got faster!! Letting myself stop worrying about the water allowed me to focus on my swimming, and I eventually developed better form. If you're having water in the ear issues, I highly recommend TYR rubber plugs.

Also, do you use a kick board during your swim intervals? Try swimming a 75 and then a recovery kick of 25. Doing so means that at every 100, you end up with a 25 where you can regain your breath. I do drills like that during my warm up to help me regulate my breathing and it really helps.