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I SUCK at swimming

Old 09-10-08, 12:51 PM
  #1  
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I SUCK at swimming

This seems to be a common problem, but I thought I would ask about my personal situation. I just completed my second sprint. I can make the swim but I have to do the breast stroke 75-85% of the time. I feel like I'm drowning otherwise. I have watched the videos on youtube to no avail. I have to admit, I only swim about once every one to two weeks. Are there any suggestions?
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Old 09-10-08, 03:17 PM
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I dont want to sound like an ***** and Im still new to Tri myself... but here goes. SWIM MORE. Once every week or two is not enough to really build endurance or sharpen your mechanics.

That being said I will share the most helpful piece of advice given to me.

When I started swimming I could barely swim a for 2 or 3 minutes and spent a month focusing breathing after every third stroke. I struggled with it. LOTS! Then a woman in the master class showed me a different breathing pattern she used effectively. I now breathe to the same side after second stroke, followed by a 3 stroke and then I breath to the opposite side every second stroke.

So: breathe 4 to the left (1,2 breath left 1,2 breath left 1,2 breath left 1,2 breath 1,2,3 (this swithces the side you are breathing on) breathe right 1,2 breath right 1,2 breath right 1,2 breathe right 1,2,3... This works for me. The first time I tried I was able to extend my swim from 400-500 sets to 1000yd sets and I can now (after two months) swim for 2500yds with a great deal of confidence...

I woudl still reccomend getting into the pool, lake etc... 2to3 times a week.

Good luck!
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Old 09-10-08, 04:17 PM
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Ok, I'm probably not super-qualified to comment on long-term improvement, being a total swim noob, but I've had a lot of success with the TOTAL IMMERSION book.

In 4 weeks, through mostly technique (and some fitness increases), I knocked off 15 seconds/100m, and now can do 8 x 100m at a slow but respectable 1:50 each, with 15 sec rest in between.

A lot of people note that with Total Immersion, they dramatically increase their swim endurance. Most of this is likely because you learn to always swim in a effective "float" position where you waste minimal energy keeping flat in the water, and thus, when you get totally winded, it's a non-issue to just roll into a side or backfloat, which is a central position in the freestyle stroke of TI anyway. (Unfortunately, seems that a lot of folks on TI comment that they don't experience big speed increases until they do sprints.)

I'd highly recommend for you to start by buying Total immersion and trying it out. You'll go from being an obvious rookie in the water to having onlookers with vastly more (but ineffective) swim technique marveling at your seeming efficiency. Plus, it's a lot of fun!
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Old 09-10-08, 04:32 PM
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I don't swim all that much, but my boyfriend used to be on the Swedish Jr. Olympic team, and he swam for Brown University. What I have gathered from him, is that like anything else, to be proficent at something takes some blend of natural ability, persistence, and a boat load of practice. Get someone who knows what they are really doing to watch, and swim with you. The feedback they can give you will help a lot.
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Old 09-11-08, 06:20 PM
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I myself just started swimming 2 months ago and recenlty found my rhythm...I started threads here and people gave great advice...However, if one technique works for others may not work for you...The best advice I can give you which was given to me by my uncle and cousin is just to swim slow for about an hour a day...Don't focus on speed just focus on your breathing and your form...I am now able to swim 1000m non stop(freestyle)...I also try to swim at the lake one time a week to get use to the current...Try to go three to four times a day...swim rest swim..to give your body time to relax...Swimming is a little bit mental as well, if you think you can only swim for 200m your mind will stop at 200m...However, if you tell yourself ahead of time that you need to swim 800-1000m then you will make it to the end...I hope my two cents will help.
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Old 09-12-08, 08:24 AM
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I appreciate all the help. Nothing too sarcastic. I got to swim last night. It was a little better, but I still struggle so much with breathing. I'll do fine for a while and then it seems like I begin to drink the pool. I've seen various videos on stroke technique (mine SUCKS), but I haven't seen anything that says, "this is how to breathe."
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Old 09-12-08, 09:25 AM
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Maybe the local YMCA has lessons....(srsly)
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Old 09-12-08, 12:12 PM
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one thing that has helped me more than the typical answer you're going to get (swim more) is to really focus a lot of energy on your kicks. Keeping your back half straight and up will take a lot of effort from your top half to keep yourself moving (afloat).

Here is a simple drill. Get a kick boad (like a mini body board) and hold it with your finger tips and thumbs out in front of you so your arms are as straight as they can be. Tuck your head so your chin is at your chest and just focus on an even kick. When you breath just lift your head straight out of the water. That will ultimately make your back end drop, this will get you better at getting back to a normal kicking motion when you lift your head to sight.

We can talk in private message some about more drills but i'm at work now and will likely not be able to respond to any for a while. Keep in touch with any questions.
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Old 09-13-08, 04:37 PM
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Originally Posted by mrmcmasty View Post
SWIM MORE.
Wise words.

You're (OP) simply not swimming enough, and it's probably because you don't enjoy it. It will be hard but if you go 3 or 4 times a week for about a month you'll find you can handle a couple of hundred metres at a time and things won't look so bleak.

Then go here, which is the site I always recommend to struggling swimmers. The concepts here helped me a lot.

If you can afford it, a couple of weeks/months of swim coaching would do wonders.
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Old 09-15-08, 08:48 PM
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Some advice from a former All-American distance swimmer...

Swimmers swim in a body position sometimes called "press the chest". Because in swimming the amount of air in your lungs affects your buoyancey you want to spend more time with more air in your lungs while at the same time focus on "pressing" your chest into the water. This action will raise your legs higher in the water. I would NOT recommend kicking a lot as this will just make you more tired than you already are. Your legs are great for moving you around on land, but are inefficient in the water (unless you have gigantic feet or fins). I do however recommend that you do a 1 or 2 beat kick (that's one or two kicks per stroke. I personally do a 1 beat crossover kick... don't worry about what that means).

Getting back to holding more air in your lungs as I stated earlier. This means that you want to exhale more quickly and then breathe in quickly knowing that the more time you spend with little air in your lungs the lower you will be in the water. This can take time as you have to strengthen your diaphragm to breathe in quickly with water pressure working against your chest cavity.

The main difference between a swimmer and non swimmer, (other than the far greater muscular endurance in the lats and tris of a swimmer) is body position. This simply takes a lot of time in the water to perfect.

In your specific case I would work on breathing faster and being mindful of where your feet are in the water. Try to keep your heels within 6 inches of the surface of the water. Try "pressing the chest" (again the sensation that you're trying to push your chest (not your head) deeper in the water so that your feet will rise up).

Also, for the record, "real" breastroke (the competitive version of the stroke) is the least effecient stroke one can do. If you put in the time and get the freestyle down pat, I guarentee you that you'll never want to resort to doing breastroke to rest. Breastroke is the only stroke that has an underwater recovery (the part of your stroke where your arms move forward to take the next stroke) for both the arms and the legs.

Last edited by CornUponCob; 09-15-08 at 08:52 PM.
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Old 12-05-08, 03:49 PM
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I'm the OP. I turned 31 today and swam a mile for the first time in my life. Thank you everyone for the advice. The best advice was to swim more. I got a membership to the local Y and now swim 3 times a week. I also followed the Zero to 1650 plan fairly religiously. Until today that is and I decided to go for it.
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Old 12-05-08, 03:53 PM
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Originally Posted by TTULaw View Post
I'm the OP. I turned 31 today and swam a mile for the first time in my life. Thank you everyone for the advice. The best advice was to swim more. I got a membership to the local Y and now swim 3 times a week. I also followed the Zero to 1650 plan fairly religiously. Until today that is and I decided to go for it.
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Old 12-05-08, 04:20 PM
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Originally Posted by TTULaw View Post
I'm the OP. I turned 31 today and swam a mile for the first time in my life. Thank you everyone for the advice. The best advice was to swim more. I got a membership to the local Y and now swim 3 times a week. I also followed the Zero to 1650 plan fairly religiously. Until today that is and I decided to go for it.
next stop, IRONMAN

Glad the zero to 1650 helped. As they say on their website, when you're doing it the rests don't seem enough but if you hang tough you get through. Keep it regular and you might even start to enjoy it.
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Old 12-09-08, 08:35 PM
  #14  
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Finally, some good advice for swimming. I do okay in the water (my first and only I did 27:45 in an open water Olympic) but I ended up doing a lot of backstroke. I plan on hitting the pool and doing the Zero to 1650 plan. I also appreciate some of the information on breathing. That is where I am having the majority of my issues. Once I lose my place I am toast until I start a new lap.

Can't wait to try out a new plan.

Thanks

Fred
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Old 12-10-08, 12:26 AM
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Five step program:

1. Swim more.
2. Swim more.
3. Swim more.
4. Take a lesson.
5. Swim more.

Know what I'm sayin'? I went from 200 yards in a workout to 1800 yards in a workout in 6 months via steps 1-3. And I even took like a month off in there. I could probably be better if I hadn't.

Excuse me while I take my own advice and get the flyer for that stroke clinic...

Jason
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Old 12-10-08, 10:25 AM
  #16  
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+1 for swim more. Learning how to breathe every 3rd stroke also really forces your body to be efficient with air.
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Old 12-10-08, 02:27 PM
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0 to 1650 worked for me too!!!! is this a infomercial, but seriously, it did work for me...
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Old 12-10-08, 03:34 PM
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Originally Posted by jfk32 View Post
Five step program:

1. Swim more.
2. Swim more.
3. Swim more.
4. Take a lesson.
5. Swim more.

Know what I'm sayin'? I went from 200 yards in a workout to 1800 yards in a workout in 6 months via steps 1-3. And I even took like a month off in there. I could probably be better if I hadn't.

Excuse me while I take my own advice and get the flyer for that stroke clinic...

Jason
Give that you'll become more efficient in the water (and get faster) just with better technique, I think it's better for new swimmers to get swim lessons immediately. I just can't imagine learning to swim from books or videos. I was a competitive swimmer in college, then took 20+ years away from the pool. I thought my technique was still good, but my Master's coach immediately pointed out some obvious flaws requiring correction.

My 5 point program would be:

1) Take a lesson
2) Swim more
3) Take a lesson
4) Swim more
5) Repeat 1-4

Brian
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Old 12-11-08, 03:00 AM
  #19  
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Originally Posted by famelec View Post
Give that you'll become more efficient in the water (and get faster) just with better technique, I think it's better for new swimmers to get swim lessons immediately. I just can't imagine learning to swim from books or videos. I was a competitive swimmer in college, then took 20+ years away from the pool. I thought my technique was still good, but my Master's coach immediately pointed out some obvious flaws requiring correction.

My 5 point program would be:

1) Take a lesson
2) Swim more
3) Take a lesson
4) Swim more
5) Repeat 1-4

Brian
Good point Brian. I am just going off of what I did... which was learn from books and videos. It took me 6 months to go from 200 yds in a workout to 1800 yds in a workout. I could probably have done it better and faster with lessons though, not gonna argue with that!

As my math profs used to say, there is something to be said for the "brute force and ignorance" method of learning. Also known as the "beating your head against the wall" method.
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Old 12-11-08, 01:10 PM
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Just swam my first session of the "Zero to 1650" plan...all freestyle. It felt good.

There was a coach at the pool that gave me a breathing drill that I will incorporate into my "Zero" plan. After watching me swim the 700 yards required of the first session, he told me that because I am holding my breath so long each time I am actually draining myself. The drill he gave me should help with that as well as get me on a more consistent and efficient breathing pattern.

I know the "Zero" plan does not include breathing drills, just learning to swim a full mile in the freestyle position. But this was my problem last year and I would like to get rid of it as soon as possible and learn to swim a freestyle mile.

I feel good and I can't wait to get in the water again.
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Old 12-11-08, 01:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Fred Matthews View Post
Just swam my first session of the "Zero to 1650" plan...all freestyle. It felt good.

There was a coach at the pool that gave me a breathing drill that I will incorporate into my "Zero" plan. After watching me swim the 700 yards required of the first session, he told me that because I am holding my breath so long each time I am actually draining myself. The drill he gave me should help with that as well as get me on a more consistent and efficient breathing pattern.

I know the "Zero" plan does not include breathing drills, just learning to swim a full mile in the freestyle position. But this was my problem last year and I would like to get rid of it as soon as possible and learn to swim a freestyle mile.

I feel good and I can't wait to get in the water again.
Nice work Fred... One thing I will say is that I started out with an every three strokes breathing pattern, so that I would switch from Right to Left every three strokes, but it was too much for me. Coming from a running background, where you can breath as much as you want, it was just too much oxygen debt. I now do every two strokes. If you are worried about breathing on the same side all of the time, just switch every lap or something.

I say that the breathing exercises are good, and will help you. But for your goal of getting distance under your belt, breath more often for now. Later, when you are a swimming god, you can move to breathing less
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Old 12-11-08, 10:30 PM
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whats the "zero to 1650" plan?

I'm in the same boat (no pun intended) i can't breathe! I get more water in my lungs than air! I've been trying to hold my breath for 4 strokes, exhale in the water then -gasp- to the left. I try to slow down like the other guys in the pool but tend to sink. There are some old guys who are incredible! They only go about 1/2 a mile an hour but do lap after lap after lap.
Think they would disqualify me if i showed up with scuba gear?
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Old 12-12-08, 03:02 AM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by j mazz View Post
whats the "zero to 1650" plan?

I'm in the same boat (no pun intended) i can't breathe! I get more water in my lungs than air! I've been trying to hold my breath for 4 strokes, exhale in the water then -gasp- to the left. I try to slow down like the other guys in the pool but tend to sink.
cool, I get to recommend Zero To 1650 again. Hey, I'll take credit for anything

As far as breathing goes, it just comes with practise. I'm a bilateral breather and the advantage is feeling comfortable either side. Additionally, if I get tired I just breathe one side for a while which gets me more air (breathe every two strokes rather than every three - 50% more breathing). If you really want to work on breathing technique without sinking, consider using a pool buoy to support your legs a bit.

Disclaimer: I'm no swim expert but I've been through a lot of what I'm reading.
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Old 03-27-09, 05:51 AM
  #24  
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The best thing you can do is to take a weekend Total Immersion class. Fantastic. If you can't do that, then get the DVD. If not that, then try out the book. Technique is everything in swimming and very few swimmers swim correctly. They are all powering with their arms and legs, swimming uphill and shortening their bodies. Water is 900 times denser than air so swimming is all about reducing resistance and not burning up all your oxygen trying to go fast.

Swimming more may get you there, but it won't ever be fun or effortless unless you focus on technique. I recommend TI because over the Y or other coaching only because I know that it is solid.
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Old 03-27-09, 09:02 AM
  #25  
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+1 on Total Immersion

What it will do is teach you how to swim before teaching you how to breathe. If you don't have proper swimming technique you'll have a hard time breathing. I see a lot of guys training at the pool with a snorkel, and I'd guess that's a pretty good idea, too. Otherwise you're flailing around sucking wind and your technique will suck and you'll drill that in to your muscle memory.

With TI, you should spend a couple months without really breathing, you just roll to your back, aka "sweet spot". Then it's like, "OK, now that you know how to swim, breathe like this..." Then you'll take one breath and roll to your back for 2 cycles, then got to every other cycle, then, eventually, just breathe on your strokes without rolling to your back.

It took me about 3 months of ~4 days per week, 1/2 hour per day to get to the point that I can breathe and have a somewhat efficient stroke. I don't mean to sound like a commercial for the product, but it worked for me. I'm sure there are other methods, with any of them, you'll have to spend more time in the water.
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