One of my biggest goals this years involved overcoming my open water swimming fears and learning how to swim efficiently to enable me to propel my mass for distance. Growing up I thought I was a pretty good swimmer, but as I entered triathlon swimming I discovered the opposite. Swimming required allot of work to get to my current competency and I got better at swimming faster than the other disciplines: biking and running. On top of pool swimming I had to learn how to swim in lakes and oceans, a new challenge entirely.
Last year when I instantly decided to start triathlons (first post in series here) I started swimming the way I was taught growing up: lie flat on your stomach, kick hard with your legs and pull with your arms. I have heard this method referred to the American Red Cross method of swimming as they were the ones that championed this swim method. Not sure how true that is, but this was how I swam when I started.
My first foray into swimming I figured I would see how many laps I could go. Each lap was 50 meters or yards (never really confirmed which but I stick to meters just because its what I did). Believing I was a strong swimmer I figured a quick 10 laps or 500 meter swim should be nothing, all the triathlon training resources indicated 400-500 meters should be doable by any sprint distance competitor. After 4 laps I was done, I could not go another stroke.
Not to be dejected I went home and set myself a plan to figure out how to swim where I could do more laps. First I discovered Total Immersion swimming or triathlon swimming, a swimming method where you roll and swim using your core (abs and back) more than your arms and legs. I read some books, watched some videos and practiced the drills til I could eventually swim several laps with less discomfort. I still struggled with distance and realized I needed a program similar to the c25k for swimming where I could slowly build up my mileage. I then discovered an online program which encouraged people to weekly do different interval sets, the goal being able to swim a mile non stop.
Eventually I got myself to a mile and decided I would try some open water swims. Where I live there are several weekend options for open water swim practices and as it was August I decided to try a session out at a local lake. First thing I realized involved the fact I could not see the bottom and the bottom was a ways down. I still remember putting on my goggles and studying the buoy pattern that was set up. The buoys were in a square pattern measuring about 500 meters. There were a few other options for distances, but the 500 meters sounded about right compared to my comfort level in the pool. As I started to swim for the first buoy I realized right away that open water did not equal pool swimming, I panicked and struggled as I got to the first buoy(detailed in 3 part series starting here). Unfortunately the season ended and I did not get much farther than a mile or so. I felt uncomfortable in open water heading into the winter.
The following year as the weather warmed up again and open swim practices started I vowed to practice as much as possible. I found two groups with opposing weekend swim practices and I worked on being more comfortable in the water. As the summer wore on and I competed in a few more triathlons I learned how to calm myself and prepare myself in the water before the start of the race. At this point I truly knew and understood what being a strong swimmer meant as I knew I could comfortably swim two miles in open water comfortably. I had learned how to keep calm and not panic. I had learned how to deal with the dullness of the stroke pattern. I learned how to be a triathlon swimmer.
The greatest moment of my swimming portion of the triathlon season was my final triathlon which had an ocean swim. I had never swam in the ocean with waves, riptides and whatever else. I was a bit nervous about it all, but I knew how to prepare and warm up and I treated it like any other swim. I went out the day before the race and swam in the water getting familiar with its feel. Race morning I went out and let my body feel the water and I mentally started to swim the race. In the end I finished that mile in 34 minutes and I hit what I think was a jellyfish. I had a great swim and felt in control the entire time. As a swimmer I had changed leaps and bounds with the season and I grew to love the swim and its challenges.
Numbers wise, the swim portion is my least quantitative element.
- I logged 78 hours and 75 miles of swimming.
- When I started, I was swimming about 1500 meters per session and my max distance was barely a mile. Since then I now swim 2000 to 3000 meters a session and can swim continuously for over 2 miles.
- Starting out I used to swim 100 meters in 2:26-2:30 and now I swim 100 meters in roughly 2:05-2:10 (I am faster in the open water).
- Started out wearing swim trunks to swim in – now I just live in my triathlon shorts as I can go from the spin bike to the pool without a clothing change, just a quick shower ( Still have an over hanging lower belly, just deal with it).
Right now my swimming has leveled off while I focus on weights and running. I am working ot keep some distance and speed work in, but instead plan to focus on good solid drill and technique work for December. Right now its starting to get cold and just thinking about open water swimming has me wanting to go swimming in a lake or ocean. I find the more open water swimming I do the less I want to be in the pool. But the pool has its place and come December I will be back there working on my form and preparing for the next season. Til next time,
Anybody have good off season advice for me to get better at the swim?
- 2013 Triathlon Season In Review: By the Numbers (chatterdoesfitness.wordpress.com)
- How You Can Swim Safer and Faster In Triathlons (crushingiron.com)
- 2013 Triathlon Season In Review – The Start Part 1 (chatterdoesfitness.wordpress.com)
- Mass Swim Start vs. Rolling Start (crushingiron.com)
- Best Advice I Can Think of for New Triathletes (miaprimacasa.com)
- AmeliaMan Olympic Triathlon Race Report: Not the End of Season I was Hoping For (chatterdoesfitness.wordpress.com)
- Tips for Overcoming the Open Water Monster (worktraincookeat.com)
- 2013 TRIATHLON SEASON IN REVIEW – Marching Towards Triathlon (chatterdoesfitness.wordpress.com)
- Race Recap: Beat the Heat Triathlon (angiesexcellentadventure.wordpress.com)