General Discussion Triathlon Talk » Swim: 0 to Hero Rss Feed  
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2013-05-21 9:50 AM


4

Subject: Swim: 0 to Hero
Hey guys,

I just ran my second half marathon in March and started swimming about a month ago with the hope of building a skill base to start training for a tri sometime in 2014. I took swim lessons as a kid but have never really swam laps or for exercise before. To start off I took a lesson with lifelong competitive swimmer just to get some stroke basics down. Since then I've been swimming 2-3x week in a pool for 30-45 minute sessions.

So far I have learned: swimming is hard! I am pretty surprised by how badly I am getting smoked by others around me in the pool. I am 28 yrs old, in decent shape, surf 2-3x week, and ran my last half in 1:45. To be honest, I am pretty winded after 50 yards of freestyle and the longest I have swam continuously so far is only 150 yards! Meanwhile little kids and senior citizens are putting me to shame in the neighboring lanes. Pretty humbling =).

Just curious if others who started with no swimming experience felt this way, and how long it took you to see real progress? Is this normal or am I just not in as good of shape as I think I am? Just took my second lesson, teacher says stroke looks pretty solid and I just need to put in yardage.

Thanks!


2013-05-21 9:52 AM
in reply to: SHREDSLED

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Subject: RE: Swim: 0 to Hero
Completely normal for an adult onset swimmer. Give it about six months.

See if you have a Masters program in your area. Talk to the coach and see if it might be a good fit for you. For many, Masters swimming is a game-changer.

2013-05-21 10:09 AM
in reply to: SHREDSLED

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Subject: RE: Swim: 0 to Hero
Been there. Finished 199th out 200 in the swim of my first tri. Winded in the pool every 25yards. I improved slowly over time, but figure 4-6 months of dedicated swimming (3-4x per week).

After some lessons, and slow steady build, you will get there!
2013-05-21 10:15 AM
in reply to: Swimbikeron

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Subject: RE: Swim: 0 to Hero
I have been doing this for nearly 4 years and i went from a gasper at every 25 m to doing 4500 nonstop swims.....however i am still slow 1:50-2:05/100 depending on distance......i have improved and continue to improve but still get crushed swimming-wise by many .......i am a good biker and runner but swimming is still my limiter...so you are not alone
2013-05-21 10:17 AM
in reply to: SHREDSLED

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Subject: RE: Swim: 0 to Hero
With absolutely no swimming background or training, I started to attempt to swim late last year. It took me a good solid 6 months to where I am now. If I remember correctly, it took me ~2 months for me to be able to swim 100 yards without stopping. Breathing and being not comfortable in the water was my main issue -- the lack of breathing and comfort caused my heart rate to skyrocket.

More time in the pool is what you need, give it a good 6 months.
2013-05-21 10:27 AM
in reply to: FELTGood

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Subject: RE: Swim: 0 to Hero
Originally posted by FELTGood

i went from a gasper at every 25 m


"Gasper", I think we should all adopt this term.

Hello, my name is Ron, and once was a Gasper.

There are probably more steps, but:
Gasper
Struggler
Non-Fish
Fish



2013-05-21 11:07 AM
in reply to: Swimbikeron

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Subject: RE: Swim: 0 to Hero
Originally posted by Swimbikeron

Originally posted by FELTGood

i went from a gasper at every 25 m


"Gasper", I think we should all adopt this term.

Hello, my name is Ron, and once was a Gasper.

There are probably more steps, but:
Gasper
Struggler
Non-Fish
Fish




I'm a solid Gasper and full time Struggler.
2013-05-21 11:10 AM
in reply to: SHREDSLED


4

Subject: RE: Swim: 0 to Hero
Thanks all. Now I don't feel so bad. Guess I have some work ahead of me!

Goosedog, I looked and there is a Master's program in my area. They run classes at the pool I am swimming at now so I will probably give it a try. Thanks for the tip!
2013-05-21 11:23 AM
in reply to: Swimbikeron

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Subject: RE: Swim: 0 to Hero
Very common what you are talking about. Your other activities really do not have any effect on how well of swimmer you are. You could run a supb 3 hour marathon and be able to bike at 25mph and it will for the most part have little to no impact on how well of a swimmer you are. I learned quickly that your fitness level has very little to do "at first" with your swimming. I started swimming in January for my first sprint tri in April. It was a humbling experience to say the least. I thought the first day I would jump in the pool and knock out 15 to 20 laps on my first shot. I got about 20 yards and thought i was going to die.

Getting better is all about getting to the pool as much as possible. I can't stress that enough. If you can go 4 days or more a week, that is huge. You will see gains much quicker than if you can only go once or twice a week. I am just going to throw this out there, I know a bunch of people on this site will disagree but after my first swim session I bought a finis snorkel and a pull buoy. I used the pool buoy to keep my hips level and my feet suspended and used the snorkel so I didn't have to worry about breathing (yet) and only worried about my stroke and technique. The very first time I swam with the snorkel I did 75 yards non stop. Only reason I stopped was because my technique was so bad that my arms were already getting tired. But it worked. I increased my yards per workout dramatically and my stroke improved quickly too. After a few weeks I ditched the snorkel and pull buoy. It was rough at first. i swallowed a lot of water learning to breath correctly but after about another 3 or 4 sessions with no tools to help me, I was swimming half descent. I still am not a fish, that will probably take years, but I went from starting in January and not being able to swim, to doing a mile non-stop in under 3 months and my fastest 100 yard time is 1' 35". its not amazing by a lot of the athletes terms on this site, but I am thrilled. All I can tell you is to stick with it and it will happen, but get to that pool as much as you can. The great thing about swimming is that it is pretty much hard to hurt yourself swimming as it is a low to non impact exercise. Good luck with it.
2013-05-21 12:19 PM
in reply to: SHREDSLED

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Subject: RE: Swim: 0 to Hero
You surely are not alone. I started swimming Jan 1 this year. First time in the pool I struggled to make it to the other end. My head was ALWAYS above the water. I couldn't get the breathing down and when I had my face in the water too long I became uncomfortable and got nervous and my breathing went crazy. For me it took me 4 solid months, roughly 45,000 yards, lots of videos watched and little tips taken from here, and while I'm by no means a good swimmer (heck I hardly consider myself a swimmer) I'm comfortable in the water and have swam close to 1 mile in a pool non-stop. The biggest thing that held me back was thinking I NEEDED to imrpove my times during training. Don't race yourself in the pool. Build up the yardage and before you know it, it will come together. Breathing, stroke, turns, they all just take time.
2013-05-21 12:26 PM
in reply to: SHREDSLED


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Subject: RE: Swim: 0 to Hero
I'm still no hero, but I definitely started off as a 0. Stick with it. There were days I'd come back from the pool completely discouraged, wondering how it was possible for me to suck so much at swimming. Just stick with it. You'll slowly build up endurance and then eventually the speed will follow. Some advice that may or may not help:
1) Ignore the swimmers in the lanes next to you. I know it's hard, but comparing yourself to them will only frustrate you. Trying to keep up with them is probably only making things worse. Slow down. Get comfortable.
2) Make sure you're not holding your breath. When I try to focus on different parts of my swim I usually forget about my breathing, which causes me to gasp, not letting me get a full breath. By the time I get to the end of the lane I'm completely winded. Try breathing out slowly as you swim, that way when you go to breath you don't have to waste time exhaling. Smooth, regular breaths really help.
3) Don't worry about your pace. Like I said, slow down. After you get comfortable in the water and are able to swim a few hundred yards at a time then you can start thinking about speed. When that time comes get Swim Speed Secrets by Sheila Taormina. Pretty cheap paperback on Amazon and my time has noticeably dropped after reading it.


2013-05-21 12:53 PM
in reply to: 0

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Subject: RE: Swim: 0 to Hero
I was in your exact position a little over a month ago. I was absolutely gasping for breath after just 25y. I couldn't even put my face in the water when I first started. I am doing a swim focus now and have improved greatly IMO. I can now bilaterally breathe. I am now able to do sets of 100y in about 1:40 with about 20 seconds between sets. My sprint speed is about 1:15/100y but that is unsustainable for any more than a 100y. I still struggle with sets longer than 300y (my longest being 500y) but I'm sure that will come around with a little more time in the pool. I have the speed but now I need to gain the endurance.

My advice to you is to do a swim focus and really work on your swimming 3-5x per week. 3 times a week should be a minimum in order to see progress initially. Take this for what its worth (which coming from me may not be worth much lol).

Good luck! I am going to keep an eye on this thread to see if there are any pointers that may benefit me as well.

Edited by fubar44 2013-05-21 1:00 PM
2013-05-21 1:28 PM
in reply to: SHREDSLED

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Miami, FL
Subject: RE: Swim: 0 to Hero
Been there as well. 31 year old here in good shape but didn't have much swim experience other than wakeboarding and swimming back to boat. Took me about 1 month (swimming 2-3 weekly) to do 100 yards at one time. Took me about 2 months to get to 400 yards and now I am 8 months in swimming and swim around 4 miles a week (2 OWS, 2 pool weekly). Speed is not all that great but that will come with refining form and continuous swimming.
2013-05-21 1:41 PM
in reply to: fubar44

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Subject: RE: Swim: 0 to Hero
Been there. Never took swimming lessons as a child, all I did before starting with triathlon was "survival" swimming = not drowning at the beach.

When I started I could barely swim 25 yards without stopping. I made my wife come with me for a couple of times (she was a swim coach in high school and swam in college) and she helped me a lot. After 2 months I could swim 500 yards straight, although my pace was around 2:15min/100y. After 5 months of swimming regularly is when I really started thinking that I was getting it. I joined a master swim class a month ago and now I can swim 1,500 yards at a 1:45min/100y pace, which is still slow compare to most people, but I am very happy with it.

Unless running and biking, where I saw quick gains after the first weeks of training, swimming takes time since it is the most technical and, in many cases, the sport least practiced before starting with triathlon. However, you will see that after you start getting it, you will like your swimming work outs the most.
2013-05-21 2:08 PM
in reply to: SHREDSLED


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Subject: RE: Swim: 0 to Hero
I'd watch every youtube vid you can regarding the swim.

The first item I'd work on is body position. You have to swim level.

Once you master that and can breathe properly then you need to work on catching the water. Speed is all about the catch and the ability to engage your body to power the catch / pull.

Watch more youtube videos.

I was in the same position 2 years ago. Based on years of aerobic conditioning I thought swimming would be a piece of cake. 50 yards later I felt differently...lol..

I have swam up to about 12K yds / week and the only way to get good and to get fit is to swim a LOT.
2013-05-21 4:48 PM
in reply to: SHREDSLED


4

Subject: RE: Swim: 0 to Hero
Well good to know I am not the only one! Thanks everyone for all the tips and the commiseration. I am going to switch my workout schedule around to target 4 swims a week. Have been watching youtube videos and will continue (amazing how you can learn just about anything on youtube these days). Also just contacted my local masters class to do a trial workout. Hopefully in 6 months time I'll start to get the hang of it!


2013-05-21 5:50 PM
in reply to: SHREDSLED

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Subject: RE: Swim: 0 to Hero
I agree with all the above. I started in October last year...gasping after 75 yards.

My steps:

1. Took a couple of lessons.

2. Worked on drills (catch-up, kick sets) to incorporate what I learned in the lessons. Lesson plans given to me by my instructor were anywhere from 1000-2000 yards per practice...it took some time to work up the 2000 yard practice (about 1.5 months of going 3-4 times a week). By the way, in triathlon specific swimming you don't kick a lot but you do need to employ kick sets in your practice to develop your core...an engaged core helps you maintain a level position in the water.

3. By doing the above and a) slowing down and b) reducing my kick, I was able to go 2000 yards nonstop in about 2 months (I'm 53 years old so I have that working against me too).

4. Joined a triathlon focused swim group in January...we're swimming 2500-3100 yards per practice.

Tools/Equipment you can use:

1. Swim jammers (you don't want to wearing anything baggy...it just increases your drag in the water)
2. Pull bouy (use to work on your catch and pull technique and for a recovery swim)
3. Fins (use to work on your kick technique) ...keep toes pointed, kick from your hips and not so much from your knees, You don't want to cut a wide swath with your kick...stay fairly streamlined.
4. Swim snorkle (use to maintain good body position while you're working on your kick)...it allows you to keep your head down; otherwise, your hips drop everytime you raise your head to breathe.



2013-05-21 9:49 PM
in reply to: SHREDSLED


5

Subject: RE: Swim: 0 to Hero
Definitely not the only one. I started in a 50 meter pool, so I was gasping on 50s instead of 25s, but the same basic deal. I was starting to regret paying for the sprint tri.

1. I found the Total Immersion freestyle video useful. Didn't go through all of the drills in the water, but watching and visualizing helped. It's very focused on body position, but I think a good place to start and get comfortable in the water and getting to the air for breathing. You may not choose their video, but if you want to go the video or book route, I would pick one and focus on it rather that getting lots of voices from different places at first. There's plenty of time for that for later as you work on different elements of your stroke.

2. Slow down - don't worry about how fast everyone else is swimming. It may not feel right at first, but one day I slowed down a lot, and went from struggling to finish 200s to easily swimming 500s and quickly ramped up to 1000m non-stop. You want to swim fast laps too, but you need different gears. If you're bent over and out of breath after running a 7 minute mile, you don't try to run a marathon at the same pace.

3. Master's programs are good things, but you may want to wait to start - our warm up is 6-800 meters - that was longer than my whole work out for a while. I recommend waiting until you are comfortable swimming 1000-1500 meter workouts before you start. But if you slow down and swim 3-5 times a week this may not take that long. The first workout or two will hurt but you will adapt.

4. Start good habits now. I regret not practicing breathing to both sides more when I started, and I paid for it during a point to point swim with the wind and waves coming in from my right and crashing into my face the whole swim. Doesn't necessarily mean every third stroke, you can switch sides every lap, but it's easier to learn from the start than to change later.

Stick with it and you will improve, my first sprint was 2:45/100m pace for 550 meters and I could barely jog to my bike. 8 months later - with a chunk of time light on the swimming while I trained for my first half marathon - and 3 1/2 months with the masters swim group and my 1/2 Ironman swim was 1:58/100m, and I had no problems running through transition.
2013-05-22 12:29 PM
in reply to: Grat

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Subject: RE: Swim: 0 to Hero
I am a beginner swimmer and I was struggling to swim 25 yards a month ago. I am fit and I knew it wasn't aerobic conditioning, but technique. I was gasping for breath after 25 yards, sometime forcing myself to go 50 yards, but I thought I was going to hyperventilate or die. I was taking a tri swim course at the Y, which wasn't very helpful because it was too advanced for someone like myself who couldn't swim a single lap. I spent some time reading BT and watching videos, convinced I could figure it out on my own. Luckily, I went on vacation and the hotel had a large outdoor pool. I spent 2 hours a day doing drills and trying suggestions regarding breathing and 4 days into vacation had an "AHA!" moment and figured out my breathing.

I went from being able to swim 25 yards to being able to swim 500 yards non stop (albeit slowly) in a single pool session. Two things that solved my breathing problem (which I read on BT)-- 1) Exhale continuously and completely from the moment I put my face in the water and 2) keep my glide arm out until I have taken my "bite" of in-breath. What I was doing before was starting to pull before I even had my mouth out of the water so I couldn't even get a half-breath and I wasn't exhaling much at all underwater so for the limited time my mouth was out of the water I was exhaling and inhaling. No wonder I was gasping for breath.

Anyhow, I'm certainly no expert, but I would recommend focusing on figuring out breathing first. Now that I can breathe, I can focus on everything else that is wrong with my stroke.
2013-05-22 2:06 PM
in reply to: SHREDSLED

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Subject: RE: Swim: 0 to Hero
Just so you know, this phenomenon is not limited to swimming. I am a very strong swimmer and a better than average cyclist. Now put me on my feet and I SUCK! I am making progress and it is the same as the advice above. It takes time and consistency.

Get in the pool at least three days a week. The cardio is different than running or riding but that will help some. Work on form and rhythm. Six months from now you will feel much better about it.
2013-05-22 2:22 PM
in reply to: SHREDSLED

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Master
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Subject: RE: Swim: 0 to Hero

This is BT afterall, and many, many of us started as novice swimmers, myself included.  I was older, mid to late 30s when I got into this sport.  I found a lot of value in Total Immersion products (books/videos).  I then joined a masters group and made definite improvement there.

Now a few years later, I swim with former college swimmers at masters.  I've developed into a regionally competitive age group swimmer on the cusp of qualifying for USMS age group Nationals.  I say that not to give props to myself, but to show that there are people out there who got into swimming later in life than you are now who've developed into stand alone competitive swimmers.  So don't give up hope!



2013-05-22 3:18 PM
in reply to: Ridgelake

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Subject: RE: Swim: 0 to Hero
Another one here - I didn't swim at all (pathetic doggy paddle in the shallow end didn't count). I echo what many other have said. In my particular case consistency and dedication were key, I think. Being in the pool once a week won't cut it.

Once I had the basics down I picked up the beginner swim plan from this site (the three month one designed by gsmacleod) and dragged my butt to the pool and did all of it.

The 'aha' moment for me in particular was learning to relax when swimming. It made a huge difference in effort. It's hard to explain but i did slow down a bit but I found that sweet spot where I could get enough breath, not worry about drowning and then all that endurance I had from running really paid off and I could just keep going and going.

And my other bit of advice is to take as long as you need to build up. Being a distance runner its easy to expect yourself to jump up in distance quickly. If it's not coming t ogether then start with the shortest distance tri swim you can find. After my first few tris I really wasn't sure if i would ever relax in the open water but continuing to set goals and force myself out there really helped me to face it head on.

For me it was four years from shallow end exile to Ironman. I am still no 'hero' swimmer but I did finish an Ironman last year without panicking and came in spot on to the time I thought I would. It was HUGE accomplishment.
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