Category Archives: Swimming

Stretching while swimming

Having been away for a week and a half, firstly to London for 3 days and then to Cape Town for the best part of a week, it was good to get back in the pool again today. 70 lengths of a 25m pool was easily the most I’ve swum in one session, which I did in a few seconds over 40 minutes, although there was 30 minutes of stuff on top as I was there with Rebecca who I’m helping to learn the crawl, despite me not knowing it too well myself.

However I made a bit of a breakthrough right at the end with my stroke. I’ve known that the goal is to stretch forward as much as possible as this means you’re pulling the most amount of water and thus going further per stroke, but despite me thinking I was doing this, it turned out I was not. Quite simply, I wasn’t turning my body enough each stroke, and by turning a little more each stroke I was able to both breathe even easier and to reach even further. This made an immediate difference to how fast I was going; when I was expecting to be at a certain point in the pool after 9 strokes, or at best 8, I was there easily with 7. I kept it going and was able to continue repeating it for a few lengths in a row.

This is a definite bonus, because I was starting to wonder whether I’d stop improving at some point, or indeed whether I had already stopped improving, and thus whether I needed to go to a swim coach for further improvements. However, I do still seem to be managing to make my technique better from books and videos and practice, and I’m clearly getting stronger because my torso and pecs are starting to look quite impressive. To someone who is as vain as myself, maybe that’s not a good thing…

Shoulder not happy after swim

Went swimming yesterday and today with Rebecca, so I could help her improve her front crawl. Note I’m still quite useless, but I have enough knowledge to give her some tips as she’s really just starting to learn it. However, after today’s session where I was putting much more emphasis onto pulling myself through the water, I appear to have hurt my right shoulder a bit.

This is the shoulder that was permanently buggered in my badminton playing days, which I had to retire from after my physio finally told me I either had to quit, or get surgery which would prevent me having full use of my shoulder, which would of course mean I would have to also quit. So a quit / quit option – not the best set of options to be given. Anyway, what’s done is done, but my shoulder has never been that stable since those days, mainly because I opted for the “no surgery” option.

The swimming today seems to have loosened it a little, and it’s a bit painful when I extend my arm now. Hopefully it’ll settle down after a couple of days of rest. The swim itself was awesome; I’m getting better at left side breathing, and I managed 4 lengths with only 9 right-hand strokes each, which is the first time I’ve managed single digit stroke lengths.

Swimming just got easier

This week has seen a significant breakthrough in terms of swimming. Before Wednesday, the most I had ever swum without stopping was 300 metres, and when I finished that I was absolutely exhausted. Then, on Wednesday, I decided that my aim was to try to swim while breathing left. This I managed with relative ease, so had a bit of a practice of that for a few lengths, and then just kept on swimming. I realised I hadn’t been counting the lengths I had swum, which I usually do, because I had been concentrating on the different breathing technique, but I also realised that I didn’t feel tired or out of breath, which is very strange, because I usually start running out of breath after about 8 lengths. I eventually decided to stop so I could see how many lengths I had gone – 16. So, 400 metres. A new PB. It was amazing.

Today, I thought I’d try the same thing again, although this time to actually count the lengths I was doing. Now, normally I’d have done something different, such as sets of 4 lengths to improve my speed, but I wanted to see whether what happened on Wednesday was a fluke, or whether I could repeat it… because swimming actually felt easy for the first time in my life.

What do I mean by easy? Well, I can describe it fairly simply. “Not dying” has been my only tactic up to this point. I have never been able to swim with any level of confidence (or skill), and merely breathing has always been the major issue, in terms of not managing to get enough oxygen into my lungs. But on Wednesday, I seemed to be able to do it without any problem.

Therefore, today I got in the pool to see if I could hit 16 lengths, and I managed it again with ease, so kept going. By the time I was on length 22, I knew I was able to get to my ultimate goal of 30 lengths, which is what I need to do so that I can enter a sprint triathlon, leaving me merely to then get fast enough to do it inside 20 minutes. And guess what – I managed it in 19:33. Winner.

Needless to say, I’ve entered the next available triathlon, which is in April. Looks like I’ll need to get my running shoes out again :)

This week also saw a good number of miles, mainly on the bike, with a solid 117 added on to the year’s total:

miles-comparison

10 weeks swim status

Looking back at my stats, I realise that I only really started to try to learn to swim properly on 15-Dec-13. The goal I have for 2014 is to do a triathlon, and to do that, I needed to learn to swim. 10 weeks in, things are definitely getting better.

Stats so far are that I’ve only swum 16 times in the 10 weeks. Christmas and going to St Louis have prevented me hitting the full 21 times that I would have wanted to have gone, if I was going twice per week, but missing 5 sessions is not the end of the world. The good thing is that I am making progress.

I’m taking tips from my running training in that I am not just doing the same thing each time I go. Sometimes I will go and do sets of 4 lengths and try to do each set quickly. I’m then knackered at the end of each set, but that’s the point. Other times, I will do long sets of lengths, such as today when I did 10 lengths per set, and thus only did four sets to do my 1km. The time it takes me to do that, in terms of actual swimming time, is longer, because I’m not going as fast, but I am working on having a steady technique.

When I first started swimming back in December, the length of time it took me to do each length fluctuated wildly. Sometimes I’d do a length in 34 seconds, and then two lengths later I’d do a 49 second length, taking many more strokes to do so. Lately, things have been much more even. Today all my lengths were between 11 and 13 strokes (although Garmin Connect claims between 12 and 14, but I know better as I now count them during my swim). Timings have also become a lot more stable, too.

I’m not at the point where I can do 750m in one go. Right now, I need three sets to do that, having 2 rests of a couple of minutes between each set. But considering where I was just 10 weeks ago, it’s a big step forward.

One reasonably cool thing that happened today was to do with how many people were in each lane. When I turned up, there was only one guy in the slow lane, and no-one in the fast lane, so I went in the fast lane. The guy in the slow lane got out reasonably soon, so I was the only person using either lane. Then, by the time I got out, there were five people in the slow lane, and no-one else had come into my lane. When I finished, I watched the 5 of them to see whether I was truly faster than all of them, and I was. Now, I appreciate I’m still pretty slow, but that was a nice wee confidence booster.

Miles Comparison, Week 5

Another jump ahead this week, but this is probably where it’s going to either stop jumping ahead, or even go down over the next 4 weeks, as I clearly stepped things up a bit at this point last year. This week should be easy to match with just 67 miles. The next week, 90 miles, I won’t get anywhere near as I won’t be able to cycle to work that week (more on that later). So, I’m currently 112 miles ahead after 5 weeks, but if I’m still 100 miles ahead at 9 weeks, I’ll be lucky.

miles_comparison

Breathing is getting easier

My breathing when I’m swimming is definitely getting easier. The past couple of weeks at least, I’ve been getting out of the pool with parts of my body feeling a light bit achey. Not necessarily sore, but they definitely feel like they have been working out. This didn’t used to happen. I think this is largely because I wasn’t working my body hard enough because I couldn’t swim for long enough without running out of breath. But now, I seem to have figured out how to breathe, at least to my right hand side, such that I can keep going for longer periods of time.

Today’s swim was a good example of this. I did about 5 sets of 8 lengths, but at the end of the 8th one, I decided I didn’t want to stop, so I did another couple. I was at that point going to get out of the pool, but didn’t because I felt like I wanted to try to embed some techniques that I have been working on a little more. I suspect I didn’t manage that, but still, another 46 lengths of a 25m pool, and it didn’t feel too bad.

I’m getting there, slowly.

Miles Comparison

Last year, I came pretty close to doing 4000 miles in terms of running, cycling, walking and swimming, in that I made it to 3935 miles. This year, I’m going to try to beat that, which shouldn’t be too difficult so long as I don’t injure myself like I did last year. That said, this year I am concentrating more on learning to swim for the first few weeks or months, which clearly doesn’t put a lot of miles in the tank, but I am also going to be doing more cycling this year since I don’t have a marathon to train for.

This year, I’m 3 weeks in and I’ve edged ahead of last year’s weekly totals:

miles_comparison

After week 2, I was about 12 miles down, but after week 3 I am 24 miles up, mainly because last year I must’ve not cycled as much during that week. It should be pretty close until week 10, when I stopped doing any exercise due to the crash, at which point I should shoot well ahead in the miles count.

Breathe out, don’t blow out

My swimming technique is definitely improving. I’m swimming twice a week at the moment, I did consider a third time this week but it was Friday night and I was knackered, but twice a week is making a difference pretty much every time I go.

I think I sussed something out regarding the breathing today. Breathing has always been my major issue with swimming because I feel like I’m running out of breath and I have to stop. The longest I have ever gone without stopping was 8 lengths of a 25m pool, which I did once last Sunday, so today I decided I would try to do 10. I did that, then followed it up with 4 x 8 lengths, which is a significant improvement over previous attempts. So I managed 42 lengths, and stopped just four times. Normally, I’d have to stop at least eight times.

When I was doing the third set of lengths, something came to mind in terms of how I was breathing. When I was blowing out in the water, I wasn’t actually breathing out, I was merely blowing out, so it felt like I was blowing out the oxygen I had inhaled one second before. I then concentrated on actually breathing out, and suddenly that made my breaths in feel like they were actually doing something. It also made me feel slightly more nervous, because now I really didn’t have much air in my body, and I always have this fear that I’m going to drown if I can’t breath in right at the very second I need to, which, let’s face it, isn’t really going to happen, but is something I need to work through. So, aside from that fear, breathing like this suddenly seemed to be making it feel like I was getting oxygen to my muscles, which in turn made them feel much better.

For the last set of 8 lengths, I was only going to do 6 lengths so that I could get to 1km, but coming towards the end of the 6th one, I felt like going on was no problem, so I did. The last length felt a bit tough, but I think that’s mainly because my body by this point was getting pretty tired, yet I didn’t feel I was going to drown. Getting rid of that feeling, assuming I ever do, is going to be such a winner.

And now, back home, for the first time I feel like my body has actually been working. That’s never happened before after swimming. Every other time, I get home and I feel totally fine. Today, I feel like I have had a workout, which is a great sign because it suggests that my body has been working harder, which I’m putting down to (you guessed it) the oxygen intake improving.

We’ll see on Wednesday, when I next go swimming, whether this theory is valid or not.

2013: The Year of Injuries and Broken Bones

The main recurring topic of this year has been injuries, including a few broken bones. The reality is that this probably isn’t being unlucky, but more a lack of care and an increase in activities which have accounted for them all. So, what has been happening this year?

  1. 15-Jan – bike tumble, broken finger
  2. 06-Mar – bike crash, broken wrist, broken thumb, dislocated humerus etc
  3. 27-Jul – right foot injury, out of action for 5 weeks
  4. 25-Aug – toenail falls off, lolz
  5. 25-Aug – left foot injury, out of action for 10 days
  6. 15-Sep – broken right forefinger, swimming, lolz
  7. 13-Oct – left foot injury, out of action for 3 weeks
  8. Mid November – broken rib, caused by eldest daughter putting her full weight on my ribcage via her knee

Yeah, I’m hoping this doesn’t become a regular scenario. Lessons to be learnt?

  1. Don’t go round corners on my bike too aggressively when it is wet
  2. Learn to swim properly so I don’t punch the hand rail because my technique is so poor
  3. Run less, or at least shorter distances
  4. Don’t wrestle with eldest daughter

No doubt I will find other ways to injure myself, but what’s the alternative – staying in and doing nothing?

Is the trick to breathing to not think about breathing?

I went back to the swimming pool tonight since yesterday’s swim had not been particularly successful, especially with regard to the breathing aspect. Breathing was back to how it was last Tuesday, in that it was much easier. Indeed, the swim tonight was vastly better, which was mainly emphasised by the stats recorded by the 910xt.

The main thing I was realising while swimming my lengths was quite simple; if I concentrated on some other aspect of technique, such as “skating”, or extending my body length, then breathing became almost effortless, whereas yesterday all I could think about was breathing, and my inability to do it. So if I stop thinking about it, and concentrate on other stuff, that actually seems to help. Bizarre, but if that’s all it takes, that’ll work for me.

Last Tuesday, when I did sets of 4 lengths over and over, the difference between the first and the fourth length was significant; as much as 9 seconds each time. Tonight, the difference in the 4 lengths was a lot closer, quite often only 4 seconds different, and often the slowest length was not the last one, either.

Added to this was the stroke count; the Garmin only counts each time my watch hand (therefore my right hand) does a stroke, and last time it recorded an average of 15 strokes per length, whereas today it recorded 13 strokes on average. That’s a massive difference, and especially pleasing as I was really concentrating on two things – skating and keeping my body long. These are aspects from the TI videos and book that I’ve mentioned before. I was therefore concentrating quite a lot on trying to keep my left arm extended while I breathed, which wasn’t working perfectly I have to be honest, but was working better than it had done before.

One other thing I was doing, mainly to ensure I didn’t tire myself out, was when I was using my hips and core to rotate from side to side. Instead of doing this really quickly, I rotated slowly so that it essentially pulled my arm through the water, because I think what I was doing yesterday was rotating too quickly and therefore not getting the benefit of the power in my stroke.

So all in all, a big improvement from yesterday when I think I was attempting to go faster by trying harder, and today proved that I will go faster if I just concentrate on my technique. Once I have that a lot more sorted out, I will then work on doing my strokes faster, because I proved tonight that if I do that, I can indeed go faster; I did 2 lengths at the end with a faster turnaround of strokes, and did the lengths around 8 seconds faster than other lengths, and the last one with only 12 strokes too, so I’m definitely feeling like progress is being made.

And considering I have now been swimming 2 days in a row… well, I’m fairly sure that’s never happened outwith a holiday to CenterParcs!