Tag Archives: Swimming

Swimming

Well I haven’t written much about running here lately, and while I’m loath to discuss any injuries lest I come across as dispensing medical advice, truth is I’ve been nursing a bad case of quadriceps tendinitis.  I’ve been feeling much better, but I am on a break from running until the weather gets a little more tolerable.

But, that’s okay, because it’s forced me to reconnect with my first true love:  swimming!

Growing up around the water, my parents forced me in the pool at a very young age, and it is one of the things in life I am eternally grateful for.  I’ve never been an especially talented swimmer, but I’ve always been completely comfortable in the water, and I know that even when I’m out of shape or injured I can always turn to swimming  :).

It is a challenging, full-body workout that is also almost zero-impact, so it’s gentle on your joints.  It seems to me like runners are always complaining about their injuries, or worrying about how to prevent them.  In my 13 years of competitive swimming, I can count on one hand the number of people who were injured as a result of swimming.  It’s reassuring to know that I’ll always be a swimmer, no matter what.

Swimming:  the basics

At a minimum you need a bathing suit, obviously.  If you don’t care about the design, you can get a “grab bag” swimsuit, chosen at random among last year’s styles, for a reasonable price at swimoutlet.com.

I also consider a cap and goggles essential.  I am kind of partial to TYR goggles myself, but you may need to experiment with a few different brands and styles before you find one that fits and does not leak.  If your hair is cropped extremely short, you may be able to get away without a cap, but it will still create significant drag and slow you down considerably, making things much more difficult.  Use a silicone cap and stay away from the latex!  Oucchhhh.

My pool has kickboards and pull buoys available for use, but you don’t necessarily need one.  You can always just hold your arms out in a streamline position in front of you — and also, just not use your legs! Fins are also helpful in improving your kick, but they’re not necessary.

Additionally, don’t forget to stay hydrated.  Many people assume that because you’re in the water, you don’t need to be drinking it as much — not true!  Bring a water bottle to practice just as you would with any other sport.

Swimming can be a challenge to the uninitiated.  Water has 12x the resistance of air, and learning to work with it, and not against it, is key to moving efficiently and not exhausting yourself after just a few laps.  If you are completely new to swimming, I recommend signing up for a few sessions with a coach or trainer.  Learning proper technique is extremely important and will make a huge difference in your workouts.

There are also videos online that show proper technique, so do google some of those if you’re curious.

One problem I encounter, and judging by the number of people taking up precious lanes by floating lazily on their backs, it is a common problem — the pool has a tendency to bring out a more relaxed attitude.  I do this too.  You go to get a good workout in, but you don’t push yourself enough, because it’s the pool, and it’s fun!  Which is fine, sometimes, but if your goal is really to get a good cardio workout, improve your speed, and burn some calories, I recommend having a plan.

I have recently discovered www.swimplan.com, and it has really improved my workouts.  Registration is free for basic access to the site; you simply enter in a few of your stats and preferences, and it comes up with a new customized workout every day.  Here are a few recent examples I’ve used:

 

Having a plan also helps break up the monotony of a workout and makes the time fly by.  One thing I hate about running is that it is just so BORING!  I never get bored when I’m swimming though, as long as I’m breaking things into smaller chunks.  Most pools also have big analog or digital timers so that you can time your intervals, but bringing your own stopwatch might be helpful if you have one.

Swimming is truly a lifetime sport, so don’t be intimidated!  Hop in the pool and go!

-R

 

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Swim Bike Run

Well I have finally decided on my next major fitness goal to work toward:  I just signed up for the Iron Girl triathlon in August 2011.  This is an all-women sprint triathlon that is held in several locations around the country; I am registered for the event in Maryland.

I know never say never, but I really have no interest in training for a marathon or other long distance races.  I scarcely have the patience to do any one thing for 4+ hours, so why would I want to put myself through the torture of RUNNING for that long? 🙂  But breaking a long race into three separate sections is something my short attention span can handle.  I think.

I still have numerous questions bouncing around in my head.  For one, I am most comfortable with the swim portion (though am inexperienced with open water swimming).  So that begs the question, do I concentrate on the swim in order to get a better time, since it is my strongest suit, or do I spend less time on it since I will need more training in the other events?  My cheapness about paying the pool admission fee also comes into play here…

The bike portion is what worries me the most.  It is a hilly course and my bike is this big, honking hybrid that is NOT good on hills!  I purchased it only a few years ago for commuting on poorly maintained trails.  It made sense for me then.  But now I wish I’d had the foresight to choose a bike more appropriate for racing.  But again, I am cheap, and I hate to splurge on a fancy new road bike when I can’t be sure this is a hobby I’ll continue for years to come.  How much of a difference does the type of bike really make?  I hear mixed opinions on this.  For now I think I will stick with my hybrid, be sure to include a lot of hills in my training, and see how things go.

In general I tend to be a minimalist when it comes to accumulating fitness gear — or at least I try to be — my growing collection of activewear would speak otherwise!  I do use my phone to track my mileage through the GPS, and I also think it is crucial to have a properly fitting pair of shoes.  So far, however, I’ve avoided the temptation of expensive GPS trackers, heart rate monitors, $100 compression tights, etc.  But it seems that signing up for this triathlon might test that.  There is an absolutely overwhelming array of clothing, equipment and accessories specific to triathlons and it’s hard to know what is essential and what I can do without.

Oh my.  Good thing I have nine months to get ready for this.  Unless I decide to add additional races into my schedule — there are just so many out there around here and they all sound so fun!  If there are any seasoned triathletes out there reading this, I’d love to hear your advice!

-R