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Any Swimming Tips for a Thrashing Whale at the West Valley Rec Center?

White water - what the water looks like after I swim for three strokes

Over the last couple of weeks I have been working swimming into my strength training sessions. It will surprise absolutely no one who sees me that I am not an elegant gazelle in the pool. Note: I have no ideas if gazelles can swim, but gazelle-like has crept into my thesaurus several times and I have to submit to its call in my writing.

I’m no more of a graceful seal or an otter.

I don’t know how I could possibly be a more inefficient swimmer unless I swallowed a bunch of lead shot before wading in and I tried to swim in only six inches of water while tied to the edge.

So, for any of you who might have any swimming knowledge: any swimming tips for someone just getting started? Ways to make it easier/more efficient?

I am enjoying it immensely and have been astonished at just how challenging it is. Being weightless and having zero pressure on the spine is a glorious feeling. I don’t think I’ve ever swam more than 10 laps in one session but it is absolutely kicking my butt.

Who amongst you can steer me away from folly?


photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/amerune/

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  • Iain D December 12, 2011, 11:10 am

    I’ve had great results with “Total Immersion”. I was a very weak swimmer for years, but a few weeks with the program dramatically improved my technique. Before two lengths would have me completely out of breath, now I can do five with only slight tiredness.

    • Josh Hanagarne December 12, 2011, 11:25 am

      Iain, do you have swimming-related goals that you’re working on?

      • Iain D December 12, 2011, 12:19 pm

        Nothing specific. I started taking my son to the pool and I didn’t like not being able to swim properly. I did it long enough to be proficient, but haven’t spent much time on it after that, aside from my weekly swims with a seven year-old.

  • SNA December 12, 2011, 11:12 am

    Can only vouch a little bit for it (have been focused more on lifting than swimming myself recently) but have heard/read repeatedly that Total Immersion is a great program:


    • Josh Hanagarne December 12, 2011, 11:25 am

      Thank you. That’s two votes for Total Immersion.

  • Lesli M December 12, 2011, 1:46 pm

    Your absolute best bet is to have a coach help you. As good as TI is, nothing will replace having someone hands on. It’s worth it to pay for one month of lessons on stroke technique and breathing technique…especially if you are a beginning swimmer.

  • chris December 12, 2011, 3:37 pm

    Total immersion, glide more, for longer than you think.

  • Maggie December 12, 2011, 9:43 pm

    I have found that variety has worked the best for me when wanting to increase speed and skill. Having a guide to follow while swimming has helped me tons! I print out workouts from swimplan.com and put them in a ziploc bag to keep them safe while I swim. They offer one free workout per day which you can customize by time, skills and equipment available. I’ve gone from swimming less than half a mile to a full mile in 30 minutes. 🙂

  • Boris B December 13, 2011, 12:03 am

    Hi Josh,
    I was a swimmer and coach. A lot of people are fans of TI, and I think there’s a lot of good things to learn from the program. There are some free resources online (video and articles) by Terry Laughlin. It’d be worth a look.

    If you can find some competent coaching in your area it’d save a lot of time and problem solving on your part. They’d be able to give you quick pointers, drills, etc.

  • Casey December 13, 2011, 9:16 pm

    I swam breaststroke for the Colorado College about eight years ago. At the time I coached a couple of kids and adults and I really don’t have any magic bullets. I found it punishingly monotonous and eventually I gave it up and have never regretted leaving. But, there’s no denying it’s fine exercise and if you’re gonna do it there are a couple of basics you should know.

    These may be more basic or more advanced than you need but skim anything you don’t want.

    1. Get a pair of goggles that you like. if you find all goggles uncomfortable, congratulations, you are a normal human.

    2. Try to familiarize yourself with at least the breast, back and freestyle strokes. If you are not already a strong butterflier I would keep butterfly to a minimum. It is not the most difficult stroke (my opinion), but in a crowded pool with beginning level swimmers, I would hate to see you womp somebody in the face. I am a tall man myself and I have been on the giving and receiving end of butterfly punishment. Not fun.

    3. Track your progress in yardage and speed, not time spent in the pool.

    4. If you’re swimming over a thousand yards give yourself a lap to cool down. I don’t know if it prevents injury or promotes heart health, but it almost always feels good.

    5. If you have specific questions I would be happy to try and field them. Though a good swimmer who could watch you might be your best option for advice and coaching.