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LateComer
September 28th, 2008, 12:50 PM
Hi...I feel somewhat intimidated posting here. I am late comer to swimming and a true beginner. I am a 43 year-old male who just took his first real swimming lessons at the Y (SF Bay Area) this summer. It was great. On the day I left, I swam 100y nonstop for the first time (although just barely).

Just today I had somewhat of a breakthrough at my condo lap pool (42m long). I had been swimming 8-20 laps of freestyle, one lap at a time. This evening, out of nowhere I swam 8 laps nonstop (340m). My previous best had been 2 laps. I should have pushed for 10, but I wimped out. Nevertheless, I was so excited that I joined this forum.:bliss:

Since the summer at the Y, I have been on my own without supervision. So I really am experimenting on each lap. What seemed to work was looking further back to the 7:30 position and trusting myself not to hurry with the stroke. For the first time, I did not feel as if making it across the pool was THE goal. In any event, I am sure this is like learning how to walk for you all, but I am almost to the point of being able to say "I know how to swim," something I have wanted to say and believe my entire life.

A couple of other things. I am many pounds out of shape but lost 30+ pounds this summer. And I am not very flexible at all (getting better with swimming?). My work schedule makes swimming a Wed-Monday affair, and often only Thurs-Sun.

OK..that should be enough background. My query. In lieu of finding a good teacher, what are some basic tips, online aids, links, etc. that you can recommend for an ultra beginner? I am an ex-engineer, so I like knowing what the heck I am doing (I once tried a teacher, who simply said "Don;t worry, just swim more and with less break and you'll get it--at this point I had no idea whatsoever and could only go 10m before dying). I have no one watching me, just my feel through the water and my fatigue.

Things I wish I knew more about (from my eyes) please excuse the laymen's terms..

Front Crawl
-----------
* kicking--how much? How hard? what should I be thinking?
* arms--apparently, my arms are pretty straight. But when I try to get that bent-elbow, I feel as if I am rushing and getting far less per stroke.
* Pulling underwater, esp on the side I am not breathing. LOL! Sometimes my arms sits there like a rudder!
* body position when I am pulling on the opposite side as my breathing. Should my chest be perpendicular to the pool bottom or should by chest dip down at the left pec.
* coming down into the water and extending my arms: I have been tryign not to slap the water but knife through. But if I don;t flatten my plam after entry I feel I need to increase the speed of my stroke for fear of sinking.

Back
----
I enjoyed learning backstroke at the Y, as it was easy to gauge my position and distance using the roof beams. Now I have only the open air and distant buildings. Since coming back home, I had trouble leeping water from flowing over my face and nose. I am either looking too far forward or looking to far back. In the past I would get in position to try to pull too hard, and was told to mellow that part out so as not to dip my shoulders. Any basic recommendations for how to stay focused?


In any case, I am sure the list of problems would increase by 10 fold were any of you to see me in the pool itself, but those are the six points that nag at me.

Any links, tips, etc,. would be awesome.

Sincere Thanks, LateComer

P.S. I do scan the web when I can and I will so a bunch of searches on this forum. But if there is anything that might be advice suitable to my particulars, it would be much appreciated. Cheers!:wine:

lynnwa
September 28th, 2008, 11:36 PM
LateComer - Welcome back to the water! You are so fortunate to reside in one of the best areas for open water swimming! I would suggest joining your area Masters swim program where you can receive coaching help with your specific concerns. This forum is very helpful too. Good luck!

geochuck
September 29th, 2008, 08:13 AM
LateComer it is very difficult to sink in the water. Just try it sometime. Take a good breath of air then try to sit on the bottom in about 4 feet of water. You will find the water pushes you to the surface.

Here is a thread to look at http://forums.usms.org/showthread.php?t=10416&highlight=beginner

rtodd
September 29th, 2008, 01:55 PM
Took swimming lessons at the beach for one year when I was 7. Then started swimming four years ago at age 40. It can be done.

Surround yourself with people who know how to swim and then try to keep up. Eventually you will. Join a masters group. If you can't do either of those, watch videos and then copy what they do.

It takes at least 3-4 years to really "get it".

laineybug
September 29th, 2008, 06:13 PM
I'm sure others will be along to give you some advice, but I'll tell you what helped me with eleminating the rushing the stroke to keep from sinking feeling and lengthing your stroke.

I bet you learned this in your swimming lessons too.

Did you do the catch up drill? You hold one hand out in front until your recovering hand 'touches' the one that you are holding out in front. When you do this slowly you will feel off balance and like you are going to sink... at least that was my sensation.

Press your chest down, lean on your armpit, it will cause your hips to float up and you won't get as much of that sinking (lol) feeling. In this position some folks describe they feel like they are swimming down hill. I don't feel like that I feel like I am pushing through the water very powerfully AND easily.

Lainey

peeterdeeter
September 29th, 2008, 11:49 PM
Hey Late Comer-

Great job. It is very, very hard to start swimming. I swam when I was younger for a couple years then I took 10 years off. I quit smoking 12 months ago and started swimming 10 months ago. It was one of the HARDEST THINGS I'VE EVER DONE. I felt like dying everyday.

But after 7 months of training, I made my Olympic Trials cuts in two events and placed 25th in my best event at trials. Granted, I am highly athleticly oriented and only 23, but it is the best thing I have ever done for my health both physically and emotionally.

Just take it slowly and anything is possible. One year ago I thought I might be dying, I was coughing up black stuff and couldn't even jog a mile. Now, I lost to Michael Phelps by exactly 3 seconds at trials and I am already over a second faster than I was two months ago.

I think if you work hard at swimming and do at least a little more and go little harder everyday, you will soon find yourself highly accomplished at it. Have confidence, and in regards to your stroke just do what feels right. Don't overthink it. I sure don't, and I think it has worked well(What I really mean is I can't explain how to swim, I just mimic what I see others doing). Good luck!

Oh, and I train at Stanford. They have a great master's program. I don't swim with them but Tim Edmonds is a great guy/coach that runs a huge master's program. I sometimes see maybe 50 swimmers or more there on any given morning at 5AM. If you live near there give it a thought.

alphadog
September 30th, 2008, 05:43 PM
Front Crawl
-----------
* kicking--how much? How hard? what should I be thinking?
Look for Ande's "Swim Faster Faster Thread". He explains this much better than I could.

* arms--apparently, my arms are pretty straight. But when I try to get that bent-elbow, I feel as if I am rushing and getting far less per stroke.
* Pulling underwater, esp on the side I am not breathing. LOL! Sometimes my arms sits there like a rudder!
* body position when I am pulling on the opposite side as my breathing. Should my chest be perpendicular to the pool bottom or should by chest dip down at the left pec.
* coming down into the water and extending my arms: I have been tryign not to slap the water but knife through. But if I don;t flatten my plam after entry I feel I need to increase the speed of my stroke for fear of sinking.


It sounds like most of your problems start with your head position. Make sure that you are not raising your head, especially when you breathe. You should be looking at the bottom of the pool with your head in line with your spine. I don't think this can be overemphasized since you can think of your body as a lever with the fulcrum at chest level due to the air in your lungs. A VERY small change in head position can make your hips sink. Likewise, pressing down with straight arms will lift your upper body causing your hips to sink. If you are doing this to prevent the feeling of your upper body sinking into the water, you are fighting a losing battle.


Your breathing should be a natural extension of shoulder roll.

A long, long time ago a coach instructed me to imagine that I was reaching over a barrel to get the proper "catch" position at the front of my stroke.

I think there are a couple of concepts that will help you immensely:

1. Neutral head position.
2. Front Quadrant Swimming (FQS)
3. Swimming "downhill"

Here are a couple of links:

http://www.usms.org/articles/articledisplay.php?a=81 (http://www.usms.org/articles/articledisplay.php?a=81)
http://www.students.stedwards.edu/fsarosd/freestyle.htm (http://www.students.stedwards.edu/fsarosd/freestyle.htm)

I'm sure you can find more and there are tons of videos on YouTube. I will caution you that there is some garbage online too. There are many knowlegeable (more than me!) people on this forum, so keep posting any questions you have.

Good luck,

Mike

norascats
October 1st, 2008, 08:01 PM
Advice to a beginner.
1. Don't try to do too much at once.
2. And streamline. Streamlining is what makes you go through the water with lss effort, and makes effort give you more.
3. Practice, practice, practice.
Swim where good swimmers swim. Watch what they do and try to copy it.( I'm not too good at that and need someone to help me)
Take movies of your swimming and compare your stroke to good swimmers.
Most of all---Have Fun!

mjgold
October 1st, 2008, 08:32 PM
I learned to front crawl by watching this (http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=f6qIhkuzTx0) over and over again.

LateComer
October 11th, 2008, 12:10 PM
Hi everyone,

Thanks for your support and advice. After I posted, the market meltdown drove me 5.5 feet under and my swimming was set aside. But, I will try to absorb all these things and try them in the pool. Also I will look at all the URL links. Thank you.

Nevertheless, some good news to report. I went out two days ago and swam 1000 meters nonstop! 24@42m. It was wild. For the first time, I could actually relax and think of things other than swimming.

Today, I swam 6x4@42m, 1x2@42m as fast as I could, and then 2x8@42m. Over a mile. It was never difficult. I know I am a real beginner, but it really feels great to be able to swim without fear and without thinking just about surviving. So I am really game on trying to truly learn how to do things right.

I will spend the week working on a few things including flip turns and try to swim a mile nonstop. Let's see!!

LC


mjgold-thanks I will do the same!

norascats--I agree on all fronts and will do my best.

alphadog-thanks! I will try to see whether this is what I am doing. LOL!! It is funny how little I actually know about what I am doing. It does not help that we have no camcorder.

peeterdeeter--that is incredible! A generation ago I would have described myself in the same way, but making the Trials? Awesome! I wish I could be at Stanford no...although I am from the area, I actually reside overseas in Singapore...was at the Y to get my "first steps"

laineybug--I am admittedly terrible at practising. I just swim. I need to work in drills. I did do the cathc up drill, but have not done so for a while. I will try that and gain a similar sensation! Thx!

rtodd--I will do my best. When I was a runner, I loved running with peers. Never felt like a workout. I need to find someone in our building willing to go the same route.

lynnwa--Hopefully...I can find a Singaporean proxy for Stanford.

geochuck--much is in my head, I know. Here is what I was noticing, when I breathe to the left, my right arm inside of being out in front gliding (as I imagine it to be), drops down to 45% (pointing down and front). Why can't I keep my right arm in front of me? When I am not breathing and the arms are reversed I can more easily glide. I will try the things in the posts...

nkfrench
October 13th, 2008, 11:35 AM
OK, I'm confused with your descriptions. Can you clarify ?
I am accustomed to seeing sets described similar to

8 x 100y free @ 1:45

repetitions x distance(y or m to denote yards or meters) stroke @ sendoff interval minutes:seconds

Or
8 x 100y kick RI :15
repetitions x distance(y or m to denote yards or meters) stroke Rest Interval time resting between swims.

LateComer
October 13th, 2008, 02:41 PM
Hi NKFrench,
Sorry, I am not used to the syntax.

My workout today (in a 42m pool) was:
Morning:
3 sets of 10x42m free (untimed)

Night:
1 set of 20x42m free

All open turns.

Tonight for the first time, my daughter timed how long it took each length: 77-87 seconds. with the majority between 80-84 seconds, which I am imagine to be absolutely glacial... :snore:

In the morning, I tried counting the number of breaths per length. It was roughly 27 to 32.

I feel more and more comfortable but I do not feel long...nor do I feel comfortable as to how to use my arms underwater.

Right now I have no plan. I am just enjoying this first week of swimming what is for me to be long distances. So I am swimming without much of a plan...actually none other than to swim lots of lengths.

All comments/suggestions are welcome!
Thanks,
LC

LateComer
October 17th, 2008, 11:45 AM
Just an update.

Tonight I swam one mile nonstop (1837m or 1.044 miles). :bliss:40, 42m lengths. My time was a glacial 59 minutes 53.73 seconds.

I am still a bit chilled and most definitely wiped out.

It got pretty ugly out there...foot cramps started in lap 29 and were pretty bad in the 40th and final lap. I am not sure how of this was "swimming" and how much survival! I feel as I felt after finishing my first 10km...so sleepy...:bed:

It was only this past June that I decided to end this terrible obstacle to my health and sense of athletic self. In June I could barely swim one 25 yard length. Do for any beginners out there: trust me...if I can do it, a guy who has feared the water all his life and who never learned how to swim until this past June, ANYONE can...ANYONE...

Big thanks goes to the SF Peninsula Y who got me going and to the words of encouragement received on this board and others.

Now the real work begins. :laugh2:

LC

mjgold
October 17th, 2008, 11:59 AM
Congrats! I wish I could swim a mile straight.

pwolf66
October 17th, 2008, 12:31 PM
Just an update.

Tonight I swam one mile nonstop (1837m or 1.044 miles). :bliss:40, 42m lengths. My time was a glacial 59 minutes 53.73 seconds.

I am still a bit chilled and most definitely wiped out.

LC

OUTSTANDING!!!! Way to go. You are doing fantastic.

Paul

hofffam
October 17th, 2008, 01:38 PM
Good advice above as usual. But I have a question: I have never seen nor heard of a 42 meter pool. That is very large pool for a condo. How do you know it is 42 meters?

Ande's column(s) are very very good but I'm not sure his kicking advice is so useful for a beginner. One suggestion I have is to avoid and deep knee bends while kicking. I have seen several novice swimmers (such as triathletes) that kick fine with a kickboard. But when they swim, especially when they breathe - their legs do crazy things. One leg will bend 90 degrees....or the legs get far apart. I suggest a moderate kicking pace - not so fast to make you tired but 2-4 beats per complete stroke so the legs don't sink.

geochuck
October 17th, 2008, 02:00 PM
39 lengths (1791.33858 yards) would be closer to the mile which is 1760 yards.

swimshark
October 18th, 2008, 06:59 AM
Welcome to the water. Sounds like you are having some great progress.

sarge
October 18th, 2008, 10:49 AM
It was only this past June that I decided to end this terrible obstacle to my health and sense of athletic self. In June I could barely swim one 25 yard length. Do for any beginners out there: trust me...if I can do it, a guy who has feared the water all his life and who never learned how to swim until this past June, ANYONE can...ANYONE...



When I was 42, I was about where you are now. I knew how to swim, had even taken a few classes, but I was very out of shape and had not been in water for at least 10 years.

Now I'm 46. I've done the Tiburon Mile (http://www.rcptiburonmile.com) three times, most recently a few weeks ago without a wetsuit. I plan to do my first Alcatraz swim next summer.

It took me about a year to get from where you are now to doing my first Tiburon swim. When I did it the first time, I wore a wetsuit but probably didn't need to.

The Tiburon Mile is a great swim to do for your first SF bay swim. Great charities, beautiful venue, and a lot of fun. Plus there are many Olympic swimmers who participate, so you can always fun of being able to say "I swam against ______ in 2008."

I've yet to become a fast pool swimmer, and generally reside in the slowest three lanes at my master's workout. I was 50th out of 59 in my age group when I did Tiburon.

If you want some inspiration go watch the TI2Y swim (http://www.ymcasf.org/Embarcadero/subpage_embarcadero_310011.html) this weekend from Treasure Island to the Embarcadero YMCA. I'm sure a lot of people there are or were in the same boat you're in now.

Keep it up and before long you'll be swimming with Pedro at Aquatic Park and having to use your computer to keep track of how many times you've swam Alcatraz.

LateComer
December 31st, 2008, 03:44 PM
Happy New Year! Thanks for all the encouragement.
Earlier Questions: 42m is simply the largest pool the condo developer could squeeze into our off-shaped lot; I measured it myself; I swam 40 since it was a round number.

I have not surpassed the 40 length swim, but I feel I am getting better with my stroke. My length times are down 9 seconds per length, which I guess means I have gone from glacial to very, very slow--but I'll take it.
I have focused most of my pool time to swimming sets of 170-340m.

But I have no workout plan per se...I am still at the point of wanting to swim 800m-1500m each time in the pool and feel good.


If you would, I have three requests/questions:

1. Can anyone give me some advice on how to "extend to air?" When I breathe to my left, my right arm has already dropped to a 45* angle. I would like to learn how to keep it extended where I can just about rest my head on it (what to my novice eyes seems to be a classic position). I cannot seem to keep it up--my right arm, that is.

2. So far, I am only comfortable breathing to my left side. I feel totally foreign and useless breathing to my right. Out of the pool, I do not sense that my neck or side is any more relaxed. Any drills to recommend kicking the habit, in/out of pool?

3. Can anyone recommend drills to improve my lung power in the pool. I breathe every otehr stroke and to my left. When I try every fourth stroke, I can barely do one length (42m). Any drills, in/out of pool?

Thanks again,
LC
P.S. Sarge--that is pretty cool. Wow, I feel a Bay swim is a while from now!

qbrain
December 31st, 2008, 06:23 PM
Happy New Year! Thanks for all the encouragement.
Earlier Questions: 42m is simply the largest pool the condo developer could squeeze into our off-shaped lot; I measured it myself; I swam 40 since it was a round number.

I have not surpassed the 40 length swim, but I feel I am getting better with my stroke. My length times are down 9 seconds per length, which I guess means I have gone from glacial to very, very slow--but I'll take it.
I have focused most of my pool time to swimming sets of 170-340m.

But I have no workout plan per se...I am still at the point of wanting to swim 800m-1500m each time in the pool and feel good.


If you would, I have three requests/questions:

1. Can anyone give me some advice on how to "extend to air?" When I breathe to my left, my right arm has already dropped to a 45* angle. I would like to learn how to keep it extended where I can just about rest my head on it (what to my novice eyes seems to be a classic position). I cannot seem to keep it up--my right arm, that is.

2. So far, I am only comfortable breathing to my left side. I feel totally foreign and useless breathing to my right. Out of the pool, I do not sense that my neck or side is any more relaxed. Any drills to recommend kicking the habit, in/out of pool?

3. Can anyone recommend drills to improve my lung power in the pool. I breathe every otehr stroke and to my left. When I try every fourth stroke, I can barely do one length (42m). Any drills, in/out of pool?

Thanks again,
LC
P.S. Sarge--that is pretty cool. Wow, I feel a Bay swim is a while from now!

Hey LateComer,

I read your original story and it was very cool. I cannot imagine not knowing how to swim for 40 years. I have always enjoyed swimming and I am glad that you are learning to enjoy it too.

I don't have any good suggestions for your problems. But I will tell you that I swam competitively for years breathing every other stroke, always to the same side, without any problem other than to be yelled at by my coaches. It wasn't until I started swimming in my late 20s that I decided to breath to both sides to balance out the wear between both shoulders. In my teens and later when I started swimming masters, I was swimming much higher yardage than you are now.

So I don't think it is important for you, at this point, to worry about any of your 3 issues. You can breath to the same same, every time, and for the yardage that you are doing, you should be fine. With good technique, with any yardage you should be fine.

In your original post, you mentioned you were an engineer, and asked for suggestions that would help an engineer. The simplest technique that you can use to gauge your progress from an engineering perspective is distance per stroke. You are already occasionally doing this, and I want to encourage you to experiment with the path of your hand underwater and the amount of body rotation you are using to see how this affects your distance per stroke.

Sorry I couldn't help you with any of your current questions. The most important thing is that you continue to enjoy swimming.

joeintx
January 2nd, 2009, 08:41 AM
LateComer - I'm new also! I'm 51, have only been "swimming" for about 8 weeks now. I've been using a Swimmer's Snorkel because I couldn't get the breathing. I'm pretty slow myself (about 45 seconds per 25m length), but I really don't care at this point. I've also been reading about the Total Immersion method!

Welcome and have fun swimming!

LateComer
January 3rd, 2009, 07:06 PM
The past week I have been experimenting with 2 (84m) and 4 length (168m) swims.

I have been working on the high elbow catch, lengthening the stroke, and more rotation on the axis. I have a long way to go, but it feels great. I also tried every other stroke breathing and I swam a heck of a lot faster (although only for one length). I can really feel the catch now. I think I'll mix in more drills and not just try to to do distance and learn at the same time.

I notice with the early and pronounced catch, my upper body is much higher in the water. I guess it is having all that forearm and upper arm surface area for buoyancy. But I also notice my arms are now much more fatigued after say 4-8 laps than durign earlier, super slow swims.

Still, when breathing to the left, my right arm cannot help but fall to brace. I will do as qbrain suggests and that is tinker. Together with a few drills I have picked up from USMS.org and youtube, I hope to solve this issue very soon...I also hope to incorporate flip turns as I am burning time and energy on my turns (LOL!! They often kill me--if I mistime, I lose all breath and momentum).

my two length times have come down >20 seconds, where I consistently swim the pair in 2:15-2:20.

I am lugging around a lot of weight so (probably about 30 kgs overweight), I'll be learning and losing as I go along. Also, I among the most inflexible people in the world...swimming has helped, but doing some drills to get the ideal arm positions actually generates cricks and tear sounds...LOL!! I feel like Bill Murray in the opening scenes of Stripes!

My 40 length (1680m) time on Halloween was 59:53.73. My goal for Valentine's Day will be.., 43:20 (65 second laps). Yeah, it is out there, but what the hell...you only live once... I have to learn how to put together workouts and programmes. Way back when I was a thin-ish runner I knew how to combine speed and distance work for performance runs. Now I feel I am starting over from the very beginning in terms of how to get design a pathway. Wild. But really, I am just getting a thrill having swimming goals.


But...best of all was swimming last night with my daughters. i hope both will be ale to kick my butt even after i begin to post lower times!

LC
P.S. Finally, I may try to work in a workout once a week at a true 50m pool...that way my wacky times can get standardised somewhat. Besides, it would be cool to swim in one!

P.S. JoeinTx--let's kick a** together!

nhc
January 3rd, 2009, 11:57 PM
Thanks for sharing your experience! You've done a great job! I hope to make that kind of progress, too! :D

laineybug
January 5th, 2009, 05:30 PM
I dislike this drill, but it helped me.

Hold your left arm out in front of you.
Pull only with your right arm
You will need to roll onto your left side to breathe on your right.

You are going to feel FUNNY at first, but keep doing it, I promise in a lap or two, breathing on the right will feel a bit better. Eventually, it will become second nature.

You know there are two schools... bilateral breathing or not. Even Olympic level swimmers are known to breathe only on one side.

Lainey