View Full Version : Tips and mind games to help push through beginner-dom

July 16th, 2013, 12:12 PM
Help!!! I'm totally hooked on swimming, want to be a swimmer. Even think I have some natural talent. Could swim before I could walk and I love the water. But I've got no background in it competitively.

I was very near to tears at last night's practice. Had to get out of the pool, get some water and have a moment. It's so hard for me. It's everything I have to push the breathless wet noodle up and down the pool. My calves burn and I feel like I have been rendered totally strengthless.

It's been 2 months and I'm no closer to finishing a whole masters practice. I have to sit out a piece here and there.

FWIW here was last night's scene:

Warm up: 200 swim (free), 200 kick, 200 pull.
500 medium pace
5 x 200 (I sat out the middle 200, that was my low point)
10 x 50 IM, breast instead of fly (sat out one or two of these)
20 x 25 kick "sprint"
Should have done some 100s and then cool down. I did 50 and was D-O-N-E. Not sure if i could swim more if my life depended on it.

Getting back in the pool after mentally crashing mid-way was my accomplishment for last night.

I'm not seeing ANY ANY ANY improvement. Except maybe higher expectations and slightly more serious and professional about my pool etiquette.

As I understand from the coaches and feel in my bones, it will take a crushing 6-9-12 months of 5 hours a week of disappointing and humiliating pool time before I'm a functional Group 2 swimmer. The pregnant mom smokes me. The 60 y o with the beer gut.

I want to break through. I know I've got to just keep going to practice and swim on my off days. I'm trying to eat well, sleep, and get strong in other ways too.

Is there anything you can tell me that will help me see the silver lining in this time? Being in the water is nice. I can enjoy that part of it. Small victories? Push off from the wall a little more at a time?

I'm proud of what I've done so far, but a little scared of months of this kind of challenge. I want to go to practice knowing I can keep up, lead pieces when it's my turn, complete the workout, enjoy pushing myself. It's hard knowing other people are waiting for me to get out of their way, to have the wannabe lane "coach" giving me excuses for why I'm so slow.

Sorry for the whining, and thanks for listening. Not sure I've ever done anything so hard in my life. Taking a deep breath now. :chillpill:

July 16th, 2013, 02:13 PM

First of all, for two months in, you are doing a LOT. No matter how thin and strong I get, there's always going to be older, fatter and more pregnant swimmers that can beat me. I try to focus on whether or not I'm faster than I was yesterday. Some days, I'm not. Most days I am. If I worry about being faster than I used to be, I figure being faster than others around me will take care of itself. That doesn't mean I don't race my teammates when the opportunity arises. I'm just more interested in what my time was than I am in how many times I touched the wall before my teammates.

When I started swimming on a team, I was in much the same situation you are in. I was significantly slower than everyone else. My experience was limited (I was a very slow summer league swimmer until age 12 when I quit). I didn't know how to swim fly and backstroke was mostly an exercise in graceful drowning. I'm on a small team which consisted of former collegiate and high school swimmers. They were happy to have me but I think most suspected I'd give up after a couple of months. I set a long-term goal to complete their workouts after 4 years. Until then, I didn't concern myself about missing intervals. I learned fly and I looked awkward doing it for a very long time. I learned to swim backstroke without water running up my nose constantly. It definitely wasn't easy but that was half the fun anyway.

It CAN happen. You have the right attitude/desire towards swimming. Swim a couple events in a local meet. This will give you some short-term goal times to train to beat before your next meet. Keep at it and you will be surprised how quickly your times drop.

July 16th, 2013, 02:55 PM
Since swimming is so technique driven, someone who looks really out of shape can still swim very well. You might appreciate reading this blog, especially the older posts from someone who joined a masters team in their 40s with no previous experience: http://forums.usms.org/blog.php?18186-Chlorine-Drip/page2

July 16th, 2013, 03:51 PM
I had taken a 17 year break before I started masters. My first few months in the pool, I did 50's while everyone else was doing 100's on the same interval. You need to set individual goals for yourself. If you sat out the 3rd 200, aim to swim the 3rd and rest the 4th. Next time, push to swim 1 more. Mentally, it helps a lot. I've been back at it 3 years, and have no shame dropping a 50 here and there when I need the break. I encourage myself to do 1 more rep than I did last time. Next thing you know, your finishing the set. What you are swimming after only 2 months in very impressive indeed. Don't sell yourself short, and try to be patient.

July 16th, 2013, 06:11 PM
Great advice so far! Gena, I know pmccoy; he's a great guy and an AWESOME swimmer. Every year when I see him at the February meet in Auburn, he is a faster and better swimmer. So, his post is worth reading- and, re-reading, for inspiration.

You are going to find that, in swimming, you are going to have your ups and downs along the way. At least for me, it has been two steps forward and one step back at some times, and then one step forward and two steps back at others. This has been one of those two steps back years, because of physical issues that have had a negative effect on my training and racing.

Physical issues will get in the way and life will get in the way. And, you will age. Georgia Masters has as their motto: "The older we get, the faster we were." I am finding that to be a true statement, and I'm 51.

BUT, having said all that, I am SO HAPPY to be able to swim, even if it seems like forever, since I swam a personal best time in a race. Have goals, but be realistic about them. And, make sure your goals do not get in the way of having FUN.

If you are having frustrations in one area of your swimming, try something else. For me, physical issues have frustrated me when it comes to breaststroke. So, I have worked more on my backstroke, instead; a stroke I am able to swim with more strength and less frustration, because it is more body-friendly for me. As a result, I found that I like backstroke and my times improved.

Do what makes YOU happy, because you have nobody to answer to but yourself. Last year, I had so much fun swimming open water back-to-back 3K and 1K races in the Georgia Games, that I returned last Saturday for a repeat. It was FUN! I'm still in a great mood from last weekend. And, my best pool event is 50 breaststroke, just to give you an idea of how different open water is for me.

Just so you can see your progress and prove to yourself you are getting better, record your workouts in a FLOG (Fitness Log), as part of the USMS Go the Distance program. Then, go back to previous months and see how far you have come. That progress will build confidence!

Hang out here on the Forums, too. There are a lot of great swimmers (world and American record holders!) who will give advice when asked. If you can get somebody to shoot videos of your strokes, upload them to YouTube and post them here for stroke critique.

Most of all, try not to let your frustration get in the way of having fun and enjoying being in the water.

Good luck!


July 18th, 2013, 11:55 AM
Thanks, guys. I think I'm just coming to terms with a reasonable timeline and expectations. And figuring out how to make the most of my pool time, especially since I'm a little slow and stubborn about technique. I'm more of a brute force than finesse person. It's hard to make myself do things that feel unnatural, like changing my breast stroke kick from knees out to feet out. But after not too long I can feel the speed, and it doesn't feel wrong at all anymore. Maybe work on one thing at a time and build.

Hearing your perspectives here helps a lot.

Yes, ElaineK a FLOG is a good idea. Hard to complain about progress when I'm not careful about keeping track. And getting into meets. At least that will give me a time to beat. I'm volunteering next week at one, and will probably enter soon.

Thanks too for the Chlorine Drip blog link!

I think I'm putting this quote on my fridge, courtesy of pmccoy:

No matter how thin and strong I get, there's always going to be older, fatter and more pregnant swimmers that can beat me.

Ahh, yes. Both true and freeing.