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joesm82
August 9th, 2014, 05:47 PM
Hi everyone,

I have spent the last 13 months taking swimming lessons twice per week and practicing at my gym's pool almost daily, but I'm still having trouble. I'm hoping I can get some pointers that might help.

I've been lifting weights for about 20 years now and have pretty muscular legs. And they just don't seem to want to float. I can kick hard to get them to float, but then, I can barely swim freestyle halfway across the pool because I get so out of breath. I have had a lot of trouble learning to breathe, but lately, it has been getting better. I still don't think I'm getting full breaths in, but at least I'm not swallowing water every time I try to breathe anymore.

Anyway, my swimming instructors have been saying that my technique looks great; they haven't been able to offer any tweaks to help me over the past couple of months. But I still can't swim across the pool. I just don't see how I can kick as hard/fast as I seem to have to - just to stay on top of the water - and only inhale every 3-4 arm strokes.

It is starting to get pretty frustrating. Have you run into this yourself? Is there anything you can recommend that might help me?

Thanks in advance for any pointers!

momof5
August 16th, 2014, 03:19 PM
Hi there. I'm a beginner too, so I don't have much experience. However, I have been able to tweak my own kick (through advice from this board) to make it more effective in a few ways. I used to kick so hard and vigorously that I would be totally exhausted after a lap or two. In just a matter of weeks I can swim 1000 yards of freestyle (slowly). The changes I made to my kick were first to relax it and kick from my hip while keeping my feet floppy. I also have to concentrate on tightening my core, which helps with balance and buoyancy. Now I'm having to revisit the kick to make further changes to help increase speed. But perhaps those things will help for you. I am sure a more experienced swimmer will have better suggestions. Best of luck!

alevasseur
August 17th, 2014, 10:43 PM
Hi everyone,

I have spent the last 13 months taking swimming lessons twice per week and practicing at my gym's pool almost daily, but I'm still having trouble. I'm hoping I can get some pointers that might help.

I've been lifting weights for about 20 years now and have pretty muscular legs. And they just don't seem to want to float. I can kick hard to get them to float, but then, I can barely swim freestyle halfway across the pool because I get so out of breath. I have had a lot of trouble learning to breathe, but lately, it has been getting better. I still don't think I'm getting full breaths in, but at least I'm not swallowing water every time I try to breathe anymore.

Anyway, my swimming instructors have been saying that my technique looks great; they haven't been able to offer any tweaks to help me over the past couple of months. But I still can't swim across the pool. I just don't see how I can kick as hard/fast as I seem to have to - just to stay on top of the water - and only inhale every 3-4 arm strokes.

It is starting to get pretty frustrating. Have you run into this yourself? Is there anything you can recommend that might help me?

Thanks in advance for any pointers!

How are you using your kick for sprinting or distance:

Leg Action/Rotation:
Leg action for a distance and a sprinter swimmer will be very different. A distance swimmer will typically use a single kick per arm stoke pattern. The kick is a quick action that takes place at the instance the same hand finishes the arm stoke and is used to both propel and rotate the body on to the other side while the recovering arm extends to initiate the next glide.

A sprinter wants a fast kick that is coordinated with the arm stroke so as to complement and reinforce the frequency of the arms. A 6 beat per arm cycle or a 3 beat per arm stroke is a good place to begin when wanting to develop this type of kicking pattern. This kicking pattern will provide 2 kicks of propulsion and 1 kick to rotate the body.

An important point to remember in developing your kick is that the finishing arm and the same leg snap at the same time in both distance swimming and sprinting.

To develop your kick consider the following:

KICKING:
Flutter kicking is a snap of the quadriceps. The knee remains flexible while the pointed ankle and foot remains quite rigid. A rigid ankle with pointed toes will allow for a more efficient transfer of energy from one leg to the other. This snap is followed immediately by a pulling of the glutenous. Repeat in alternating fashion.

Coordinated kick for distance swimmers:
One kick per stroke, 2 kicks per cycle
Use a pull buoy and fins and observe the natural action of the legs as they “follow the arms” through the stroke. Emphasize this general feeling by kicking the fin that is on the same side as the arm that finishes a stroke. Swimmers should allow one kick at the finish of the first pull, one kick at the finish of the second pull of the cycle.

Coordinated kick for sprinters:
3 kicks per stroke, 6 kicks per cycle
Swim backstroke and observe the natural 6 beat kick per cycle that backstroke uses.
Apply that 6 beat kick to swimming freestyle. Start by adding a 6 beat kick while going into and out from the walls then extend the number of cycles you can maintain a 6 beat kick off the walls and start.

Excerpts from my freestyle clinic reading materials
Hope this helps,
Coach Andrew

Swimosaur
August 18th, 2014, 02:02 PM
I've been lifting weights for about 20 years now and have pretty muscular legs. And they just don't seem to want to float. I can kick hard ...

Kicking hard is the wrong idea. Here is a different idea (which I confess I got in relevant part from Terry Laughlin's excellent introductory book),

My two cents ... :2cents: ... In a deep sense, swimming is all about balance. It's surprising how many different balancing acts are going on at the same time. Of course, you're trying to balance the obvious anatomical stuff, like left and right, arms and legs, stroke rate and length, but you're also trying to balance less visible physiological systems, like oxygenation, cardiovascular performance, and lactic acid generation. The right balance depends on a bunch of factors, including stroke and distance and various swimmer-specific characteristics ... :2cents:

Your legs are sinking. What's out of balance? Probably your head is too high. Here's the idea: From aft to stern, your body acts as a lever, where the fulcrum is your lungs. It's a wierd idea, but it makes a certain sense. Your lungs are the most buoyant part of your body. Left to itself, every other part of your body would sink. So the balancing problem, from aft to stern, is that you have to balance on your lungs. When you finally get this balancing act right, some people refer to the feeling you get as "swimming downhill".

Ande Rasmussen knows how to do this very well! Here's a video of Ande gliding 25 yards from a single push. He's not kicking at all. Does it look like his legs are sinking?

6ENgHo4KrSs

Try to push off the wall and glide as far as you can. The farther you glide, the better your balance!

__steve__
August 18th, 2014, 03:02 PM
I back Swimosaurus Rex statements. It's really about body position. Though my legs aren't muscular, they are proportionally long and dense. I am unable to float, my feet sink straight to the bottom lol.

Kicking I'm learning, has much to do with flexibility and efficiency, and it takes tons of practice!

Think of the only way to get propulsive foot activityis from the top of your foot, pushing water back, and to achieve this takes positioning

DeniseMW
August 18th, 2014, 03:15 PM
Swimosaur, thanks for the great video of Ande. I tried that exercise, the Superman glide, and the lifeguard came over and asked me to wiggle my fingers or make some sign I was alive LOL.:DAnde's pretty amazing.

I'm working on my kick, too. When people say kick from the hip, my response is, huh? I watch YouTube videos and other swimmers at the pool. It's tough, but it feels like I'm getting better. As for feet, I read something in Jane Katz's book, Swimming for Total Fitness, in which she said your feet should "boil" the water just below the surface, and that really clicked for me. But like joesm82, I get winded, so I'm not efficient. It seems like kicking is very tough to get right.

orca1946
August 18th, 2014, 05:52 PM
Think like a long distance runner not a sprinter. Slow/med kick will last much longer than an all out hard kick.
Are your coaches adults from a team or hs kids teaching learn to swim stuff?

knelson
August 18th, 2014, 06:45 PM
My opinion is the number one mistake new swimmers make is that they believe propulsion is the most important skill to learn when it fact propulsion is far less important than reducing drag. Until you learn to control your body position in the water you'll never be able to swim efficiently. Swimosaur is spot on.

Swimspire
August 18th, 2014, 08:33 PM
Kicking is an essential skill to learn as part of an effective swimming technique. It is not only important for balance, but - if done correctly - aids with propulsion and lift, helps increase distance per stroke and can take some of the burden off of your shoulders and arms.

I think you might be facing two issues: a lack of core strength which is not allowing you to keep your hips at the surface of the water, and an inefficient kick. After 13 months of practicing, you should have been able to learn how to maintain proper body position, which means that something is still missing. You might want to consider getting a second opinion on your stroke technique.

You need to focus on developing a consistent, efficient kick and the core strength to be able to hold a horizontal body position in the water rather than getting into more advanced calculations about distance or sprint-style kicking. Burying one's head in the water rather than keeping a neutral head position is often used by swimmers who lack a strong kick and core - and it is only a temporary fix.

There are quite a few drills that will help strengthen your core and your buoyancy in the water - such as side kick, kick @ bk, scull kick, rotation kick and many more. If you are going to use fins, I would recommend using them sparingly, as they tend to cause pain in swimmers with inflexible ankles and are often over-used as a crutch to avoid developing a proper kick.

Wish you the best of luck!

DeniseMW
August 18th, 2014, 10:04 PM
Julia, can you explain what you mean by burying one's head in the water? I was taught to keep my head level and look at the bottom of the pool, or just slightly forward, but not so much as to bring my head up.

Swimosaur
August 19th, 2014, 11:52 AM
Here's another thought (with apologies where they are due),


I have spent the last 13 months taking swimming lessons twice per week ... my swimming instructors have been saying that my technique looks great; they haven't been able to offer any tweaks to help me ... But I still can't swim across the pool.

You need new swimming instructors.

DeniseMW
August 19th, 2014, 02:09 PM
Swimosaur, you're hilarious.:D That was my thought, too. I've watched the same woman with the same instructor for months and she still can't swim even a few yards, because as soon as her face is in the water, she panics. I want to tell her to find someone else. She's paying for private lessons, and that's not cheap. Obviously, she's afraid, yet she swims without goggles, and IMHO, if you're afraid, (as someone who knows what that's like) seeing where you're going is a tremendous help. Her teacher hasn't said anything to her about goggles, though, which makes me wonder if he knows what it's like to teach an adult. And, he looks bored and tells her she's doing great, even when she isn't. Sorry for venting. :afraid:

Bobinator
August 21st, 2014, 11:55 AM
Hi Joe- You say you are breathing every 3-4 strokes and you don't feel like you are getting full breaths.
1. Are you exhaling through your nose/mouth when you face is in the water? This is an important part of the breathing cycle that many beginners don't understand. This act gives you the room to take in oxygenated air.
2. Try breathing more often. If I only took a breath every 4 strokes in the mile I'd expire.
Good luck and have fun!!!

bud
August 22nd, 2014, 05:56 PM
Yep. One of my first thoughts was: "Maybe he needs to find another instructor?".

As you can see from the responses here, there is a lot to keep track of, and learn. Try breaking things down to their simplest elements, and focus on just one thing at a time as you practice. Easier said than done, but a good instructor will know how to work with you on this. Drills can be great.

My kick has been the last thing that really has developed well. It is not a real profound source of propulsion, especially in the early learning stage. You may want to shift more of your focus to your upper body for now, and come back to the kick in more detail later. You still want good timing (a 6-beat kick seems to be the most natural), but the kick (especially in the early stages) is mostly to help balance the body movement, and help keep you flat in the water. The comments about kicking from the hip, and using less force, may be the things to look at most for now.

Good streamlining (reducing drag) is absolutely essential, and one of the top fundamental basics for all strokes. Good extension is a part of this. Try and relax and stretch into your stroke.

Good rotation will help you in your breathing in front-crawl. Breath as often as you need to. Turn your head (and body). Do Not lift your head UP. Learn alternate breathing as soon as you think you are ready for it.

While a relatively advanced concept for a beginner, I suggest you look into "Front Quadrant Swimming (https://www.google.com/search?q=Front+Quadrant+Swimming)". This is an essential skill to a well balanced and smooth front-crawl stroke.

If your technique looks great, but you are not getting the forward progress you think you should be getting, my best guess is that you are not "getting a good grip (http://www.h2oustonswims.org/articles/get_better_grip_I.html)" on the water. This may sound like a slippery concept (pardon the pun), but improving how you anchor your hand in the water for the "pull" is another top essential skill.

After 13 months of instruction and diligent practice, I would think you would be a bit less frustrated, and a bit better conditioned. I'm not suggesting that you ditch your current instructor, but you may want to consider another opinion / style.

As for shortness of breath... I've met folks who were marathon runners, and nearly died on their first 50 yards in the pool when they wanted to expand their cross-training. Swimming is really different, and it may take a while of practice with a technique that is composed more of smoothness and finesse, and less struggle, before your conditioning really improves.

Sounds like you've been pretty patient so far. Keep that up and you will likely be rewarded.

:-)