View Full Version : begginer... desperate need of advice

February 15th, 2015, 05:56 AM
I would really appreciate some advice. I'm really know nothing about this stuff. I always loved the sport of swimming and wanted to get better. I've been trying to swim 4-5 x a week but I'm really bad. I pretty much only go 2-4 lengths of the pool swimming freestyle without stopping. I'm 28 and in decent shape. I can jog on the treadmill for 30+ min without stopping, lift weights and play hockey.

I'm going to try to get a swim coach, but I am really curious...

Do some of you guys swim freestyle without stopping for 45 -1 hr straight? Do you kick the whole time? Maybe I'm swimming too strenuously...I'm trying to float more, it feels like I sink in the water. I've been watching videos on youtube. How do you swim slower without sinking? It feels like my swimming is using mostly just my arms...I have an idea in my head that most swimmers can swim for like 45 minutes without stopping.

Any other recommendations. My long term goal is to be a good, everyday swimmer. Eventually I would love to learn new strokes, etc.

Gary P
February 16th, 2015, 06:42 PM
Compared to running, swimming is a very technical activity. Because water is ~800 times denser than air, every small technical imperfection adds considerably to the drag you are trying to overcome as you attempt to propel yourself through the water. The key to greater swimming endurance for a beginner is almost always more a matter of technique than conditioning...especially for someone like you who has a reasonable base-line of fitness coming in.

There are many things to try to perfect, but the biggest gains can often be had from getting your center of balance down closer to your hips by keeping your head down. The kick isn't a big part of the typical long distance stroke; usually it's nothing more than a single "flick" with each stroke.

google "total immersion freestyle" for some tips on improving your technique for long distance swimming. Then get video of yourself swimming. It's sometimes hard to understand what you're doing wrong without seeing it on video.

As for swimming freestyle for 45-60 minutes straight, I don't but it's not because I can't. If I were training for Ironman triathlon or long distance open water events, it would make sense. I'm training for events that only last from ~25 seconds to 6 minutes, however, so my typical session is made up of many short, high-intensity repetitions with short rest intervals in between. If the occasion called for it, however, I have an "all day pace" I could break out, something almost akin to a fast-paced walk in terms of effort.

Jazz Hands
February 16th, 2015, 08:45 PM
First, the above advice about technique is all true. This is a technical sport.

Any other recommendations. My long term goal is to be a good, everyday swimmer. Eventually I would love to learn new strokes, etc.

Maybe get a more specific goal. Choose one or two measurable events that you like doing, and track your progress. Otherwise, I'm not really sure what you're going for. Swimming 45 minutes nonstop with no particular pace to follow isn't that fun or challenging for most swimmers. I think I would probably just get thirsty.

If you lift weights, you probably understand this. Being "good at lifting weights" isn't really a thing: you choose certain lifts and rep ranges and try to get better at them. You can be good at one-rep maxes on squat/bench/deadlift like a powerlifter, or you can be good at bodyweight pull-ups. Or both. They are just different things you can be good at. Swimming is the same: train for the 50 free, or the 400 IM, but train for something.

February 16th, 2015, 10:25 PM
AKRC - I'm just curious...how long have you been swimming 4-5 time per week? If being a long distance (freestyle) swimmer is what you want to train for, then that's certainly a goal you can set for yourself. There are many of us who prefer longer distance swimming, often open-water swims, over the shorter distances raced in the pool. Unfortunately winter forces us to swim those long distances in the pool more often than we'd prefer. But like any other athletic activity, it will take time and dedication to get up to the continuous 45-60 (or more) minutes you want to get to. That's a long term goal, but you should probably set yourself some more attainable milestone goals. If right now you can only go 1-2 minutes before you have to stop then set that as your first goal. It will likely take weeks. Do it until 1-2 minutes gets easier. Then up the time and aim for 2-3 minutes. Then up it to 3-4 minutes; then 5-6 minutes; etc. Eventually it'll come. But it won't happen overnight, nor in a week or a month. You just have to stick with it and do it with regularity. Along the way get some experienced assistance to help you refine your stroke. Ask the experienced swimmers at your pool, maybe the aquatics director or a swim coach.

Good luck.


Rob Copeland
February 17th, 2015, 09:42 AM
I have an idea in my head that most swimmers can swim for like 45 minutes without stopping.I guess it depends on your definition of “swimmer”. You are a swimmer; who like “most swimmers” can’t swim 45 minutes without stopping. However, I believe that practically ANY swimmer with the proper technique and training can easily swim 45 minutes without stooping. In fact with enough proper training any swimmer could swim 1 to 2 to 20 hours without stopping (except to feed).

And while you can do it on your own, I advise you find a good coach and a Masters program to help you get there faster.

February 17th, 2015, 05:21 PM
There are some "pool toys" that can help a beginning swimmer get it going:

1. Swim fins - (Not diving fins). Invest in a reasonably good pair of swim fins that aren't too long and fit your feet without abrasion. Fins will help increase speed, raise your body position in the water, help you work on stroke mechanics and breathing, and expend less effort per lap. They're awesome.

2. kickboard - don't be misled into believing the kick isn't important - it's critical - do some kick laps each workout and increase the amount a little each week.

3. pull buoy - a pull buoy floats your butt and lets you work on your pull without your legs sinking. Do a few laps of pull each workout and build up to greater distances each workout. Don't overdue the stress on your shoulders.

Don't just swim laps - figure out a plan of sets and reps - look under the basic training thread by Mark Johnston on this forum and start with the pieces you think will help the most.

A good swim instructor working with you once or twice per week will help you get there faster and avoid developing bad habits that will be hard to break. Drills with a coach can help, but you need to do them right.

February 17th, 2015, 08:20 PM
I'm 64 and still a slow swimmer by comparison to a lot of people here. In 2002, I had a running injury and missed competing--saw a flyer for a mile open water swim and decided it was worth a try. Problem was that my swimming was abysmally slow and over-reliant on breaststroke (not the competitive, beautiful kind you see in the Olympics but probably more like the kind that annoys real swimmers). Because I didn't want to stop doing interval workouts, though, I had started incorporating freestyle into my swims when I wanted to push myself. When I looked up the last place time in the swim I had my eyes on, I was worried--it was 45 minutes. Even with gradually incorporating more freestyle, I was still around 50something minutes, close to an hour. That wasn't going to cut it, so I added more and more freestyle until I could swim a mile in about 45 minutes and figured I wouldn't disgrace myself too much.

It helped that the morning lifeguard was an experienced swimmer and triathlete, so he gave me some good tips on my stroke and encouraged me to try the swim.

I did and finished around 47 minutes--convinced I had finished last, I was surprised to find someone coming in a few minutes later.

Not long after that swim, my running injury was beginning to heal so I was back on the roads and put swimming on the back burner for a bit. But a few years later, I noticed a flyer for a masters' group forming at my Y. Out of curiosity, I joined--by that time, I was running pretty regularly, so I didn't see swimming as the fallback but as adding to the fun!

There I received some great feedback and regular workouts which made it so I now can easily swim freestyle for 45 minutes and longer, no problem.

Since that first open water mile, I've done open water swims of up to 5.4 miles. I'm still not fast, but with the technique help I've gotten (and the first coach's pushing me to breathe on both sides), I don't find freestyle a struggle as I did once.

This past year, I completed my 3rd 5+ mile swim. If you'd told me in 2002 that I was going to swim over 5 miles in open water, I would have wondered what you were smoking. I plan to swim that same distance again this year, plus a 5k swim on May 30. My dream is to complete the 8 mile Boston Light Swim.

I'm not a star. I finish pretty much at the back of the pack for the swims I've done. But being in open water is so freeing and exciting and brings you so in touch with the natural world that it's more like what I get in running. So just for the experience of it, I find it worthwhile.

Think of where I started--and if I can do this, you totally can develop the endurance to swim 45 minutes--or more!

Funny thing is, though, just as I love track workouts in running, I also enjoy intense pool workouts, where I do a bunch of shorter repeats as well as building up endurance. I figure they contribute to each other in a yin-yang kind of way. And the faster work is helping me bring some times down again (I'd been swimming on my own for a bit and am now in a masters' group again).

Suggestion: a coach or instructor to work with you one on one and/or a masters' swim group--great camaraderie in the latter. But the one-on-one technique work has helped me as well. Good luck!

February 18th, 2015, 08:59 AM
33yr male, was running 20-25mi/wk prior to swimming. Got tired of achy hips and knees so I turned to swimming. I couldn't swim two laps straight.

For me, learning proper technique was really complicated. I like this analogy - It's like trying to learn a proper golf swing with your heart rate way up - there is a lot going mechanically. I learned to swing a golf club at a young age with instruction. I did many drills, hit many balls. It was a lot of supervised practice with solid pointers. We broke things down to where I was at and focused on each of them. It took years of that. (Thank you pap.) I understand the mechanics of the swing and have many friends that started golfing as adults. The ones that took lessons progressed much faster than those that did not. Swimming seems similar. Technique is important. To do this yourself it will takes a tremendous amount of time and dedication, improvements will be slow. I would definitely suggest finding a coach. You will get there faster and safer. There is a lot you can do wrong and you can rip your shoulders apart. I've been lucky, but at times, could see how that can definitely happen. Be careful and listen to your body, you can certainly hurt yourself in the pool.

I started "swimming" in august 2014. Of course I could move in the water but my technique was nothing close to that of a trained swimmer. It took me 3wks before I was even comfortable taking a lap and getting my breathing right. I youtubed videos and started with bilateral breathing every 3rd stroke. The pull buoy helped me isolate and focus on my upper body movements while trying to learn to breath. And every time I thought I "got it", I (usually accidentally) figured out a slight improvement. Stay humble, when you think you got it, you will probably have 2 more epiphany moments before you actually have a foundation to build on. Then I worked myself up to swimming a mile in 48min. 6mos later I'm down to 35. I attribute the increase in speed to technique than endurance. I would not suggest getting hung up on time or distance until you are very comfortable in the water - after a month or so. And even then, why do you want to be able to swim 45min nonstop? I get that it feels like a milestone and a tremendous accomplishment compared to where you are now. Ok cool. I'd still suggest starting with a coach and follow his program to get you there. I guarantee it will be safer and faster than the program you create. Do it yourself, I'll speculate there is a higher risk of ripping your shoulders apart and then you might be sidelined for a month or two. Then you might give up on swimming?

Then I became bored, improvements were few and far between, and I turned to here. Just had my 1st workout in a master program this morning. Awesome! It was some drills with interval training. Half way through the workout I could easily tell the few drills I did complete that my sense of the water water was much better than before. And that was just from working the drills prescribed. He doesn't want to mess with my mechanics yet, said they were ok. But that took 6mos of focus and honestly some luck. I certainly feel the learning curve would be drastically reduced if I was working on drills instead of swimming for 45min. It took a lot of 45min days to learn that, because I was set on swimming for 45min. Looking back, I don't feel I really did as well as I could if instead did drills/intervals. Can't wait to see the improvements after 3mos of this, let a lone a year.

If I had to do it all over again...I would not go down the long road of being self taught (but I did not know otherwise.) Get professional training/coaching. I really hope you enjoy yourself through it all.

February 18th, 2015, 09:29 AM
Love your analogy, JasonZ!

February 18th, 2015, 09:47 AM
I cannot take credit for that...it was the coach at this morning's session.

February 18th, 2015, 10:19 AM
I'm not a star. I finish pretty much at the back of the pack for the swims I've done. But being in open water is so freeing and exciting and brings you so in touch with the natural world that it's more like what I get in running. So just for the experience of it, I find it worthwhile.

Where's the "like" button?