View Full Version : Need some beginner advice

February 12th, 2007, 10:44 AM

I thought I'd register to ask some questions. My background is that for the past 6-7 years I've been bicycling like crazy, often times 10-15 hours per week. I'm have the stereotypical runner/cyclist build, big legs, and I've always felt like my upper body was not nearly strong enough to balance out my lower body. I'm 29.

Also from about 15-19 I worked as a lifeguard and swim instructor. However I've never swam competitively. My strokes are pretty good as a result of getting through the WSI program and teaching, but I have basically no knowledge of how to actually swim for fitness. (Except for butterfly, I can swim it, but I probably can't even swim 25 yards of the Butterfly before my stroke breaks down and I'll be heaving when I get to the end of the pool.)

Given I've gotten sick of bicycling through New England winters this year I finally have a pool convenient and I've gotten pretty hooked on swimming laps. However given I have next to no knowledge of how to train I seem to be getting myself in situations where I can overtrain myself very easily. Right now I'm generally swimming 30-45 minutes at a time, 2-3 times per week. I'm not swimming in a full size pool so it's tough for me to judge distance but I'd say it's about 12 yards as opposed to 25. When I swim I'll generally swim about 20 lengths of this pool before switching my stroke. I'm not really taking any breaks but about every 40 lengths I'll swim 10 lengths of elementary backstroke or sidestroke to try and rest. What seems to happen though is if I combine in *any* other activity such as running, weight lifting, even going snowboarding, I very quickly show overtraining signs. (Fatigue, trouble sleeping, appetite/stomach issues, etc..)

All the swim workouts I've seen on the web seem to focus on distances and intervals, I'm kind of lost as to what is an appropriate time for someone like me to be swimming in terms of hours & minutes as opposed to lengths. Should I be resting after a certain # of laps? I'm going to try wearing my heart rate monitor tomorrow to get an idea of how hard I'm working at each stroke, compared to my normal cycling workouts it seems like I have a harder time gauging my intensity level with swimming.

Any advice would be appreciated. I don't really think I have a convenient way to go join a club and swim with other people to pick up some knowledge, but I really need to given I'm the kind of person that easily pushes workouts too hard.


Concho Pearl
February 12th, 2007, 01:03 PM
Hi and welcome,

Don't worry about how far you should go or how much rest you should take at this point.

Work on your strokes and breathing. Once you feel like you have good strokes then start working on endurance.
When I go back in almost a year ago after 27yrs out. I would just work on doing one more 100 than the last time. Then my goal was to do a mile, I didn't care how long it took me to do it and how many times I had to rest.

After I reached my mile goal, I started on cutting my time down in the mile.

I print out workouts from this forum and change some of it to fit my needs.
I try my best to stick to the work out, but sometimes I do have to rest long between intervals.

Hope this helps,

February 12th, 2007, 03:52 PM
Welcome to the boards bboule. In addition to what Concho Pearl said, You might want to eventually start working in some 25 sprints and 50 sprints on a reasonably comfortable interval....Sometimes I will do a set of 10 - 20 50's but I descend them in effort from 1-3...Meaning I break up the larger set into smaller sets of 3 50's where only the third 50 of each smaller set is at a pretty fast pace....the first 50 of each set of 3 is a cool down and recovery 50 ...the middle 50 of each set of 3 is at medium pace....This way you can start benefiting from some mild interval training and sprint training as well as doing the longer aerobic swims. I would wait a month or 2 first before doing this though....Start with long smooth aerobic swims of around 500 yards or so before resting ....if thats too long before resting then just adjust the distances according to your current level of swimming fitness. Good Luck and keep us posted on your progress.


February 13th, 2007, 10:21 AM
Thanks for the advice.

I guess it's just a different concept, it sounds like most people take rests while swimming, kind of like weight training.

Especially from cycling I'm just used to continuous workouts.

I'll give the heart rate monitor a try today. I didn't know your HR is lower while swimming I'll be interested to see what it says. I'm also guessing my HR is probably quite high because I'm not used to getting an upper body workout while doing cardiovascular exercise.

February 13th, 2007, 11:22 AM
Ever done speed work for running? Like on a track? The concept of swimming intervals is similar to what you would do for a track speed workout.

Or, if you've ever taken a spin class, even though you're cycling continuously, you go through phases of easy, moderate, hard, sprint, stand up, etc etc etc. Same kind of idea...

And, if there's any way you could have someone look at your stroke that would be a good idea (even if only one session). Lots and lots of repetitive motions in swimming can result in injury, which is a serious bummer.

Good luck!

February 13th, 2007, 06:09 PM

I swam today and brought my HRM. It was interesting. If I swim at a comfortable pace my HR was lower then I expected. 130-140 for a relaxed freestyle or backstroke, 120s for easy backstroke, sidestroke, etc..

If I actually try and swim hard it jumps up pretty high, if it's really 10-15bpm less swimming then running/cycling I could easily have been overdoing it the last few months. (I swam about 125m freestyle at about 85-90% and my HR was 174 when I was done.)

Then I noticed it drops like a rock in the water compared to cycling. It went down to 110 in about 10-15 seconds when I sat at the wall and rested.

So I'll watch it carefully and try to start following some of the workouts I've seen on the web, or I'll go pick up a book on swim training.

Sounds ridiculously high I guess but I've sustained 170 bpm ranges for a long time in bicycle races. Not enough to knock me on the ground but certainly something I need to be careful about doing.

I don't know who I'd ask for form advice.. I have no problem taking it but there is definitely no one at the pool who would be able to offer it. I'd have to go find a "real" pool to swim at. (Which may happen at some point as I'm certainly having fun.)