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Thread: Frustrated...Seeking advice/reaffirmation (long)

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    Frustrated...Seeking advice/reaffirmation (long)

    I am in search of advice and/or reaffirmation that I am approaching this the correct way.

    Last August I began to swim regularly. I swam in high school 30+ years ago, but my technique was never very good - more on that below.

    I donít swim with a masters or other group as those nearby have schedules that are not conducive to my personal situation (I need to swim very early in the AM). I followed a One Mile Program outlined here, and by the end of September I was swimming 2000m per day. Through the beginning of February, I swam 2-4 times a week at least 2000m each day - one day would be 2000m straight and the other days would be 2000m in interval sets (pyramid or ladder).

    The idea of swimming in an open water event has interested me for some time (even before August). In February, I made the decision to look into possible events and determine what I needed to do to prepare. I am thinking the 1000m Pass-a-Grill Challenge would be a good first attempt, and I figured I would try out this local lake swim as well.

    As I said, my technique is poor. I breath every other stroke and only on the left, and I begin my pull way too early. In fact, I found that I was using the leverage from my right pull to lift my head to the left to breath. After a swim, my right arm shoulder was noticeably more fatigued than the left - I worked that side harder. I figured that to swim an event I needed to increase my distance in practice and I was concerned my poor form would lead to a shoulder injury. So I decided to see if I could find some lessons.

    So, I signed up for weekly lessons at the YMCA, and have had 3 thus far. The instructor immediately had me working on rotation drills and catch up drills. She introduced me to bilateral breathing every third stroke, or least attempting to. When I work with her, she tinkers with my stroke and seems to think I am getting it. She encourages me to practice the drill on my own, which I do - I swim at least 4 times (if mot more) on my own between each lesson.

    I can ďvisualizeĒ what I am supposed to be doing (or at least I think I can), but when I swim alone, everything falls apart. I just cannot seem to keep my non-pulling/recovering arm straight. Seemingly on its own accord it bends and begins to pull way too early and/or it puched straight down and tries to leverage my head out of the water to breath. Everything happens so quick, that I cannot concentrate on of all of the different things that are going on - arm position during pull, arm position during recovery, reaching, rotation, breathing - and it all just collapses and I am gasping for air! I really feel like I am just flailing around.

    Also, my endurance (such as it was) is totally gone. I had thought that I would start the One-Mile Program at the beginning swimming with the new techniques that I have been practicing (doing some kicking and rotational drills beforehand and including some drills (such as a catch-up drill) in the sets). Well, again everything falls apart and I cannot even finish the first set of 100s. I can handle the bilateral breathing for 25 -50m, but then I canít catch my breath and I immediately start my pull too early and lift to breath rather than rotate, and generally flail around.

    At this point, I am thinking that I need to table my open water goal. I donít see how this is going to come together anytime soon. The ironic thing is, 4 weeks ago I was swimming 2000m in a 25m pool without a break - took me about 40 minutes. Now I stink.

    Am I expecting too much? I am becoming so frustrated! Is the answer to keep flailing and it will eventually come to me?

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    Very Active Member pwb's Avatar
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    Re: Frustrated...Seeking advice/reaffirmation (long)

    It's hard to diagnose a stroke just by text. If you can, post a video of you swimming here. I saw one guy do that and the forumites provided a lot of feedback. Given that you're in Florida, you might want to check out one of Total Immersion's workshops (see http://www.totalimmersion.net/compon...list/eventlist). You'll get a lot of great technique instruction at one of these.

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    Re: Frustrated...Seeking advice/reaffirmation (long)

    You've only been taking these lessons for three weeks? That isn't really a long time. It sometimes takes more time to relearn an old skill than to learn a new one from scratch, because you have to re-program your motor skills. Believe me, I know - the first 3 or 4 months after I took T.I. lessons I felt like the wheels had fallen off my swim stroke and I seriously wondered if I'd made a huge mistake. Then it "clicked".
    The early catch sounds like a balance problem. Try this:

    1. Push off the wall face-down, arms out in front in "superman" position, kicking gently, face down.
    2. Slide one hand back towards your side (or take a light stroke) while rotating just enough to clear one shoulder out of the water. You don't want to be perpendicular to the pool bottom, only rotated about 45 degrees or so. Keep your neck relaxed and continue to look down. Keep your lead hand out wide enough to be in line with the shoulder so that it doesn't cross your midline.
    3. Kick like this for a little while, then return to the wall and try it on the other side. Try to introduce the same feel into your swim stroke, doing single lengths at first if necessary.

    Here is an explanation of why it's so hard to rebuild a stroke - and why it doesn't happen overnight.
    http://www.totalimmersion.net/blog/M...yelin-200.html

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    Re: Frustrated...Seeking advice/reaffirmation (long)

    I agree with the other comments. It takes a while to rebuild a stroke so don't get frustrated. Bilateral breathing is great to even out your stroke, but it is by no means mandatory. Keep working on your stroke and bilateral breathing, but maybe you should go back to breathing on one side for longer swims. I think you will find that your stroke has probably smoothed out even when breathing on one side after doing the bilateral work.

    If you are bilateral breathing every 3rd stroke, I am not sure why you would have significantly more fatigue versus breathing every 2 strokes especially for such short distances. I hate to ask, but are you exhaling underwater between breaths? It seems really obvious, but I have seen this issue a few times. Exhale everything out underwater between breaths and only inhale when you turn your head to breath. It sounds like you might be holding your breath and trying to exhale and inhale outside the water. Anyway, make sure you are exhaling underwater and stay relaxed between breathes. Whenever our team does hypoxic sets and we try to build-up to breathing every 7th or 9th stroke for 100s (we start at 3, then 5, then 7, etc.) I have noticed that swimmers that can't get beyond 3 are the ones who don't exhale while their head is in the water. Also, when you only inhale outside the water you can keep flatter in the water while taking your breath because it minimizes the time your head needs to be turned which will probably help your shoulder and general body position (and stroke efficiency).

    Keep working on your stroke, but these things take time and patience. In the meantime, go back to breathing every stroke for a lot of your yardage and make sure you are exhaling underwater whether you are bilateral breathing or not. If you are already exhaling underwater properly, I apologize for pointing out something so obvious. You should never feel like you are gasping for air unless you have just done a 25 or 50 no breather or an all out swim of some sort.

    Tim

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    Re: Frustrated...Seeking advice/reaffirmation (long)

    Quote Originally Posted by Tim L View Post
    If you are bilateral breathing every 3rd stroke, I am not sure why you would have significantly more fatigue versus breathing every 2 strokes especially for such short distances. I hate to ask, but are you exhaling underwater between breaths? It seems really obvious, but I have seen this issue a few times.
    I thought that I was exhaling. When I had mention to my instructor at my last lesson that I was becoming easily winded, she said the same thing as you. I really consentrated on exhaling and things got better right away - -but I was only swimming 25s with her. The next day and today at the pool, by myself, I was trying to go longer and I was becoming winded again. I thought I was exhaling, but to be honest there were so many things I was trying to focus on, that I can't be sure that I was being consistent. That could have been a contributing problem. Next time I swim I will be more focused on that.

    I think part of breathing issue could also be that I am swimming too fast. Seems like I have to do that to keep momentum and to prevent the feeling of sinnking?

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    Re: Frustrated...Seeking advice/reaffirmation (long)

    Russ,

    Make a list of all the things that you need to focus on, I would work on this with your teacher. Decide together the order of importance. Each time you swim, pick no more than 3 things to concentrate on, 2 would probably be better at your current skill level. Then just concentrate on those. You will find that by listing them all out and putting them in order of importance, they will flow a lot better and be easier to work on than trying to concentrate on eleventy-billion things all at once.

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    Re: Frustrated...Seeking advice/reaffirmation (long)

    After swimming as a kid, I'm returning from a 15+ year hiatus, so my swimming skills leave something to be desired, so I'll leave specifics to the professionals

    What I can tell you, as a musician (and drills for musicians serve much the same purpose physiologically as those in swimming) are.
    1) It takes major time to incorporate any drill into any 'normal' activity. Did you know singers in Italy normally go a year without actually singing a song? Guess what they do...drills...scales...practice...etc. Now see #2...

    2) Consider how long you've been doing things wrong. It will take MANY MANY MANY more repetitions using the correct technique before that will override the old habit.

    3) When re-learning something, the brain does NOT multitask well. I've now had 2 lessons with an instructor and the workouts she's giving me are 75%+ drills. Why practice something wrong when you're trying to fix it? Any time you're doing a 'normal' swim, the focus should be one one or two specific items, not everything at once.

    Good luck, it sounds like we're both in a similar spot. I just try to remember that this is a marathon not a sprint...as much as I might like it to be!

    Jim

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    Re: Frustrated...Seeking advice/reaffirmation (long)

    Hang in there, gatoruss! I am in a similar situation--not having swam for many years and not having a particularly good stroke to begin with. At least you have taken the step of seeking coaching to improve. I have not even done that since I started back swimming.

    And like the others said, trying to break poor habits formed will take a lot longer than just learning them from scratch. I think my biggest flaw when being coached in high school was I always opted for what made it easier for me to swim. I would try the technique suggested and if I wasn't able to get it on try one or two the I went back to my old, inefficent ways. Keep trying and even if something doesn't stick then file it away--I have things now (15 years later) that I suddenly am able to grasp from those days and implement.

    Good luck!

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    Re: Frustrated...Seeking advice/reaffirmation (long)

    you shouldn't table your goal
    just train each day and do the best you can
    work on technique, conditioning, and race strategy
    also get the right equipment
    the body suits make a huge difference
    Blue Seventy Suits are excellent
    Speedo Pro's are very good and most affordable
    [ame="http://www.usms.org/forums/showpost.php?p=128449&postcount=732"]Tip 201 Which Suit Suits you? More On Racing Suits[/ame]

    [ame="http://www.usms.org/forums/showpost.php?p=137375&postcount=771"]Even More On Suits[/ame]


    technique
    concentrate on proper form every moment you swim
    if you stop concentrating, you'll lapse into your old habits
    keep copncentrating till your new form sticks

    conditioning
    get in shape
    train 4 to 6 times a week, more is better

    race strategy
    you goal is to finish and be comfortable the whole way
    proper pacing is critical,
    when you do the race start out really easy
    breathe every stroke

    Read Swim Faster Faster
    here's the Index

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    Re: Frustrated...Seeking advice/reaffirmation (long)

    Thanks for all of the replies. I really appreciate everyone's help and input.

    Quote Originally Posted by pwbrundage View Post
    It's hard to diagnose a stroke just by text. If you can, post a video of you swimming here.
    I went to the pool today and asked one of the life guards to take a video with my digital camera. We taped 3 laps, and I spliced them together and I uploaded them to youtube - my first time doing that - it almost as hard as swimming!

    The life guard was a guy that also gave lessons (not my instructor) - the first thing he said was that I am crossing over on my strokes. When I watched the video I saw that immediately. In fact, my wife was looking over my shoulder while I watched it (she is not a swimmer), and the first thing she said was, "Why are you cross your arms so much?"

    Here is the video - any comments appreciated...

    [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BtQRIaae4i8"]YouTube - 08mar09 Swimming[/ame]

    Thanks.

    rph

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    Re: Frustrated...Seeking advice/reaffirmation (long)

    you're crossing over
    more with your left hand

    looks like your kick is going a little too wide

    can't really see what you're doing underwater

    when you put your hands in the water
    your arm should be in frot of your shoulder
    at first your fingers should point at the wall you're swimming towards

    [nomedia="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ax77_hHq9Dc"]YouTube - Michael Phelps freestyle multi angle camera[/nomedia]

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    Re: Frustrated...Seeking advice/reaffirmation (long)

    Quote Originally Posted by pwolf66 View Post
    Make a list of all the things that you need to focus on, I would work on this with your teacher. Decide together the order of importance. Each time you swim, pick no more than 3 things to concentrate on, 2 would probably be better at your current skill level.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ripple View Post
    The early catch sounds like a balance problem.
    Quote Originally Posted by ande View Post
    you're crossing over
    more with your left hand...

    looks like your kick is going a little too wide ...

    when you put your hands in the water
    your arm should be in frot of your shoulder
    at first your fingers should point at the wall you're swimming towards
    Again, thanks to everyone for the advice/help.

    The last few times I swam I tried to really focus on (i) not crossing over, (ii) putting my hands in the water at shoulder width and (iii) keeping my feet "in the cylinder." I will see tomorrow how well my instructor thinks I have done.

    I think that I am having a lot of trouble with balance and rotation. My front hand/arm keeps dropping when I breath to the opposite side...I saw some information on the internet that is conssitent with Ripple's observation - that the early catch may be a balance problem. Seems to me that that might be a good candidate for item #1 to address with instructor?

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    Re: Frustrated...Seeking advice/reaffirmation (long)

    Another way to look at avoiding the cross over is to ensure that your hand enters the water first. When you cross over, your elbow actually enters first. Once you get hands in the water first at shoulder width, it makes it easier to keep your torso and kick straight.

    When I get really fatigued and begin to drop my elbow, I pull out of it by imagining that I'm paddling a surf board with my body and legs being the surf board.

    But, I think you can totally do the OWS. Have fun. Careful, though. They are addictive.

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