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Thread: Distance Runner trying to get into the Swimming Groove

  1. #1
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    Distance Runner trying to get into the Swimming Groove

    Hey there,

    I'm a distance runner and want to start swimming - the way it's meant to be done.

    Right now, I am ridiculously slow at the freestyle and backstroke. When I feel like I'm moving at a reasonable speed I look to the lane next to me and see a guy moving effortlessly, just gliding through the water, 3x as fast as me.

    I don't know why I move so slowly. I've watched videos and it just seems like I get none of that fluid propulsion forward.

    I also get out of breath extremely quickly, it seems. I run a 5K in 16:18 and it's a struggle completing 100 yards in the pool.

    Lastly - I can not make sense of this - it seems that my breathing is just fine until I make that first turn - and then, counterintuitively, after I take that breath and flip around I feel like I'm out of breath, and the rest of the way is a struggle.

    I don't know how to breaststroke or butterfly at all. I suppose I'll leave that for later...

    Suggestions?? Thoughts??

  2. #2
    Very Active Member gobears's Avatar
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    Re: Distance Runner trying to get into the Swimming Groove

    Join a Masters team and get coached. You are probably in terrific shape - you just need to learn how to swim correctly and how to relax in the water. Being a runner, ankle flexibility is likely an issue - work on being able to point your toes and keep your kick small, fast and from the hip (not the knees).

  3. #3
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    Re: Distance Runner trying to get into the Swimming Groove

    I agree with “gobears”. But if you’re not in a position to join a team, there is a lot you can do to improve your stroke on your own. Be aware though that sometime sooner or later, maybe even now, you'll get stuck and need feedback from an experienced swimmer or coach to continue improving. It's common for people to post videos of themselves swimming here, to get pointers too.


    You might find the "Total Immersion" system of efficient swimming by Terry Laughlin helpful. He’s geared towards novice swimmers and has books, videos, camps... I don’t agree with all his ideas, but think he’s got a great system to improve stroke efficiency quickly. There are so many "parts" to get right: body position, body rotation, kicking, catch, arm pull, breathing, timing it all... that you can't just learn it all at once. You need to work on different parts then put it together. That's what Terry does.


    As you turn and push off the wall be sure to exhale under water. Build up of CO2, not lack of oxygen triggers the urge to breath. And you can't get a good breath if you haven't exhaled enough.

    I wouldn't worry about breaststroke or butterfly yet either.

    Good Luck!
    There is something more terrible than a hell of suffering--a hell of boredom. -Victor Hugo

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    Re: Distance Runner trying to get into the Swimming Groove

    Struggling comes from fighting drag, nobody can sustain that amount of work.

    You may also try video footage and upload it here. An underwater camera would be the most effective but mistakes can be noticed from above too, just not as easily or accurately.

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    Very Active Member Swimosaur's Avatar
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    Re: Distance Runner trying to get into the Swimming Groove

    Quote Originally Posted by xxsprint View Post
    I don't know why I move so slowly.
    THE key physical fact about swimming: Water is 800 times denser than air. That matters a lot. In swimming, applying propulsive force to the water is but half the sport. Avoiding water resistance is the other half. The guy in the next lane who is three times faster than you, is not three times stronger than you, he's three times better than you at avoiding water resistance (*).

    I often get pinged for little five minute lessons, by people who see me swim and want some tips. I tell them about water resistance, then we do a little comparison. I push off the wall and glide through the water. No kicking, no stroking. Just glide. This is a simple measure of my "fishiness". Then I ask them to do the same, and we compare how far I went vs. how far they go. I win every time, doing no swimming at all.

    I invite you to do the same. Push off the wall and glide as far as you can. No kicking, no stroking. How far did you go? Now do it 100 times, and try different things. Change the angle of your head, arms, hands, feet, waist. What works better? What feels smoother? What goes farther? You will develop a feel for how to move efficiently through the water. YMMV.

    (*) Taking many mathematical liberties here!
    Last edited by Swimosaur; June 22nd, 2013 at 11:38 PM.

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    Re: Distance Runner trying to get into the Swimming Groove

    Thanks guys, I will try what you recommended out. Swimosaur, I will definitely try out improving my gliding!

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    Re: Distance Runner trying to get into the Swimming Groove

    I get a number of runners in my workouts. The number one problem to address is breathing. Someone else mentioned the importance of exhaling completely. If you keep gulping in air and don't exhale correctly, you have no room to take in more air. It sounds so simple, but it is extremely important.
    The second problem is to slow down and feel the water. You may go fast for 25-50, but you can't go far if you are using too much energy. Long and strong is the key - efficiency. Good distance swimmers have a sense of pace. Use the pace clock to develop this.

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    Re: Distance Runner trying to get into the Swimming Groove

    I get a number of runners in my workouts. The number one problem to address is breathing. Someone else mentioned the importance of exhaling completely. If you keep gulping in air and don't exhale correctly, you have no room to take in more air. It sounds so simple, but it is extremely important.
    The second problem is to slow down and feel the water. You may go fast for 25-50, but you can't go far if you are using too much energy. Long and strong is the key - efficiency. Good distance swimmers have a sense of pace. Use the pace clock to develop this.

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    Re: Distance Runner trying to get into the Swimming Groove

    I have two more questions.

    1) I think one of the reasons I fatigue quickly is because I can tell my exhaling underwater is not being done right. It seems like I can't continuously exhale. Bubbles shoot out my nose but then it's like my chest stops and I have to focus on sucking my chest in again to get the rest of the air out. What should I do?

    2) I'm trying to learn how to flip turn. I was practicing doing somersaults just in the shallow end with the water up to my neck before doing it off the wall. I can get to the bottom of the somersault - my head to the pool floor, my feet toward the surface - but when I start to come up I invariably "abort" by turning over on my left side and I end up at the surface splayed out. What's going on here?

    Thanks!

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    Re: Distance Runner trying to get into the Swimming Groove

    Quote Originally Posted by xxsprint View Post
    I have two more questions.

    1) I think one of the reasons I fatigue quickly is because I can tell my exhaling underwater is not being done right. It seems like I can't continuously exhale. Bubbles shoot out my nose but then it's like my chest stops and I have to focus on sucking my chest in again to get the rest of the air out. What should I do?

    2) I'm trying to learn how to flip turn. I was practicing doing somersaults just in the shallow end with the water up to my neck before doing it off the wall. I can get to the bottom of the somersault - my head to the pool floor, my feet toward the surface - but when I start to come up I invariably "abort" by turning over on my left side and I end up at the surface splayed out. What's going on here?

    Thanks!
    Way too complex to attempt answering in writing.

    You need to find a coached Masters program. Where are you located?

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    Very Active Member debaru's Avatar
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    Re: Distance Runner trying to get into the Swimming Groove

    Quote Originally Posted by xxsprint View Post
    I have two more questions.

    1) I think one of the reasons I fatigue quickly is because I can tell my exhaling underwater is not being done right. It seems like I can't continuously exhale. Bubbles shoot out my nose but then it's like my chest stops and I have to focus on sucking my chest in again to get the rest of the air out. What should I do?

    2) I'm trying to learn how to flip turn. I was practicing doing somersaults just in the shallow end with the water up to my neck before doing it off the wall. I can get to the bottom of the somersault - my head to the pool floor, my feet toward the surface - but when I start to come up I invariably "abort" by turning over on my left side and I end up at the surface splayed out. What's going on here?

    Thanks!
    With breathing, as others said, you really do need to relax. When I exhale, I breathe out through both my nose and my mouth in a consistent manner (not too hard), and just before rotating to my side to take a breath, I force out the remaining air through my mouth with a short "puff".

    Regarding the flip turn -- I wouldn't even worry about doing them until you have a better handle on swimming. But, if you're intent on learning to do them right away, there are lots of good training videos online that show how to master a flip turn. If you haven't already, check out GoSwim.

    Besides joining a Masters group, keep in mind that the more you swim, the easier it will get. It takes time to become an efficient swimmer and you simply cannot rush it.
    I would give up chocolate, but I'm no quitter.

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    Very Active Member mcnair's Avatar
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    Re: Distance Runner trying to get into the Swimming Groove

    On the breathing, relaxation and control are super important... and by control I don't mean holding of breath; breathe continuously, exhale under water continuously until you're ready to inhale, but try not to hold it at any point. In addition to Goswim, mentioned above, check out videos on "swim smooth" and TI (Total Immersion)... TI has some good drills for incorporating breathing into your stroke more naturally. Yoga ujjay breathing might help with control issues as well.

    And forget about the flip turns for now... but check out videos online about executing an effective open turn. At this point the flip turn is going to aggravate your breathing issues. I am also a convert from running and used to use swimming as cross-training; after struggling for a couple of years with the flip while I was working out a whole lot of other stroke issues, I decided just to forget about it for a while, do the open turn and focus on other things to make my stroke smoother and more efficient with a strong open turn. I did that for a couple of years before returning to the flip turn... I was much more comfortable in the water after really focusing on the swimming for a couple of years, and so it came more easily. I've been watching masters meets and find that there is a small, but not insignificant, percentage of folks who opt for the open turn rather than the flip, especially in the distance events...

    And be patient with yourself... I know, being a long distance runner, it feels like you should be swimming faster, but greater effort doesn't seem to correspond to faster results because there are so many technique issues involved in swimming. A relatively small breakthrough in technique can result in huge gains, whereas just swimming harder and/or longer often doesn't have that effect... which is counterintuitive for us runners. Stick to it, though; change comes slowly but it's worth thinking about the long haul.

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