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Thread: Swim Student Sinks Like a Rock!

  1. #1
    aka Elaine-iaK & Aqua Dog ElaineK's Avatar
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    Question Swim Student Sinks Like a Rock!

    Gerald, 58, came to me and practically begged me to teach him how to swim. He is new in our community and had been watching me swim while he lifted weights in the gym. Although Gerald used to fool around in the water with his identical twin brother when they were kids, he had only swum underwater and never learned any of the strokes.

    Well, Gerald recently heard from his brother that he learned how to swim. To rub salt in the wound further, Gerald's brother bragged about swimming at hotel pools when they travel.
    Needless to say, Gerald is highly motivated to catch up to his brother, especially before bro comes to visit Gerald and his wife here in the community.

    Although I have taught two people how to swim, I am not a certified instructor, but I have been using the USMS Swimming Saves Lives Foundation Adult-Learn-To-Swim Volunteer Teacher Swim Lesson Guide.

    We started just three weeks ago, and here is a video from today's 7th lesson:
    <span style="font-family: comic sans ms"><font size="3"><font color="#0000cd">
    (Although he has also added breathing, this video shows his stroke better.)

    As you can see, when he is kicking and moving forward, he is able to stay on the surface. The thing is, he can't float! This former football player is solid muscle, and he sinks like a rock! Seriously. Air in the lungs? Check. Chin and belly up? Check. Shoulders and lungs pressed back? Check. Relaxed? Check. He is very comfortable underwater, so he doesn't mind going under, but he won't rise to the surface once he's down! On a push off the wall and a "Superman" glide, he looks great-- until he comes to a complete stop on the BOTTOM of the pool (which is 5 feet deep). He'll just lay there until he runs out of breath. When he does stand up, we both just laugh!

    This guy is DEDICATED and wants swimming to become his main fitness focus. He has practiced every single day since our first lesson in late May, and he is determined. Between his dedication, determination, size 15 feet, and long fingers; I think he'll be a really good swimmer. In fact, I told him if he keeps up the good work, I'll bring him with me to compete at the Georgia Senior Olympics, in September!


    Any ideas on how I can get Gerald to float without supporting him?
    He even sinks with my pull buoy!
    http://ElaineiaKsTravels.wordpress.com

    ~ Believing in your dreams can be far more rewarding than living by your limitations ~Karla Peterson

  2. #2
    Very Active Member StewartACarroll's Avatar
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    Re: Swim Student Sinks Like a Rock!

    Quote Originally Posted by ElaineK View Post
    Any ideas on how I can get Gerald to float without supporting him? He even sinks with my pull buoy!
    Elaine, that's terrific and it sounds like he has made a lot of progress. Take a look at Gerald's kick. He has big feet that are acting like brakes because he is not pointing his toes and feet. Also he needs to kick from his hip. I find this is an issue with many of the young kids I work with. Swimmers need to point there toes like ballerinas. Also most peopl seem to have a natural inclination to kick from the knee. I would have him working on a board pointing his toes and kicking from the hip. They don't need to be big kicks but rather shorter kicking from the hip. I hope this helps.

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    aka Elaine-iaK & Aqua Dog ElaineK's Avatar
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    Re: Swim Student Sinks Like a Rock!

    Quote Originally Posted by StewartACarroll View Post
    Elaine, that's terrific and it sounds like he has made a lot of progress. Take a look at Gerald's kick. He has big feet that are acting like brakes because he is not pointing his toes and feet. Also he needs to kick from his hip. I find this is an issue with many of the young kids I work with. Swimmers need to point there toes like ballerinas. Also most peopl seem to have a natural inclination to kick from the knee. I would have him working on a board pointing his toes and kicking from the hip. They don't need to be big kicks but rather shorter kicking from the hip. I hope this helps.

    Thanks, Stewart! Actually, I have been preaching "Kick from the hip!" since the beginning. When he holds on to the wall and kicks, he kicks from the hip beautifully-- if you don't look at his feet. When he swims, he is thinking about too much at the same time, and his kick goes out the window. I have been encouraging him to think of just one thing at a time, and to stay relaxed.

    As for his toes, those are his pointed toes! I checked his flexibility on land before we ever got in the pool, and this guy is as stiff as a board. He couldn't make a foot circle if a gun was put to his head! Needless to say, I have encouraged him to make dynamic stretching an important part of his pre-swim routine, and static stretching his post-swim routine. In addition, I encouraged him to do foot circles when he watches TV at night.

    His upper body is very inflexible, too. He can't get into a streamline position at all. His elbows bend, and his arms stay out far from his ears. That's on land, too! He watches me doing yoga, and you can practically see tears in his eyes from the pain he imagines if he attempted the same thing.
    http://ElaineiaKsTravels.wordpress.com

    ~ Believing in your dreams can be far more rewarding than living by your limitations ~Karla Peterson

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    Very Active Member StewartACarroll's Avatar
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    Re: Swim Student Sinks Like a Rock!

    I am not a big fan of fins because I think they can become a crutch however maybe some time spent using short fins with a board won't really help with both Gerald's ankle inflexibility and kicking from the hip. I think if he can fix his kick a lot of his other Swimming challenges will solve themselves. Good luck.

  5. #5
    aka Elaine-iaK & Aqua Dog ElaineK's Avatar
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    Re: Swim Student Sinks Like a Rock!

    Quote Originally Posted by StewartACarroll View Post
    I am not a big fan of fins because I think they can become a crutch however maybe some time spent using short fins with a board won't really help with both Gerald's ankle inflexibility and kicking from the hip. I think if he can fix his kick a lot of his other Swimming challenges will solve themselves. Good luck.

    That's a good idea. I had been so concerned with "toys" becoming crutches that I hadn't considered how fins could help with his ankle flexibility. They will also help with buoyancy, so perhaps fins would be a good confidence booster during these early stages of swimming. THANKS!
    http://ElaineiaKsTravels.wordpress.com

    ~ Believing in your dreams can be far more rewarding than living by your limitations ~Karla Peterson

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    Re: Swim Student Sinks Like a Rock!

    I hate fins, and my kick is the pits, but when I use them even for a few laps, my kick and ankle flexibility improve exponentially. Bless you, Elaine, for helping this lovely man. Wish I lived close enough to come swim with the two of you. If I may suggest, he could try a Pilates mat class or very gentle yoga for flexibility. There's a form of yoga, Kripalu, that is perfect for people like him (and me) who aren't flexible. It's very gentle. Age takes away our flexibility, but when I was taking Kripalu Yoga I was amazed at how quickly I improved.

  7. #7
    aka Elaine-iaK & Aqua Dog ElaineK's Avatar
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    Re: Swim Student Sinks Like a Rock!

    Quote Originally Posted by DeniseMW View Post
    I hate fins, and my kick is the pits, but when I use them even for a few laps, my kick and ankle flexibility improve exponentially. Bless you, Elaine, for helping this lovely man. Wish I lived close enough to come swim with the two of you. If I may suggest, he could try a Pilates mat class or very gentle yoga for flexibility. There's a form of yoga, Kripalu, that is perfect for people like him (and me) who aren't flexible. It's very gentle. Age takes away our flexibility, but when I was taking Kripalu Yoga I was amazed at how quickly I improved.
    Thanks, Denise! I appreciate the suggestions and fin endorsement! Since I started teaching myself yoga in January, I have been amazed at how much more flexible I have become. I am now a huge proponent of including it in dryland to improve swimming, and I have encouraged Gerald to try it. Although he didn't warm up to the idea (hated it, actually!), I at least was able to convince him to stretch and taught him several good static stretches to increase his flexibility.

    I will research Kripalu and show Gerald some more "stretches" he can do. Perhaps by leaving the word "yoga" out of the discussion and showing him how these "stretches" can improve his stroke technique, he will keep an open mind.

    http://ElaineiaKsTravels.wordpress.com

    ~ Believing in your dreams can be far more rewarding than living by your limitations ~Karla Peterson

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    Very Active Member __steve__'s Avatar
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    Re: Swim Student Sinks Like a Rock!

    Just starting, he is picking up swimming fast!

    He has a solid 6- beat kick. with better propulsive ankle flex, I bet he would rise up flat on the water.

    Way to go Elaine!

  9. #9
    aka Elaine-iaK & Aqua Dog ElaineK's Avatar
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    Re: Swim Student Sinks Like a Rock!

    Quote Originally Posted by __steve__ View Post
    Just starting, he is picking up swimming fast!

    He has a solid 6- beat kick. with better propulsive ankle flex, I bet he would rise up flat on the water.

    Way to go Elaine!
    Thanks, Steve! The day I shot that video, I taught him the 1-2-3 cadence of kick/stroke. He had been kicking too fast to the point where his legs were tensing up and it looked like they were vibrating! This particular lesson stuck well-- as long as he doesn't breathe. When he adds breathing, the frenetic kick starts again! He feels the difference, though, and with practice, he'll be able to put it all together and relax.
    http://ElaineiaKsTravels.wordpress.com

    ~ Believing in your dreams can be far more rewarding than living by your limitations ~Karla Peterson

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    Re: Swim Student Sinks Like a Rock!

    he looks strong and eager. He wants to BEAT his BROTHER.

    1st
    Have him do a 25 freestyle as fast as he can for time, time him with a stop watch or your iphone.
    TELL him to swim as fast as you can and DON'T give him any other instructions.
    Get his time.
    Also Watch him swim and look for easy things to correct.

    Let him REST.

    Give him a few short simple instructions on how to swim faster
    THEN have him RACE another 25 freestyle for time.

    Compare the times.

    Don't tell him this stuff until after he does his 1st 25 for time.

    1st Get him to wear a jammer and not that baggy suit.

    2nd Teach him how to do a proper push off streamline glide into a breakout, he started swimming about 5 or 6 feet off the wall and should glide 12 to 15 feet before he takes his 1st stroke. He should do a correct push off EVERY time he pushes off the wall

    3rd have him watch and copy the most graceful freestyle youtube video

    4th his legs sink because he's not kicking properly, he should copy the kick in the youtube



    There's more. Keep it simple and progressive.
    Last edited by ande; June 14th, 2016 at 03:33 PM.

  11. #11
    aka Elaine-iaK & Aqua Dog ElaineK's Avatar
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    Re: Swim Student Sinks Like a Rock!

    Quote Originally Posted by ande View Post
    he looks strong and eager. He wants to BEAT his BROTHER.

    1st
    Have him do a 25 freestyle as fast as he can for time, time him with a stop watch or your iphone.
    TELL him to swim as fast as you can and DON'T give him any other instructions.
    Get his time.
    Also Watch him swim and look for easy things to correct.

    Let him REST.

    Give him a few short simple instructions on how to swim faster
    THEN have him RACE another 25 freestyle for time.

    Compare the times.

    Don't tell him this stuff until after he does his 1st 25 for time.

    1st Get him to wear a jammer and not that baggy suit.

    2nd Teach him how to do a proper push off streamline glide into a breakout, he started swimming about 5 or 6 feet off the wall and should glide 12 to 15 feet before he takes his 1st stroke. He should do a correct push off EVERY time he pushes off the wall

    3rd have him watch and copy the most graceful freestyle youtube video

    4th his legs sink because he's not kicking properly, he should copy the kick in the youtube



    There's more. Keep it simple and progressive.
    Hey, Ande! I missed you at Nationals. Since you were the one to call me "Elaine-iaK," I always think of you when I add a post to my blog. Check this post out; you'll appreciate it, I'm sure: https://elaineiakstravels.wordpress....nne-with-an-e/

    Thanks for the suggestions! I have taught Gerald the the proper push off & streamline glide, but he conveniently "forgot" to do it for this video clip. (He's still not comfortable with it yet, because it's a lot to think about.) Gerald understands it's quicker, though, so I'm sure he'll add it in as he gets more used to swimming. (He only started learning how to swim a couple of weeks prior to this video being shot!)

    I had also sent him this video when I first started giving him lessons:
    <span style="font-family:comic sans ms;"><font size="3"><span style="color:#0000cd;">

    As for jammers, I had also sent him a Swim Outlet link to jammers that are even on sale. I'm hoping he orders a pair, because those trunks are like a drag suit!

    We won't be able to meet up again for about one month due to each of us traveling, but I will time him when we meet again. He is super motivated and even chose a hotel at his destination based on the available POOL!
    I can't wait to see how he has progressed by then, and I'll bet he will be ready for the Georgia Senior Olympics on September 16th! I am strongly encouraging him to make that meet a goal, so he can qualify for 2017 National Senior Games in Birmingham.

    Hopefully, I can also get him to join USMS and join me at area swim meets!

    http://ElaineiaKsTravels.wordpress.com

    ~ Believing in your dreams can be far more rewarding than living by your limitations ~Karla Peterson

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    Very Active Member arthur's Avatar
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    Re: Swim Student Sinks Like a Rock!

    One of the best things he can do to gain ankle flexibility is just sit kneeling with toes pointed. As he gains flexibility he can lean back like this:
    http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-0svmsuJ29p...0/IMG_0537.JPG

    and eventually try to raise his knees off the ground:
    http://www.usms.org/pix/alt/878_250.jpg

  13. #13
    aka Elaine-iaK & Aqua Dog ElaineK's Avatar
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    Re: Swim Student Sinks Like a Rock!

    Quote Originally Posted by arthur View Post
    One of the best things he can do to gain ankle flexibility is just sit kneeling with toes pointed. As he gains flexibility he can lean back like this:
    http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-0svmsuJ29p...0/IMG_0537.JPG

    and eventually try to raise his knees off the ground:
    http://www.usms.org/pix/alt/878_250.jpg
    Thanks for the ideas, Arthur. So far, I just showed him how he could sit in a chair and do ankle circles (clockwise and counterclockwise) while watching TV in the evenings or reading a book. I will check his flexibility from time to time and see when he is ready to move on to your suggestions. Right now his ankles couldn't handle either one!
    http://ElaineiaKsTravels.wordpress.com

    ~ Believing in your dreams can be far more rewarding than living by your limitations ~Karla Peterson

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    Re: Swim Student Sinks Like a Rock!

    Howdy Elainiak

    He HAS to push off correctly EVERY single time.

    Quote Originally Posted by ElaineK View Post
    Hey, Ande! I missed you at Nationals. Since you were the one to call me "Elaine-iaK," I always think of you when I add a post to my blog. Check this post out; you'll appreciate it, I'm sure: https://elaineiakstravels.wordpress....nne-with-an-e/

    Thanks for the suggestions! I have taught Gerald the the proper push off & streamline glide, but he conveniently "forgot" to do it for this video clip. (He's still not comfortable with it yet, because it's a lot to think about.) Gerald understands it's quicker, though, so I'm sure he'll add it in as he gets more used to swimming. (He only started learning how to swim a couple of weeks prior to this video being shot!)

    I had also sent him this video when I first started giving him lessons:
    <span style="font-family:comic sans ms;"><font size="3"><span style="color:#0000cd;">

    As for jammers, I had also sent him a Swim Outlet link to jammers that are even on sale. I'm hoping he orders a pair, because those trunks are like a drag suit!

    We won't be able to meet up again for about one month due to each of us traveling, but I will time him when we meet again. He is super motivated and even chose a hotel at his destination based on the available POOL!
    I can't wait to see how he has progressed by then, and I'll bet he will be ready for the Georgia Senior Olympics on September 16th! I am strongly encouraging him to make that meet a goal, so he can qualify for 2017 National Senior Games in Birmingham.

    Hopefully, I can also get him to join USMS and join me at area swim meets!


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    Re: Swim Student Sinks Like a Rock!

    Great job! I think he looks really good and agree he could become an excellent swimmer. I agree with the fins recommendation, but I personally think that the medium/long blade fins lend themselves better to ankle flexibility and keeping the legs loose. Those short fins can be torture, and we want him to have fun.

    You might consider switching gears when you meet next time, doing some other strokes and types of kicking such as flutter and dolphin kicks on the back. This will help build his ankle flexibility and overall fluidity in the water, while adding some nice variety to his lessons. When I teach, sometimes if I switch gears and move to a skill that is completely different, when we switch back to the original skill, the student shows improvement. Tell him the dolphin kicks will help him beat his brother (-:

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    aka Elaine-iaK & Aqua Dog ElaineK's Avatar
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    Re: Swim Student Sinks Like a Rock!

    Quote Originally Posted by shera View Post
    Great job! I think he looks really good and agree he could become an excellent swimmer. I agree with the fins recommendation, but I personally think that the medium/long blade fins lend themselves better to ankle flexibility and keeping the legs loose. Those short fins can be torture, and we want him to have fun.

    You might consider switching gears when you meet next time, doing some other strokes and types of kicking such as flutter and dolphin kicks on the back. This will help build his ankle flexibility and overall fluidity in the water, while adding some nice variety to his lessons. When I teach, sometimes if I switch gears and move to a skill that is completely different, when we switch back to the original skill, the student shows improvement. Tell him the dolphin kicks will help him beat his brother (-:
    Thanks! I wondered the same thing about fins, so I went "shopping" at Swim Outlet's site and recommended these to Gerald: http://www.swimoutlet.com/p/tyr-flex...s-3471/?color= Tyr says, "FlexFins are designed to increase leg strength and foot flexibility. Color coordinated by size for easy identification. This fin is ideal for all swimmers with an added flexible sole that creates less blistering factors."

    The only problem is Gerald's size 15 feet! The largest size Tyr makes is for feet "13+," so I hope the "+" is enough room!

    I like the idea of switching gears. When Gerald looked like he was pressing and trying too hard, I would take a break from the full stroke, and focus on just the kick or the pull. He is just so determined to learn FREESTYLE, though! Still, I would love to at least teach him backstroke, too, but we're having sinking difficulties at the moment.
    As for breaststroke, he can't turn out his feet AT ALL just yet, but I'm hoping he will work hard on getting some flexibility in those ankles. As a breaststroker, this nothing more I would love than to teach him my stroke! Neither of the two people I taught in the past wanted to learn it, so I'm hoping he will change his mind about it!
    http://ElaineiaKsTravels.wordpress.com

    ~ Believing in your dreams can be far more rewarding than living by your limitations ~Karla Peterson

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    Re: Swim Student Sinks Like a Rock!

    When you teach him the mystique behind the breast stroke leg movement, let me know how you did it. I kick like a one-legged frog.

  18. #18
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    Re: Swim Student Sinks Like a Rock!

    Quote Originally Posted by DeniseMW View Post
    When you teach him the mystique behind the breast stroke leg movement, let me know how you did it. I kick like a one-legged frog.
    http://ElaineiaKsTravels.wordpress.com

    ~ Believing in your dreams can be far more rewarding than living by your limitations ~Karla Peterson

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    Re: Swim Student Sinks Like a Rock!

    Hi Elaine, I think you've done a wonderful job with Gerald in such a short period of time! Congrats to you! I did notice in the video that he is holding his breath for quite a long time, and then the video cuts off, so I'm assuming he is not comfortable with breathing. Developing his ability to breathe (connected with his core strength and ability to rotate to the side to take a breath) is key here so I would focus on that more than I would focus on ankle flexibility at this point. Good that you're not really focusing on fins and allowing him to develop a natural kick - since he is a beginner with no ankle flexibility at all, the fins might do more harm than good. Keep up the great work and best of luck to Gerald on his swimming journey!

  20. #20
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    Re: Swim Student Sinks Like a Rock!

    Quote Originally Posted by Swimspire View Post
    Hi Elaine, I think you've done a wonderful job with Gerald in such a short period of time! Congrats to you! I did notice in the video that he is holding his breath for quite a long time, and then the video cuts off, so I'm assuming he is not comfortable with breathing. Developing his ability to breathe (connected with his core strength and ability to rotate to the side to take a breath) is key here so I would focus on that more than I would focus on ankle flexibility at this point. Good that you're not really focusing on fins and allowing him to develop a natural kick - since he is a beginner with no ankle flexibility at all, the fins might do more harm than good. Keep up the great work and best of luck to Gerald on his swimming journey!
    Hi, Julia! Thanks!!

    Gerald wasn't holding his breath; I just posted a video where I had asked him to swim WITHOUT turning to breath to see how long he could go on one controlled exhale. The reason I posted this video rather than one of him breathing is so that you could see more of his stroke without him stopping. I have taught him how to breathe. Here is a video from the same day:
    <span style="font-family:comic sans ms;"><font size="3"><span style="color:#0000cd;">

    I'm getting mixed reviews on whether Gerald should get fins or not. Some say the fins would help him gain flexibility. Personally, I agree somewhat, but I also think the fins would help make him more buoyant. As I mentioned in the thread title, the poor guy sinks like a rock! If fins would help him float, I'm hoping he would feel more encouraged to learn backstroke-- or, at least kicking on his back as a drill.

    If Gerald does get fins, I would encourage him to limit his use of them, and only use them for kicking drills.

    Meanwhile, thanks for the encouragement to both of us!
    Please say hello to your dad and brother for me. They helped make Maryland Nationals such a great experience for me!


    http://ElaineiaKsTravels.wordpress.com

    ~ Believing in your dreams can be far more rewarding than living by your limitations ~Karla Peterson

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