April 1, 2014

Let's go swimming: The basics

Many of you probably know that I spent my formative years at the pool.  I started summer league swim team when I was 8 and year round swimming when I was 14.  I swam on neighborhood, high school and USS (United States Swimming...the governing body) teams; I coached summer league swim team; I gave swim lessons most summers when I was in high school.  So it's safe to say that swimming (and the inherent lingering chlorine odor) was a big part of my life.  Sadly, a knee injury sidelined me from college swimming, my ultimate goal. 

While my shoulders have lost their looming presence and I don't have the stroke turnover that I once did, I still have a pretty decent arsenal of knowledge on proper swim technique and workout approaches.  After getting questions and input from a few friends, I decided to start a mini series on the blog dedicated to swimming.  So like any series, we'll talk about the basics today, ok?

1. Get the right equipment.  You'll want a bathing suit, unless of course you'll be using a pool that encourages nudity!  And a swim cap and goggles are great to help keep your hair at bay and protect your eyes.  For women, a swim cap is a must to help keep your hair contained.  Sure, you can put it in a ponytail, but it will get annoying.  Trust me on this one!  There are plenty of fun caps and goggles to find out there!  Most athletic stores will have a good selection of caps and goggles, especially come spring and summer.

2. Know your numbers.  No, I'm not talking about your traditional health measures like height, weight, blood pressure and the like.  I'm talking about knowing the swimming distances.  One mile is approximately 1650 yards or 1500 meters.  So if you want to start comparing how long it takes you to run a mile vs. swim one, be prepared to be disappointed! 

3. Keep track of your distance. I'm talking about figuring out a way to keep track of your laps and yardage.  If you're in a short course pool, it is 25 yards or meters in distance.  If you're in a long course pool, aka an Olympic pool, each length is 50 meters, which is double the distance of a short course pool.  That means you'll have 50% less wall time, which may be challenging if you're a newer swimmer.  But it will also best mimic open water swimming if  you're training for an open water event.

4. Know your swim lane etiquette.  If you end up sharing a lane with someone else at the pool, there are specific things to know to ensure you both have a smooth, stress free workout.  First of all, make nice before you just dive in and take over the lane and discuss your strategy with your lane-mate. Think of this like track etiquette.  If you are sharing a lane with one other person, typically people split the lane and swim on one side of the lane and stay there.  For example, you'll swim up and down the same side of the lane, uninterrupted by the turtle on the other side of the lane.  If there are more than two people, you'll need to circle swim, where you swim up and down the right side of the lane, much like driving. 

I'll be putting together some workouts in an upcoming post.  In the meantime, what would you like to hear about in "Let's go swimming?"

Christine

29 comments:

  1. I wish you lived near me! I'd LOVE for you to critique my swimming form and offer tips. I'm so slow in the pool and I know it's because my form is a disaster.

    Also, circle swimming is my least favorite thing ever. I've been kicked so many times so I refuse to do it while pregnant ha!

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    1. I would happily help you with your form too! :)

      I can tell you so many stories about getting hit in the face, kicked, smacked, etc. while circle swimming...and this is from when I swam year round so it only gets worse with the amateur crowd!

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  2. I love this post because it means that summer is getting close! I am so ready for some pool time.

    Good call on talking about the pool etiquette... I don't think everyone realizes there is a proper way to swim with 2+ people in one lane. Manners are just as important there as anywhere else! :0)

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    1. More often than not, I find myself way more annoyed with people at the pool than at the gym because I don't think people understand swim etiquette!

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  3. I wish I had a good way of tracking my laps. I get to 4, forget, go back to 2, get to 8, forget, go back to 4...I think I end up swimming longer because I can't count when I'm in the water. (Grin)

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    1. Ok Lois, I'm brainstorming some better ways to count your laps...coming soon!

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  4. Yay! Excited for this, I've really been enjoying swimming but I feel like I need a more focused plan when I get in the pool.

    Also, I agree with Lois above...I can't for the life of me keep track of my laps! In my head I'm like, "1...2...3...oooh, I could go for a smoothie when I'm done!...crap, what number was I on??"

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    1. Hopefully some of the workouts (coming soon) will help your tri training!

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  5. So glad you posted this! I'm so intimidated by the pool - I don't know that it's necessarily doing a swim workout itself, or that I just don't know the ins and outs of what goes on before and after.

    Looking forward to more of these! Hopefully it gives me the nudge I need to get my suit on!

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    1. I'm so glad it's helpful. I know most people think the pool is really intimidating so hopefully I can share some tips to make it a little more fun. :)

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  6. Thanks, Christine! What a great idea. I grew up swimming too, but not to the extent that you did. Now that I have started Triathlons, swimming has been part of my work out routine. I would love to read more of this series.
    @heatherlas

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  7. Awesome! I am so not a strong swimmer.

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    1. Hopefully there will be a few things to help Mindy

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  8. I love that you're doing this! I have it in my mind to do a mini triathlon someday, but I'm terrified of the swimming part! Despite my love of the water, I'm really not very good at swimming and need some serious help. So, yay for this new theme! Woohoo!

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    1. I think the swim is what scares most people and ironically, it's what excites me!

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  9. I would love to be able to do a triathlon someday, but I need to get better at swimming first. Hopefully this series will help me!

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    1. A tri is on my list too, Kristen. The bike is actually the biggest deterrent for me

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  10. I would love an article on what to expect in the beginning. Being a runner and someone who enjoyed swimming in the summer, I assumed going up and down a lane would be child's play. I was wrong and REALLY wrong. It was brutal and a bit depressing :/

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    1. Excellent input, Leslie. I'll add that to the list.

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  11. All good tips! I was on the swim team when I was younger but hated getting up early and jumping in cold water!

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    1. Haha yes, the beginning of summer league was always very very cold!

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  12. I know nothing about swimming but really would like to learn. For a beginner, how many times a week would you recommend and how long a session? Also, if I got lessons, how many lessons do you think are necessary to get a good basic knowledge?

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    1. Ooh good questions. I'll have to do a little research and some thinking on these. You stumped me on the lessons one :)

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  13. Good tips about swimming! Thanks!

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  14. I think that growing up in Florida means I learned to swim before I could walk, but I never took proper swim lessons, so I just swim for fun. I've tried lap swimming, but not really knowing the proper stroke form plus not having a good breathing pattern down meant it was so hard! I'm thinking about taking some adult swim lessons just so I can add swimming for fitness (instead of just for fun) to my toolbox!

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    1. Lap swimming is so much tougher than people expect. I'm consistently amazed at how much harder it is to swim a mile rather than run one!

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    2. Great post! Personally, I found your post to be very informative and insightful! Thanks for sharing!

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