Photo from Mount Royal, Frisco, Colorado.

"That is happiness; to be disolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep." - Willa Cather

Friday, 8 August 2008

Humiliated in the Pool

Maybe this post title conjures up images of a girl losing her bikini bottoms or an adolescent boy being made fun of for his man boobs. But this is about a 29 year old female who apparently can't swim.

I went swimming the other night, feeling good in my skin, thinking I'd try to swim fast. Things seemed to be going well until, about 3/4 of the way into my swim, a guy joined me in my lane. After a couple laps, he started laughing when I brought my head out the water and asked if anyone had ever showed me how to swim. I said "no" a bit surprised and worried. (I've basically taught myself over the last two years. I started out with this vague idea of a few different types of strokes. It took me about a year to get my head under water while I swam.) Had I been making a big fool out of myself this whole time?

"Why don't you kick when you swim?" He said. I figured that was a fair question. I'd always wanted swimming to improve my arm strength, so I had taught myself to swim without my legs. Now that I was training for a triathlon, I suddenly realized that didn't make too much sense. He continued: "Oh, and you never breath. Breathing more will help you turn your body as you swim, which you also don't do." I admitted I took breaths every 10 strokes and that I was pretty proud of that. Why was I proud of that again????

What had people been thinking all this time as they watched me swim???? Oh well, I wasn't going to let this advice pass me by. He went and got a kick board (which I had previously seen as a device designed for people who didn't know how to use their arms... Boy am I a RUBE!). I did two laps with just the kick board. Wow is that HARD! I thought being a runner would make that easy, but you use an almost completely different set of muscles. Then he had me kicking and rotating my body by breathing every two strokes and getting my hands up above my head. He said it was "like a dance underwater." This seemed hokey, but it has stuck with me. He swam along side of me and yelled things like "Keep kicking!" and I cut my time across the pool almost in half. It is amazing how much more efficient his suggestions made me!
I'm writing this in case there are any other rubes out there like me who don't know why they are not getting faster at swimming. For me it boiled down to three things:

1. Kicking
2. Breathing every two strokes
3. Rotating my body every stroke

Turns out the guy was a fellow doctor at the hospital I work at. I am so glad he had the guts to say something. I convinced SR we could benefit from signing up for a personal lesson or two.

As I write, The Bois (who turns six months tomorrow!) is crawling his way right across the floor. He's not quite as receptive to my advice that "crawling is a dance" but he's getting along alright.

Have a great weekend!

Running Song of the Day: Go Go by Alphabeat


Danni said...

That was nice of him to teach you. I am self taught as well and am proudly "average" when I do triathlons, including an Ironman. I sometimes wonder whether I could actually be a good swimmer if I learned proper technique. If you get more into triathlons the lessons would probably help you save energy for the bike and run which would make you faster.

Michelle said...

Well, at least you'll get in a pool. I have a major water phobia (funny, since I used to be on my college ROWING team, LOL) and I won't set foot in a pool if the water is too deep for me to stand in and have my head above water. I don't know if I'll ever be a triathlete because of that issue.

You'll just get faster and faster now! Don't be humiliated. It's not every day you can get a swimming lesson for free! :-)

Layna (aka Willow) said...

I just found your blog with a google search for pregnancy and marathons. I have a 19 month old, and I ran until the day before I delivered. I did a half at 7 months, with almost the same time as your pregnant half. And my labor experience was very similar (including begging for the epidural :).

Now that I'm pregnant with my second, and planning to run New York at 6 months, it's nice to be reminded that the folks who scowl about my pregnant running should mind their own business!

sea legs girl said...

Danni & Michelle,
You guys are right, and in the end I wasn't humiliated. I was just grateful to perhaps look less like an FLA (funny looking adult).

lanya (aka willow),
Great to hear from you. I think more and more that there are many like-minded people out there who know that if you've got an uncomplicated pregnancy, there's no reason to stop running. That is a super fast time for a 7 month pregnant half marathon. Way to go! Good luck with your second pregnancy!

Marathon Princess said...

Another swimmer here who has gotten laughed at, although it was my hubby doing the laughing. I also don't kick or breath when I swim and need to remind myslef to do these things, believe me it is much easier when you do. I have a personal trainer who I work with on swimming and it has really helped.

Brianne said...

Happy 1/2 birthday to monsieur Bois! Sadly I took a few swimming lessons in elementary school but still suck in the pool. It's the breathing thing I can't quite get comfortable with.

wannabe grower said...

Humor aside, I think a lesson or two is probably a smart plan. You've signed up for a 10 hour triathlon relay, an ultra distance race, and you don't know how to swim? Would you sign up for an ultra marathon, or even a Hood-to-Coast type relay, if you'd never run a 5k? You've read that most deaths in triathlon happen during the swim portion of the race, right? Even people who know how to swim who have trained seriously. It's not something to mess around with. Getting through the swim portion of a sprint tri is one thing, multiple legs of a long distance relay is another. Get help.

sea legs girl said...

wannabe grower,
Just curious what people die of during the swim. I actually haven't heard of that. Not that I'm doubting you, I'm just interested.

sea legs girl said...

Oh and we've done a tri before. In the swim portion I came in in the middle of the pack. I'm not totally clueless, I just need to work on my form :).

wannabe grower said...

It's not entirely known -- it's not been pool planning, autopsies have been inconclusive. Here in NYC, there has been a lot of discussion about it because in our big local tri, the swim is advertised as a "fast swim" because it goes with the current, so it's thought that people come unprepared. But several of the swimmers who have died have been extremely experienced swimmers and athletes. Here's one of the better articles in the popular press recently, suggesting underlying heart conditions, but one that talks about the issue more coherently than most:

wannabe grower said...

Argh: the url got cut off:

olga said...

I need to take a lesson like that:) I suck in swimming!!! Glad this dude spent time showing you the real deal, and you were receptive to learn it. I also bet he had hots for you:)

Kate said...

hi! i found your blog clicking off of danni's blogroll. (I get bored behind a computer at work.)
Anyway, just saying hello and that while I'm not half the athlete you are, I try to use you (crazy) endurance athletes as my inspiration to go do my piddly short workouts. : )
If you want to take advice from little old me, though, I'd recommend the book Total Immersion Swimming. I know, it sounds weird to learn to swim from a book, but I know several people who this book has helped immensely! p.s. while leg buoyancy is critical (so that you're not dragging yourself like an 'L' through the water), I'm not sure that I agree that lots of kicking is key to your tri success. as long as your legs are kept buoyant, I'd save them for the bike and run. whew. sorry for the wordiness!