Splash! Back in the pool….

My new workout schedule includes a Thursday swim and this week will be my first day back in the pool. Wish me luck! It’s been years since I’ve been lane swimming. Since my first triathlon in fact. As part of my fitness run up to forty, I started running, gave triathlon a try once I’d run my first 10 km and decided I’d rather try multi-sport rather than train for a half marathon. You know, after 10 km something had to be next something had to be next.  Along the way I discovered I’m really a cyclist.

I joke about that but it’s true. I was a middle of the pack runner and I bought a road bike expecting to be a middle of the pack cyclist. First time out with my triathlon training group I did 30 km and was out front the entire ride. The young men who thought themselves fast expected that I wouldn’t be able to keep up, but they were wrong.

Later I started riding with road cyclists, learned to draft, and moved to the back of the bunch. Among beginning triathletes I was very fast, among experienced road cyclists, just fast enough to come along for the ride.

Back to swimming:  I joined the Western triathlon club and starting swimming with the students. 6 am suited up and on the pool deck on campus two mornings a week. My reputation as a hard core member of the group was secured by my habit of riding my bike into the university to swim, through snow storms and freezing winter weather. My cold weather riding habit wasn’t training related. Without a car that was my one way in in the morning.

But if I was a speedy cyclist and a middle of the pack runner, I was anchor person for the slow lane in swimming. People joined my lane, got fast, and left. I loved the drills but I never picked up speed. I have to concentrate hard to get the breathing right. I suppose there was one bit of good news. I didn’t have bad habits to break when I started the total immersion method favoured by triathletes. I didn’t learn to front crawl until I was 38.

Later I moved to masters swimming at the Y, said goodbye to the super fast undergraduates, but I still stayed in the slow lane. I’m not sure if it’s not just psychological. There’s something about being out of breath and in the water, I don’t like.

So I’m a slow steady swimmer. I’m going to make sure I’ve got the distance under control. Certainly this time, if I wear a wet suit, I’m going to swim in it in advance of race day. I’m also going to be sure to practise in the open water and get used to waves. Read about my past race day mistakes here.

Any other advice you’d offer an aspiring triathlete whose main challenge is the swim?

6 thoughts on “Splash! Back in the pool….

  1. This may be a dumb question/comment, but are you breathing on both sides or just one side? I learned to swim as a kid, and hadn’t done laps since my early teens. When I was injured (and couldn’t run) a couple of years ago, I decided to take up swimming. It took a while before I realized that the *stroke, stroke, breathe* (always on my right) pattern wasn’t working for me. It also wasn’t exercising my muscles evenly, but that was less of a concern. So I tried to do three strokes and then breathe (alternating breathing on the right and the left) and eventually got the hang of it. Now it’s so much easier! I feel like I was getting out of breath before by breathing too often (or not often enough if I tried to go 4 strokes before breathing). And I agree with you–I hate feeling out of breath while in the water.

  2. I started like you only breathing on one side but got it drilled out of me! I’ve done a lot of drills breathing at different rates…but every third stroke feels about right for me too. It’s when I try to speed up and need to breathe more that I get a bit panicky…

  3. I agree that breathing on both sides is the ticket to a more relaxing and rhythmic breathing pattern. The other thing that may seem obvious but apparently not all people do it is that when you’re face is in the water you should be breathing out the whole time, not holding your breath. That way, when you turn your head for air you’re just inhaling, not exhaling and inhaling. I thought everyone did this automatically, but apparently lots of people have the instinct to hold their breath when their face is in the water. I had a lot of fun swimming with my snorkel and mask on this holiday. Wow! It’s amazing how efficient the freestyle stroke becomes when you don’t have to do any head turning to breath. Just an uninterrupted stroke. Too bad we can’t do that for the race!

  4. If you haven’t read it, you MUST read “Slow, Fat, Triathlete” by Jayne Williams. I suggest it to everyone relatively new to tris (even if they aren’t slow or fat). It’s a great account of the joy of sport for its own sake (outside of winning).

    It’s worth the price (here in the US, anyway) just for her account of trying on a wetsuit. It has lots of good info on racing and thinking about races, too.

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