When I signed up for my first triathlon, I didn’t really know how to swim.
I mean, I could swim. I was unlikely to drown. I grew up playing in my grandmother’s pool, swimming in the ocean at the Jersey Shore, loving the water.
BUT… I quickly realized as an adult that I didn’t know how to actually swim. You know, face-in-water, hand-over-hand swim. I could do the freestyle stroke, but with my head above water, and not for a long period of time. Certainly not the 50m length of a pool, without breaking into some awkward breast stroke type things. Of course, this realization came after I signed up for the tri, knowing that I had a few months to work with and that I had access to the multiple pools at the University I work for. Even better, they offered swim classes of all levels, and cheap. Like $50 for 10 weeks, cheap. I quickly signed up for an adult intermediate class, for swimmers who can swim but want to improve their stroke. I showed up and was one of the better swimmers in the class, in terms of lack of fear and sheer endurance. Within a few weeks, I was able to swim with my face in the water. My stroke needed work, and I could only breathe on the left side (okay, that still happens), but it was totally functional. With practice, I learned to KEEP KICKING steadily, not just between strokes.
At my first tri, I swam with good form a few meters before panicking about the whole “being in the middle of a lake surrounded by other people and water splashing in my face and OH MY GOD” … and resorting to a breast stroke type hand motion, with my head above the water. However, very proudly, I still made it to land slowly but surely and was well above the “we’re going to pull you out of the water” time limit. It wasn’t my most shining moment as a pseudo-swimmer, but I was (and remain) incredibly proud that I didn’t bail.
Since then, I’ve really come to enjoy swimming. I still (mostly) breathe on one side only, but I feel smooth and buoyant most days. I stick to freestyle – I never mastered the kick of breast stroke, and for some weird reason, I can’t keep myself afloat backstroke. My head sinks and I sputter like a radiator. I’m not the strongest kicker in the world (you’d think otherwise, as a runner, right???). But I really enjoy the quiet time in the pool. I’ve done another tri since, and had a much better swim – I was SO HAPPY to complete the whole swim, swimming like a “REAL” swimmer – head down, hand over hand! Seriously, one of my most proud moments.
Now, here’s the part where I need YOUR help, my swim-tastic readers! I really am enjoying swimming, even when I don’t have any tri’s planned. Just for a good workout, and for fun. For the swimmers out there, what are your tried and true tips and tricks that you use in the pool? Here are my major questions:
- Training! What are your favorite workouts in the pool? Keep it in layman’s terms for this pseudo-swimmer. I do work with a kickboard and pull buoy often, but what are some actual workouts that you do?
- Gear! Most of the gear I have has come from my local Sports Authority, because I don’t know enough about what I’d even be looking for to buy something “better” online. I wouldn’t mind doing that, now that I’ve been recreationally swimming for a couple of years. But what kind of stuff is even the “good” stuff???
- I have a pair of goggles that I really like (Speedo Vanquisher 2.0, in rainbow, of course!) However, they leave me these lovely eye circles. Beautiful, in particular because lately I’ve been swimming before work. Luckily, Friday mornings the most common time for no-show appointments, because otherwise those students would be like, “Hey Dean Meesh, what’s up with the eye circles, weirdo?”
- Any thoughts on NOT ending up with those? Or is it just a thing? I have a kinda puffy face (as opposed to the kind with tightly stretch skin), so it might be unavoidable.
- SWIM CAPS! Ugh. Ladies, what do you use and like? I am having the most trouble here. I would assume that I have a head on the larger side, because caps are constantly sliding up on me. I’ve tried the Tyr and Speedo ones I could find at my local store. I even bought one of the caps for long hair, thinking it would give me some extra “headroom” but it had a whole extra empty bubble on top. What brands are your fave? Points for anything that comes in fun colors!
- Swim Suits – I’m reaching out to my fellow ladies on the larger side here. I’m at the top end of the sizes I can buy in regular old speedo/tyr suits. I have a long torso, and I end up with a 40 or 14/16 if I can even find them. Honestly, the plus size suits are usually boring. I want fun, but it doesn’t seem to come in my size too often in the world of athletic-swim. Also, what’s up with ZERO inside boob control? Not even a little shelf bra for the ladies? Because of this I’ve erred on the side of the thick strapped suits, which also limits the options (and cute factor). Any thoughts/ideas here, folks?
Thanks for your help in this area, swim-savvy readers! Happy Friday!