Swimming in the Sea for Beginners and Learners - Advice Needed
Hi all, some advice needed!
I have been learning for about 9 months, taking classes and going to the pool myself. I'm an outdoorsy person, so naturally one of my aims is to be able to swim comfortably and without fear in lakes and the sea. At present, while i wouldn't say i can't swim, i'm still far from perfect. My form is quite poor, still lifting my head a bit too much. I'd say the most i can swim is about 3 lengths, so around 75m. My treading water is also not great. I have few beach holidays coming, and not idea of the not giving it a go and trying to swim in the sea, if only for a little, just seems not right! It wouldn't be my first time in the sea. I was in Cornwall a few months ago and did give it a go, but i still stayed where i could touch the sea bottom. Obviously, i know the dangers, riptide etc. and unlikely to be too ambitious.
Anyone learners here in the same shoes and have advice to offer?
If you have been taking classes from a Total Immersion coach or if you have been using the drills contained in the TI Effortless Endurance Self-Coaching Course, this will provide a good foundation for any kind of swimming, including open water swimming.
For swimmers who have been practicing the TI training program for awhile and who are ready to move into open water swimming, there is a DVD called Outside the Box which deals with the particular issues you will face when you do this. (The "box" is the swimming pool.):
from my opinion a good start is if you
read some theory about open water swimming..
watch the TI DVD
get a swim tracker that tracks and coaches your performance
get good and comfortable swimwear (goggles!) to avoid distraction while swimming
and then practice yourself :-)
I recently participated in the Ironman Bahrain 70.3 Middle East Champs. The swim was a sea swim which was really quite choppy with strong winds. There were also some noticeable currents as water flowed in and out the bay which had to be taken into consideration.
I have been swimming mostly the TI way (although not exclusively) for a couple of years. My local swimming pool is a leisure pool which during weekends and school holidays has a wave machine which is switched on every 30 mins. This has been helpful in training for me to try different things.
What I have learned from being thrashed around in a wave machine and I felt was proven in a real race is that you cannot fight rough(er) waters, you have to work with it. If you approach swimming the Total Immersion way with an emphasis on good balance and being relaxed you can ride out pretty tough conditions without much additional exertion. You may find you need to rotate a bit more to get a clear breath or modify your recovery over the water slightly but otherwise it should still be a pretty patient stroke. I personally find a high stroke rate (like you may see some elite triathletes doing) doesn't work for me as 1) I get tired quicker and 2) it doesn't seem to match the natural rhythm of the swell/waves. I tend to breathe only to the left when racing and even with the wind blowing into my face on the way back I only had a couple of occasions on the where I missed a breath although I did rotate a little further than normal.
I was using a DeSoto 2 piece sleeveless wetsuit (I find it interferes less with my stroke, particularly around the shoulders) so of course it was even easier to relax and have good body position than swimming in just jammers but I still think balance, relaxation and rhythm are your key focuses for true open water swimming.
Oh and I wouldn't worry too much about the lifting of your head in open water. You need to sight to see where you are going. I sight every 4 strokes (or 2 stroke cycles) unless I am on the toes or under the arm of someone who I am confident is swimming in the right direction. I guess it's a problem if it's causing your hips and legs to drop but if it's not don't worry about it.
In addition to the suggestion Coach Bob made above you might want to consider purchasing or borrowing s swim buoy for your open water swims. Besides making yourself far more visible to boaters they can also provide some support while resting in the open water rather than treading water. They are not approved flotation devices -- they won't keep your head above water but you can use them to get a bit of a rest before continuing on and others can spot you quite easily as they tend to be made of orange or yellow material (though mine is pink).
They attach about your waist and trail behind you, roughly over your feet or lower calves. You do occasionally feel them drifting across your legs but they're not really distracting.
there are several different brands out there that can be found at all the usual locations (TI store, Amazon etc)
Two words "Sweet Spot"
I've only been swimming for a couple of months and am otherwise like you. Exercise time= Out doors time, and so I have been training to be in open water, which is very intimidating.
The focus on balance and rhythm in TI swimming has been the answer for me. Treading water is not resting. In fact I find it quite tiring. Being nicely balanced in the TI sweet spot is far easier to sustain. More importantly it lets me catch my breath and think through where I am at and what I am doing. I can pace myself and think about what I am doing.
I prefer to breath every three strokes so that I am balanced and using both sides equally. I can't always sustain this, and so I will often do sets of strokes 2 or 3 sets of strokes breathing on one side and then switch and do the same on the other side. I've found I can sustain this rhythm and many variations of it for a solid hour in the pool without stopping (as long as my damn googles don't fog). TI also taught me to take get my whole body into my swimming and really leverage my core instead of just my wimpy little arms. That is a great advantage for someone used to doing distances on land.
If you have every done X-country skiing, especially skate skiiing you will quickly recognize the TI Cadence in your body. It is a different body motion and timing, but the same sensation. Explosion-glide Explosion-glide Explosion-glide And then you add in some breathing and figure out how strong an explosion you can sustain.
Some good pool advice given above.
As far as open water SEA swimming is concerned you do have the extra problems of waves, tides, rips etc.
For me the biggest help here was to play, swim and surf on Cornish beaches for many years before starting OW swimming. The confidence to cope (in a technical sense and with breathing too) with cold water, breakers, mini rips, seaweed and fear of the dark deep green waters BEFORE trying to progress with swimming from A to B in these conditions pays huge dividends IMO.
Even when swimming in open water in an area you know please make sure you either A. Have a swim buddy that can come along with you, preferably a more experienced swimmer or B. Swim perpendicular to the shoreline. Your correct rips and waves can really make life rough for an OW swimmer. I've been swimming OW since 2008 and I make sure I respect the sea. Best of luck on your journey you'll love open water.
Great information, thumbs up.
A lot have changed in the swimming fitness world and there are more things you need to be updated with.
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