Doomed - a heresy or a light at the end of the tunnel?
This comment, on one of Terry's blogs I found so demoralising. I wanted to share what emerged.
"Swimming 200 meters was so difficult and I got discouraged. .. I ordered your book and ... After a few weeks, I had a chance to swim at sea ... To my surprise, I could swim more than 1,000 meters without getting tired."Why? Well I'd hoped for something like that too, not after a few weeks, but after a year, maybe to accomplish half of that say. Yet after hundreds of hours of study and practice I still have problems with making even 150m straight. My heart rate is generally below120bpm, my stroke is transformed, I've grasped the beginnings of the technical elements of TI: 2bk, one goggle under, patient lead, evf catch, hip drive rotation; but with no really significant impact. Today I watched a video of a newbie doing spear switch for the very first time. Not perfect perhaps, but breathing only every fourth stoke, he swam 25m looking as if he could go forever. Now if I could swim even like that I'd be content. Improvement would surely then be relatively easy.
At my pool I'd been admiring a middle aged woman's unhurried breastroke, when a young guy, a few strokes behind after her turn, got into the lane next to her and began his powerful and professional bobbing style. It took him ten lengths to catch her up, after which he stopped and got out. She continued! Last week a "rounded gent" in his late 50s, who alternates v slow sidestroke with breastroke, caught my attention. His breaststroke was incredible. He takes a stroke and face down simply glides forward. Just before he finally comes to a halt he raises his head, no bob, unhurriedly takes a breath and another stroke begins.
I posted here a survival drill. A form of the "Nicodemus bob" I thought. Doing it was "easy", but nonetheless I was rapidly out of breath. It seems to me a psychological thing, like the asthma I used to have when I was young, brought on by panic and creating a vicious circle of too much inhalation AND/OR too much exhalation that disrupts my natural reflexive autonomic breathing. I think it's the enforced pattern of breathing while swimming that causes me the problem, like the problem caused by trying to ignore an itch. I've found I can bring on the same breathless sensations simply by mimicking the breathing rythm of swimming while out walking.
For myself anyway it seems that technique comes second to finding a sense of relaxation (and pleasure) in immersion itself that can be extended. Up to now TI hasn't been the game changer I'd hoped. It's analysis of freestyle seems great, but there's a deeper aspects of mindfulness that swimming is demanding, and I am not making "head-way".
Have you posted in the O2 forum? If it's a breathing problem, you might get good advice there.
You could try breathing every stroke, or as often as you need to. Maybe use a snorkel for a few weeks to fade the memory of your breathing anxiety, then do that drill where you spear and immediately roll to breathe. If it's a mental block, just knowing that you can breathe any time you want to might help. Maybe try speeding up a bit, too. Going very slowly can sometimes lead to running out of air.
Talvi, do I detect a depressed manatee? I took your advice regarding going a couple of steps backwards and think I maybe at last getting somewhere. As you say it's breathing that appears to be the main cause of the problem, provided you can get air then the swimming style is immaterial. I was watching a youngster about 7-8yrs his coach had left him to swim in one of the lanes so he could get his quarter mile badge, whilst she attended to others the other side of the pool so this kid !splashed and thrashed his way up and down the pool on his own for over dozen lengths after which the coach came back and told the lad to carry on as if he did another 12 lengths and he could get his half mile badge. So off he went no problem, bobbing about and weaving with a really ugly stroke, lifting his head well out of the water but breathing whenever he wanted end result - 12 more lengths coach says well done and kid not even panting, grins from ear to ear.
Ok if you've got the energy of an 8 year old but I'd of been worn out after about two lengths if I'd tried his style of swimming.
For the last couple of swims I've just been looking for the elusive relaxation, by swimming very slowly and rolling slowly to air even going over onto my back and steadying my breathing before rolling back to swim - relax, relax, slow, slow, no struggle.
I was hopeing for the mile, 64 lengths for my 64th birthday, then it was 65 by my 65th now it's 66 by my 66th I've got to get there soon or it will be too far to swim !
Hang in there, it will click (I hope).
In my experience with swimming all the drilling and practice,which I agree is part of it,will get you no where untill you are at ease in the water,I know because going on 4 years of struggle this is still my problem,but inch by inch I make small improvements,for some it comes fast,for others not so much,many in my place would have given up long ago,but I keep moving forward because one day the water will become my friend,and on that day I will rejoice,even if it takes my whole life,hang in there,it will come.
Enjoy the process and forget the goal.
Talvi, I humbly believe that all you have to do, is to learn to swim as slow as you possibly can.
In itself this simple statement looks way too simplistic to be true, but it works.
What's difficult is to learn to slow down, with no fear of sinking down.
People try to learn to run, before they can walk.
If you need a hand on how to achieve this, just manifest your interest in this thread, and we'll begin the process. Ideally, you need a pace clock (stop watch), and if you had a Tempo Trainer, that'd be an awesome bonus.
Welcome to your first(?) mental breakdown during the learning process. Not only that I had more than I can remember, but sometimes they were going on for days!... So... just keep on going, most new swimmers have them and its 100% normal.
You shouldn't stop. Its just a part of the learning curve, most of us had these mental breakdowns.
Now to the practical part.
In my opinion, the reason you find it so hard is that you are SIMPLY doing something wrong while thinking that you are doing it right.
Its very simple. You have a wrong piece in your swim or maybe more than one wrong piece.
Its just simple logic and Its REAL.
This understanding that you are swimming wrong somewhere inside your swim should comfort you and relax you! It means that you know whats going on and you do not need to panic. You just need to CORRECT (not to improve, to correct!) your errors.
Its not a psychological drill. Its the reality itself. You simply have errors in your swim. Its not a "thought". Its an understanding and this should comfort and relax your brain.
I have been there so many times that I don't remember how many.
Go back to work and stop counting your chickens! Find your TECHNICAL errors.
P.S. - Obviously a TI coach seeing you swim and coaching you can help...
I have no doubt that you have errors in your swim just from reading the tone of your post.
This should NOT panic you, on the contrary, it makes sense, so it should calm you.
In last months I have changed my "line of thought" 180% to the other side. I went from finding "amazing insights" to finding "technical errors". It sounds boring and not exciting but its much more efficient and productive.
I will count my chickens only when I am out of the TI basics school...
2 little bits of advice,
1. the first couple of times you swim 400m straight it can feel like a lung buster, but once you've done it, the mile comes very quickly. You need to just achieve it, forget technique just focus on breathing management. If you start to feel out of breath, slow down, even to the point of feeling nearly vertical, just keep going.
2. you already are using a great tip. Get used to walking or jogging with a swim breathing pattern. I find if I hold my breath even slightly then I get gassed, you need to eliminate the pause between inhalation starting, and exhalation beginning. If you can get it right running or walking whilst 'following the swim rules' then it will get much easier in the pool.
Breathing does come last and for me, breathing comfort has a direct relationship with total metres swum as a swimmer. I did my first olympic distance triathlon yesterday and noticed for the first time that if I caught a waveful of water and missed a breath it wasn't as painful as it used to be to just relax and keep pushing bubbles out until the next stroke.
Lots of good advice from your peers here. I second everything the others have written. I might emphasize one thing. Try not to compare yourself to others. You might miss what your own body is trying to tell you. Focus inward. I know that's folly to some degree, we all measure ourselves according to our society. But as best you can, ask what feels good, what feels bad, better, worse? Throughout your practice.
Looking at your heart rate, it seems you aren't overly taxing your heart (how old are you?), so it must be a breathing and oxygen thing. That can be psychological (which is real), physiological, and maybe just technique. One thing I remember seeing Terry say in some Youtube video, was that tension, stress and flexing unnecessary muscles all have the effect of flushing oxygen out of your bloodstream. So moving away from a gasping breath sounds like your next challenge. The TI breathing DVD has a practice of exhaling into a bowl of water to get used to it feeling normal and natural.
I had a very hard time breaking a mile at any reasonable pace. I think I could do it in about 40 minutes and I was gasping at the end. Only after advice from a coach here did I try breathing every 2-strokes vs. my every 3, did I succeed in going faster. Plus it was easier. Less gasping. Previously I was basically holding my breath for two of those strokes and only exhaling on the 3rd. Changing that to breathing every 2 made for a more natural e-x-h-a-l-e/inhale rhythm.
Also a thought on videos and practice (drills). It's entirely different from full-stroke swimming. (So are side stroke and breast stroke. The breathing is different.) So again, don't compare. Most intermediate swimmers can relax, hyperventilate a few breaths and swim the front crawl 25Y w/o stopping. Take a video, it all looks easy. It's not the same as really swimming 100/200/400M.
I'm no pro/coach/doctor, so I'm only here to encourage you. If you can swim 100Y non-stop, you're not far from being able to swim 400Y. Yes, technique. Yes breathing discipline. Yes slow down. Yes relax.... "just keep swimming just keep swimming swimming swimming...."
I am probably the last one on this forum to be giving any advice but here is my 2 cents to hopefully give you some encouragement
Swim your 150 and just keep going forgetting about holding your TI style and spl as it is what it is at this point.
When i started swimming only a couple of years ago i could not swim 1 full lap so i went to the pool with a plan to swim an extra lap each visit, this was after i had done a few of the TI balance drills and it was still hard.
So the first visit i did 1 lap, then 2, then 3, then 4, then all of a sudden 20, then 40 then 60, then 80 and followed by a 100, Seriously.
Even when i go to the pool now to do a long swim session and not drills i am stuffed after the first 100 meters but i find that the tiredness after that does not get much worse and you can just keep going.
After about 30 laps or so i find then i am into a rythym and i start to relax and whatever my spl is or whatever my times are so be it and thats my ability, i am not totally relaxed like my first lap or like my last on a TI drill day but once you get the rythm going and you are balanced you will find it more relaxing and enjoyable as you continue on.
If i was still working on drills and trying to swim more relaxed i would have given up long ago.
This may be wrong and many might disagree but thats my experience.
Are you swimming open water at all, this also helped me keep going with swimming in the oceon with a wetsuit on which is so much easier especially with the TI drills behind you and to swim over a reef or some sand with fish swimming around makes it so enjoyable and relaxing and will allow you to go on and on.
My furthest swim to date is 3.2 Km open water only stopping cause i got hungry :) , but i am still stuffed after 100 meters in the pool
Hope this helps
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