I'm right there with you sclim!
Originally Posted by sclim
I probably have heard this from you before, but as someone who rarely encounters anyone with as dense lower body as myself, I am always eager to compare notes.
I find that my heavy legs situation seems to contribute to my lack of balance. As a result I haven't focused on getting good balance as much as I should have. Somewhat belatedly I am finally learning better balance, and it really helps to compensate for lack of leg buoyancy.
When I achieve good horizontal balance, as a consequence my head goes down, and it becomes a real technical problem to get air smoothly with a minimum of bobbing or excessive rotation. Rather than being able to breath with my face facing 90 degrees to the side (like "normal" people), I find it's more like 120 or 135 degrees from 0 degrees straight down, despite all attempts to breath with half the face covered, to breathe with only half the mouth out of the water, to breathe out of the trough of the wave created by your head, etc, etc. I also struggle in achieving the right balance between the slow trickle of air released out of the nose for relaxation, and keeping in enough air above the diaphragm between breaths to avoid total trunk sinkage. (BTW, I should emphasize that my excessive face rotation is purely to reach the surface to get air; I am trying to minimize any extra rotation or mouth elevation more than barely enough to get air, and even then I often fail to get air. My recovery elbow is not stacked above my body, and I make it a point to have my fingers skimming the surface or only just above the surface in a wide arced recovery).
What happens to you, and how do you cope?
It's a real b@#$tch being slim and dense and have a poor 'aquatic signature'. I also have a small lung capacity, so have less of a 'buoy' than others as well. I'm convinced that is why Boomer did his 'aquatic signature' analysis of swimmers to help them find a stroke or event that fits their body type (among other things). He got it. And if you look at most people who swim the English Channel, what is their body type? They look like seals with fairly even fat distribution. Have you ever seen a skinny Channel swimmer?
Breathing has never come easy to me. I aim to swim about a mile when I get to swim these days, and going slowly is the best way to do that. I'm sure I rotate my head more than 90 degrees to get air. But it compromises my streamline a bit. I use a hybrid 2 / 6 beat kick with the down-kick that assists rotation being the strongest and the other two kicks being having much less amplitude. But i feel this kick helps to keep my hips higher. I am improving over time, but may never achieve even average speed because of my inherent built-in drag.
I practice front-quadrant swimming. All helps to a degree I guess. I do find, for me, that a slow trickle of air actually helps me stay more horizontal, than if I were to hold more air in. But i have to plan my exhale and breath very carefully so that I empty my lungs about 80% just before turning my head to breath, and exhale the last bit forcefully AS I TURN, to prevent water coming in my mouth. This usually works.
Believe it or not, I tend to breathe easier in water when I close my eyes. I can feel the water move down across my face as I rotate my head and then breathe at just the right moment. Unfortunately I usually have to share a lane with someone, so I can't keep my eyes closed for very long!