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Old 09-12-2011
dougalt dougalt is offline
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Asbury Park, NJ
Posts: 79
Default Salt vs. Fresh Water Bouyancy

After an extended summer of swimming in the ocean here at the Jersey Shore, a cold rainy day forced me back to the indoor pool today.

I had been finding great enjoyment working on my stroke in the salt water during the summer, having made good progress with relaxed head, stretched legs, 2-beat kick, torso twist, foot flick, etc., even to the point of swimming through some strong surf quite calmly while concentrating on my stroke in my little "cocoon of calm."

All that seemed to go out the window during my first pool swim today, after nearly four months of open water swimming.

I found myself struggling for air, working too hard on every stroke, and felt like a lot of my progress of the past 3 months had disappeared.

Could the difference in bouyancy between salt and fresh water be enough that I was finding myself lower in the water than I expected to be when it was time to grab some air during each stroke - thus creating angst, disrupting my balance and causing me to revert to my old lifetime habits of lifting my head and body to get air, thus destroying my stroke altogether?

Any solid information out there as to just how much higher in the water a body floats in salt vs. fresh water?

Just to muddy the waters on this a bit: I did find myself "watching the clock" and counting strokes at the pool, which I couldn't very well do all summer out in open water, and I am surmising that my desire to "produce favorable numbers", now that I was back in the pool, might have been a factor in causing me to waste energy with old habit (i.e., prior to TI) movement patterns.
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Old 09-12-2011
cynthiam cynthiam is offline
Senior Member
Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: San Francisco, USA
Posts: 169

I don't know how much higher one floats in saltwater, but I can tell you that I experience the same thing sometimes going from ow to the pool. I think saltwater is more forgiving of little imbalances or problems in my stroke.

It's also more relaxing for me. Besides the buoyancy, there are no lanes, no walls, no pressure from other swimmers. Even chop and swells don't bother me.

If I were swimming exclusively in saltwater for months, I'd definitely have balance issues back at the pool, at least at first. I always work on balance in my pool swims; sometimes that's all I do. It's a little frustrating, but not as frustrating as trying to swim a few laps feeling like I'm trudging up Mt. Everest.

When this happens, I'm mindful when I'm back in saltwater and really focus on good balance and streamlining. But I just don't get the same feedback as in the pool, so I can't always tell exactly how good my balance is.
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Old 09-12-2011
CoachPaulB CoachPaulB is offline
Join Date: Aug 2011
Posts: 28
Default Head position

So I'd check my head position first. Swimming in salt water I can get away with more of a forward facing position ( not that I want to ) but the bouncy allows for it by keeping the hips higher. Try lowering your head a few degrees and see if it helps with the breathing.

Last edited by CoachPaulB : 09-12-2011 at 09:03 PM. Reason: add words
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Old 09-13-2011
CoachBobM CoachBobM is offline
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 647

A study of 98 men published in the Journal of Forensic Science in July of 1977 (E.R. Donoghue and S.C. Minnigerode, "Human body buoyancy: a study of 98 men") found that, while all floated in both fresh and salt water with their lungs full, only 7% would float in fresh water with their lungs empty while 69% would float in salt water with their lungs empty. About 2.5% more of your body is above the water line in salt water than in fresh.

So, yes, swimming in salt water will spoil you!

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Old 09-14-2011
dougalt dougalt is offline
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Asbury Park, NJ
Posts: 79

CynthiaM: I'm relieved to know that someone else has the same feelings about moving from OW to the pool!

Coach Bob: 2.5% of the distance from my spinal alignment line to my open mouth while turned trying to take in air is barely measurable - I'm guessing that 97.5% of the problem is in my mental outlook and concentration (or, lack thereof) when re-entering the world of tiles, stripes and end walls.

Fortunately, the weather went back to beautiful yesterday and today - so it's been back to the salt water for me! When conditions dictate, I will address the pool swimming issues by forgetting about measuring and counting at first, and then attempt to ease in by just gently starting the laps, paying attention to balance and enjoying the water environment for a while before I start think about stroke count, etc.,

Which, as I think about it now, is how I typically start my ocean swims: no time pressure, no measuring tactics. After starting a swim with about 10 minutes of mediocre technique while feeling out the water, wind and current conditions, I seem to start connecting the various components a bit better as I go along and everything starts getting smoother, lower in the water, and my stroke lengthens out to become more TI-like.

And, the water temp is still 75º here at the New Jersey coast!
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Old 09-14-2011
terry terry is offline
Head Coach
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 2,305
terry has disabled reputation

I spent some time in 2010 living in San Diego and swimming often with members of the LaJolla Cove Swim Club. Many of them swim almost solely in the salt water of the cove and seldom in the fresh water of a pool. I was always surprised how much they complained of discomfort about swimming in fresh water. Since 98% of my swimming is in fresh water -- even my OW swimming which is mostly in Lakes Minnewaska and Awosting -- I've never noticed much of a difference. I don't necessarily feel more buoyant when I get in salt water--which I did last week while visiting San Diego. I guess the main difference is in feeling that my legs just want to float, making it more of a conscious effort to maintain my 2BK rhythm.
But when I return to fresh water, I feel no loss of comfort or support.
Terry Laughlin
Head Coach & Chief Executive Optimist

May your laps be as happy as mine.

My TI Story
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