This week, for the first time since I started swimming, I did not add ten lengths to my morning workout. Last week I hit sixty lengths (1500m) and I figure that's a pretty good distance to work with. Now my goal is to get better at swimming 60 lengths. I want to complete the distance in less time and I want to work on pushing my body to work harder rather than pushing it to work longer.
I tried pushing harder this past Monday and discovered (yet another) unexpected challenge.
Panting + swimming = a lot of stopping.
After a few years of running, I have learned how to listen to my breathing and judge how hard (or not hard) I was working. I would speed up or slow down as needed and it all worked fairly well. I didn't have to stop running if I was panting, I could just slow down. Because no matter how laboured my breathing was, I never had to worry about when to inhale. That's one of the benefits of exercising on land.
The problem in the pool is that you can't breathe whenever the hell you want to breathe. You breathe when your mouth is not under water - or pay the consequences.
So, I began to experiment. Here are the things to keep in mind:
- I want to get comfortable breathing every third stroke so that I can alternate between my right and left side.
- I want to get faster and be able to push harder in the pool.
Here are the problems:
- the faster I swim and the harder I push, the more oxygen I need. Instead of exhaling nice and slow, tilting my head and taking a deep breath, and then exhaling again - I was now exhaling quickly, then holding my breath until I hit the third stroke and then gasping in as much air as I could.
With each length of the pool it got harder and harder to breathe so every fourth length I had to stop to catch my breath before I could start over again.
Correct me if I'm wrong Jeff but I'm under the impression that, during an open water triathlon swim, one cannot stand up every 100m to catch their breath.
I then tried a completely different approach. I decided to stop trying to swim faster by kicking faster and moving my arms more quickly. Instead, I would focus on making every move more deliberate. Pulling the water with my arms. Kicking efficiently with my legs.
Keeping in mind of course that I really have no idea what efficient kicking and effective arm movements are...
...if anyone is agonizing over a Christmas gift for me, a few sessions with a personal swim coach might not be a bad idea...
So I focused on good arms and good legs. I moved better through the water (I think anyway) but it dragged out (by mere nanoseconds I'm sure) the amount of time it took to complete three strokes. So, even though I wasn't panting as much from exertion, I was still struggling with the amount of time between breaths. I didn't have enough air in my lungs to exhale for as long as I needed to exhale and, once the air's gone, I need to inhale ASAP. I'd gasp as soon as my mouth broke the water surface and felt constantly out of breath. I ended up stopping every 100m again to calm my breathing down so I could resume.
Swimming 1500m in 100m stretches with 30 second standing breaks between each stretch is not my idea of a really good workout. Yes, I'm panting but not so much from exertion as from the fact that my breathing is all screwed up.
I learned how to run and then, once I figured that out, I had to relearn everything so I could learn to run better, faster, stronger.
I learned how to cycle and, after an enlightening chat with Scully last night, discovered that I'm going to have to relearn how to cycle so I can be better, faster, stronger.
Now I've learned how to swim but feel like I need to hire a swim coach to help me unlearn it all so I can do it better, faster, stronger.
Good lord, it's amazing that I learned how to walk as a child isn't it?