Open Water Swimming

First of all, breathing on both sides, or bilateral breathing, is a must. (I can hear the groans!!!) Let’s see if you are physically capable. Stand up and twist the upper half of your body to the right and then to the left. Then turn your head to the right and left. SCHEZAM!!! You can learn to breathe to both sides. Why is this necessary? Imagine or perform the following experiment. Find an open space about 400 yards long. Select a target and try to walk straight towards it EXCEPT close your eyes and turn your head, looking to the right every 2 steps. Sneak a look forward every 10 steps. Vision in the water will be even more restricted than this because you may or may not be able to see forward depending upon wave conditions, fog in your goggles or glare from the sun reflecting off of the water. This is also assuming strict concentration upon straight line swimming – not imagining that shadows are sharks and weeds are snakes- which will improve with practice.

Breathing on both sides accomplishes two main goals. It tends to “even out” your stroke so that you will naturally swim straighter. Ha, ha, you already KNOW how to swim straight, right? But that is in the pool. Think of the available cues, lane lines on the side and a black line on the bottom to guide your progress. Open water is much different. In addition to the lack of visual cues available in the pool, the water is colder, there might be some waves and the ‘pool length’ can be as long as a mile!

The second advantage to bilateral breathing is that it will allow you to see to the right and left. When swimming in the ocean, the usual course traverses down and back along the beach. If you only breathe to one side, half of your race will have NO visible cues toward the shore. Watching the shoreline is extremely helpful for straight swimming in the ocean.

Other advantages include being able to breath away from oncoming waves or fumes from boats during escorted swims.

Another skill to practice in the pool is lifting your head to see forward while swimming. The easiest way is to lift your head forward just before taking a breath to the side. I use the forward motion to look and then breathe to the side. Breathing head forward is not suggested since it requires too much energy to lift the head high enough for a breath and will cause slower swimming. Swim head up freestyle in the pool and see how difficult it is compared with head down swimming.

Try to get comfortable with this peek forward in the pool where it is relatively calm. It will be more difficult in open water, especially in the ocean.

How often is it necessary to look forward? That depends upon your straight line swimming ability coupled with and course conditions. Ideally, the less head lifting, the better, but swimming off course is also not advantageous. Initially, try only looking forward every 10 strokes (each arm counts as one).

Temperatures in open water are usually colder and may require a quicker stroke rate, -how much time it takes to complete your arm pull-. In open water, stroke rate is determined by counting once for each arm as it starts pulling through the water.

The rate is determined by counting each arm stroke for one minute (or counting for 30 seconds and multiplying by 2, or counting for 15 seconds and multiplying by 4). The best open water swimmers in the world have stroke rates between 70 and 90 strokes per minute, with women generally on the higher end of that scale. A faster stroke rate will assist in keeping a swimmer warmer in cold water. Have a friend time your rate in the pool. If it is under 60, you may want to work on increasing it to better handle colder temperatures.

Don’t get frustrated if increasing your stroke rate is difficult. People usually do not have a daily activity where their arm muscles exercise ‘aerobically’. Swimmers develop “aerobic arms” through years of training. A runner’s aerobic capability may not automatically transfer to the pool where the arms are the primary motor instead of the legs. Likewise, I can swim comfortably at 80 strokes per minutes after years of training, but watch out if I’m out running; my labored breathing can be heard miles away.

I have one more suggestion with which some coaches may disagree; modifying the stroke recovery. The ‘recovery’ is how a swimmer brings the arm out of the water and back to the front after completing a stroke. Many times coaches teach swimmers to sharply bend their elbow during the recovery. This usually brings the hand close to the surface of the water. This type of recovery may not work as well in waves. A majority of open water marathon swimmers use a straight arm recovery as opposed to a bent elbow recovery. I believe a straight arm recovery works better in waves and also helps reduce strain on the shoulder. The pectoral muscles work more to recover the arm when it is straight while the shoulder and rotator cuff muscles work more to recover the arm when it is bent at the elbow. Experiment with your recovery and see what works best for you, bent, straight, or somewhere in between. All types have been used by fast swimmers and world record holders; Janet Evans being a prime example.

Equipment

The basics, cap suit and goggles are the same with some small variations. A thicker cap (made of silicon as opposed to latex) might be preferable to keep the head warmer. Sometimes a swimming cap does not stay on very well and continually slips. This can be extremely annoying during a race. Try wearing a new cap which isn’t stretched out. Another tip, avoid hair conditioner for several days before a race. Conditioner makes the hair slippery and helps the cap slide. If the water and air are hot, and your hair short, a cap may not be necessary. Tinted goggles which reflect the sun and reduce glare can also be helpful, but they are not a necessity.

A special swimming suit is not necessary although chaffing is a consideration when selecting your attire. Rub marks on the skin from the suit and body parts can occur and are likely in salt water. The more salt, the more rubs. When I swam the12 mile race around Key West, the water was so salty that all of the seams of my suit creates rub marks which was very unusual. Rub areas include the armpit, inner thighs, neck and bust line. Women have more trouble because of their suits at the neck and bust line near the armpit. Men can have trouble where their beard or whiskers rub against their neck and arms. Vasoline, lanolin, bag balm or other grease can be used to prevent chafe marks. For beginners, apply grease in the armpit, neck and inner thigh. If rubs are going to occur in other areas, you’ll find out ‘where’ after a few training swims. Some swimmers use gloves, a rag or even a stick off the beach to apply grease without getting it on their hands. Grease on the hands can easily get on the goggles and obscure your vision. If you are wearing a suit which zips up the back, the zipper at the top often rubs the skin. Sewing a small piece of felt or chamois cloth between the zipper closure and skin will prevent chaffing.

Also, don’t forget sunblock if you are out during peak sun hours. Experiment and find out what works best for your skin. Waterproof does not necessarily mean that the block will work for hours on end. If you are planning a long training swim, try to start early in the morning before the sun’s rays reach their peak.

First open water foray.

Now that you have practiced a couple of skills, you are ready for your first open water swim. Your location will dictate which sites are available. Be smart for your first start. If it is raining and cold with 20 mile per hour winds, put your swim off to another day.

Research the site where you plan to swim. Safety should always be your first priority. Are there lifeguards on duty? If yes, let them know your swim plans; direction, time and/or distance. If not, don’t swim alone. Have someone kayak, paddle, swim or walk the shore along your side. Try to stay close to shore in water depth where you can stand unless the ocean surf dictates otherwise. Find out the water temperature so you will have a better idea what to expect. Are there hazards such as rip currents in the area? What water creatures might be encountered? Talk to the lifeguards or other local swimmers in order to get information about the site.

Have an escape plan from your swim if the weather or your body takes a turn for the worse. This is easy during a shoreline beach swim, just get out and walk back to the start.

Getting In

Take a moment before getting in the water to look and see what’s available for landmarks to help gauge your location during your swim. The sun is the easiest landmark to use if it is low in the sky. If you are swimming a straight course and the sun is directly to your left while breathing, watching it will help gauge your position. If it suddenly appears in front, you’re off course and need to readjust.

The ocean or lake shoreline is another excellent landmark that can be seen on each breath (assuming bilateral breathing is part of your repertoire) and are easy to use when swimming an ‘out and back’ course along the shore.

In a lake, there may be a large tree sticking up above the horizon or a brightly colored house across the lake which can be used to keep aim; finally, a reason to be thankful for a homeowner’s bright pink paint selection. Try to use landmarks which are tall or high above the horizon as opposed to those close to the water level. If a landmark is low, it may be difficult to see if there are waves or swell. Look for tall buildings, water towers or church steeples. While swimming at open water camp in Mooselookmeguntic Lake in Maine -yes, that is the actual name of the lake- mountains in the area provided excellent landmarks.

Swimmers have a saying, “The worst part of workout is getting in the pool.” Getting into open water isn’t any easier. Is better to get in slowly and adjust to the temperature or get in quickly? Try both and see which is preferable, either is acceptable with one caveat. If the air temperature is cold, a lot of body heat can be lost while “getting in” if it takes several minutes. Better to get in quickly and lose less body heat than slowly and get chilled before starting. If the water is cold but the air is warm, and sun is shining, it’s OK to take longer getting in since your body’s not losing heat.

Many open water athletes swim for time rather than distance for their training. While watching your wristwatch, time might seem like it is DRAGGING! This is fairly common. Five minutes seems like twenty. Don’t worry; your ‘time sense’ will improve with more open water practice. Adjusting to swimming for long periods without turns, takes time.

Take it easy and try to enjoy your first open water experience. Check in after the first few minutes, and ask yourself, “Am I relaxed?” If the answer is ‘no’, concentrate on relaxing your muscles and see if that helps your comfort level improve. The mind is your company during open water swims, and its important to keep the “little voice” (sometimes it’s shouting) in your head echoing a positive message. Try to keep the ‘negative’ thoughts (this stinks!) to a minimum. Sometimes it’s helpful to yell out negative thoughts, “This water is FREEZING” or “These waves are horrible!”, and get them out of your system.

Benefits of Swimming Over Running

Resistance Effect

A great natural advantage to swimming is the resistance effect. Water is 1000 times more dense than air, so when you swim, it’s like weight training without the dumbbells. The water itself is your weight training.

You get a full body workout when you swim that puts little stress on your joints. You engage the muscles of the upper and lower body. This includes the legs, core, the upper and lower back, the arms, shoulders and chest.

Just like weight training, swimming engages and tones muscle due to the resistance. Although running is a great cardio workout, it does little to enhance a dynamic muscular body.

Burns the Calories

A moderate-intensity workout classifies keeping your heart-rate at 50-70 % of maximum heart rate.

A rigorous workout runs at 70-85 % max heart-rate. After an intensive 30 minute breaststroke swim, you can burn up to 300 calories. This can vary according to your weight. The heavier you are, the more calories you burn. By burning 500 calories more than you eat every day, you can lose a pound of fat a week. Okay, this does not sound much. But think long-term. After a month you can lose about 4-5 pounds – almost half a stone. Multiply that by 6 months and you have lost 2 stone of body fat.

When the body is in an upright position (e.g. when run or jump),the heart has to work hard to pump blood and oxygen to and from the lower extremities. This increase demand on the heart can lead to spikes in blood pressure – not good for the heart.

The American College of Sports Medicine states: ‘Swimming works the cardiovascular system without causing major increases in blood pressure.’ Because the body is in a horizontal position whilst swimming, the heart does have to work as hard. There is almost no gravity involved, so the blood pressure stays down.

The Weightlessness of Water

Yet another benefit swimming has over running, is the weightlessness effect in water. At the end of every stroke – breast stroke, freestyle etc, your body stretches out. Because the water holds your body up, it enables you to stretch out whilst in motion. The spine can then lengthen, elongating the gaps between the vertebrae.

Physiotherapists encourage patients with disc problems to swim because of this spine lengthening effect. It takes pressure off the discs.

Benefits and Risks of Running

Running generally has great benefits.

It reduces the chances of contracting:-

  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Cardiovascular disease

It improves:-

  • Bone density
  • Weight control

The risks of long distance running without a supervised trainer needs consideration though. They can advice you on nutrition, rest and good running technique. For safety reasons:- A medical check to look out for heart conditions, bio mechanical issues or other risk factors are a must.

Marathon running over extends the immune system. It makes the body produce excessive amounts of cortisol to reduce swelling. The advice to runners is to increase vitamin C, get plenty of sleep and avoid outside stresses. This helps recuperation and boosts immunity.

Swimming Burns Calories

We have never seen a swimmer with a bulky appearance. They all carry a well-shaped physique. They have the best bodies compared to other sportsmen. The whole process cleans up your body from inside as well as outside. Water hydrates your skin as well as revitalizes your organs. Going against the pressure of water creates metabolism in your body and stimulates fat burning. Especially your upper body is involved during swimming. Your legs and thighs are also involved during this process.

  • Swimming burns calories in your body and provides you a well-toned physique. There are different styles in swimming such as free style, breaststroke and backstroke, which can burn lots of calories. It’s also a form of low intensity exercise, which can be quite relaxing during summers. You can relax as well as lose some serious weight by doing this cardio workout.
  • Areas near your stomach, legs and arms are becomes well toned due to this water exercise. People at every age can take up swimming in order to lose weight effectively.
  • Although lots of calories in swimming are burnt still it generates too much hunger after the exercise that can replace the calories. Swimming mostly specializes in your upper body while your legs can be neglected during this process.

Do Flip Turns When Swimming

Flip turns are one of those swimming techniques that set advanced swimmers apart from the amateurs. In addition to saving you time and maintaining a relatively constant degree of effort as you change directions in the pool, they just look incredibly cool as well.

You have probably seem them at the local pool or on TV during the Olympics: A swimmer goes full speed straight at the wall and almost seems as through that he or she does not know the pool is end. At the last minute, they turn a quick somersault, push off the wall in the new direction, and glide for a while before surfacing and taking a stroke. For freestyle and backstroke swimmers, these turns can save precious seconds compared to touching the wall with your hands, turning around, and pushing off.

They are not that difficult to learn. You start by going into a somersault in open water. Once you can do this efficiently, you will need to learn how to do this at the end of the pool. Finally, practice pushing your legs out and catching the wall as you soon. Ideally you will have a smooth movement from the turn into a long glide off the wall. One of the hardest things that just takes practice is turning at the correct distance from the wall. Too close and you won’t have any room to push off. Too far away, and you will push you feet out and never feel the wall, resulting in being motionless in the water! Most experienced swimmers can give you practical tips for improvement as well.

Swim Like an Olympian

There are many swimming pools, and many swimming clubs that are good places to start if you are serious about becoming a better, or competitive, swimmer.

Finding a good coach is essential to becoming a better swimmer. From determining your best stroke, and helping with the right technique, to dietary and motivational help, your swimming coach will be there to help you every step of the way.

Because of the huge role your swimming coach will play, it’s important to choose someone that you like, that has the experience and results so that you know their techniques and methods work, and that you like and respect as a person. Often the more disciplined the coach the better the results will be.

Training outside of the pool may well be prescribed by your coach. Strength training is a good way of building up muscles that will help you swim faster, and for longer. Upper body strength as well as leg strength are essential, and a good coach or gym instructor will be able to advise on the right sort of exercises for you. Sleep and rest are highly important factors in training.

Dedication is vital. There will be many times that you don’t want to swim another length, or get up early in the dark for a long training session before work or school. You will miss spending time with your friends, and that you don’t have much of a life outside of swimming and the gym. However, if you are determined to be an Olympic swimmer, then these sacrifices will have to be made.

Conditioning is also important. The body needs to be kept in the best possible condition. Ensuring that you get enough sleep, eat the right meals, train the right amount and are focused on competitions and doing well will ensure that swimming remains your goal.

Sometimes you will have a bad race, or not do as well as you’d hoped for in training, or perhaps even suffer from illness or injury. Knowing how to deal with these setbacks will help you to come to terms with them, and how to learn from them. You may find that in a race you started off too fast, and ran out of speed at the end, or that your pace was too slow at the beginning and so there was not enough time to speed up at the end. What will you do if you have cold for a few weeks, and can’t swim? Being prepared can keep you positive and allow you to focus on other areas of your training

Teaching Babies How To Swim

Babies can sense a parents fear. If you are fearful of the water, your child will likely feel a similar fear and they will link it to the pool.

Teaching your baby to swim will have its foundation in short lessons with infant supervision every step of the way. Your infant will not likely be underwater for very long, but they will develop limb movements that assist in their swimming abilities and they will discover the water to be a delightful environment to play in.

Some experts recommend lessons at three months while others have recommended lessons as soon as your child is a week-old although it should be noted that a cold will prevent your infant from swimming lesson participation.

In most cases babies will start their lessons firmly in the embrace of a parent or instructor. They will learn to kick underwater before moving on to other skills such as letting go, pulling and floating. As you physically interact with your infant they gain a sense of freedom in the water because, for the infant, this may be the only exercise that provides a sense of mobility since most baby swimming lessons occur before they can speak, crawl or walk.

Parents are urged not to take the whole idea of baby swim lessons too seriously. Your child should view the lessons as an opportunity to have fun with their mom or dad and not as a performance-based exercise. Certainly, they can’t articulate the difference, but they understand when their parents are displeased with them.

Your baby’s safety is important, a qualified instructor can help you and your child gain a sense of freedom while learning new skills in a safe environment.

About Cave Diving

There are countless risks that accompany cave diving; hence, certified cave diving associations ensure the safety of cave divers by providing relevant training courses and cave diver certification. Cave diving training courses include the basics of cave diving, safety issues when cave diving, proper handling of the tools, and materials that one needs to operate while cave diving. Knowing how to properly operate the highly specialized devices used when cave diving is very important in reducing the risks that they may encounter when they reach lower cave levels.

Cave diving is steadily becoming more popular because of the beauty and tranquility that caves offer. Being able to explore natural unspoiled environments gives a feeling of being one with the earth, which is how some cave diving enthusiasts describe how they feel about cave diving. Cave divers also claim that each and every dive is an exciting and unique experience. Underwater caves are among the most beautiful and popular sites that cave divers observe. Underwater caves offer clear water visibility, enabling cave divers to observe geological formations that cannot be found elsewhere. Further, cave divers are also afforded the insight of knowing how the earth began and how life evolved by looking at the earth in a different perspective.

Cave diving is indeed difficult and is not suited for everyone. It is estimated that only one percent of all certified divers posses the knowledge, skill, experience, attitude, and judgment of becoming a cave diver. Training to be a cave diver is a very difficult process and earning a cave diver certification is something worthy of great pride.

Swimming Lessons For Adults

There are many like minded people who seemed to have formed a disturbing attachment to dry land and would like to change this with swimming lessons. More often that not, they are stopped by the embarrassment they will incur once they realise how old they are and how old the general age for swimming lessons is. Firstly, this is because they are looking in the wrong place and they are giving up way to quick. Once you do this, you will just be disappointed with what you see and your efforts will be derailed. Firstly, when you are enquiring about swimming lessons, always specify that you would like to have one that is strictly for adults. Remember, you are not the only one in your area that cannot swim, and thus there will always be a demand for adult swimming lessons.

They will usually cost a bit more and have a mixture of basic and advanced lessons. They will also be scheduled somewhat later in the evening or even on the weekends as most of the adults who sign up for these classes will be too busy working during the week anyway. Secondly, there are plenty of adults who also hire private swimming instructors to help them with their swimming and thee men or women will often come to the place of their choice to train them. This can be anything from an apartment with a swimming pool to a local health club. The reason that it is never too late to swim is because of the benefits of swimming and the fact that every adult should know how to.

The cardio vascular and muscular training that you get from swimming is invaluable and once you have that as a routine, you will become much more fitter and be able to be healthier with a balanced lifestyle. Also, the breathing exercise that is inherent in swimming is good for the lungs and will benefit you when you start to advance in the years. With so many benefits and avenues you can explore to learn how to swim, there should no longer be any excuse nor anything to hamper your path to frolicking in the water.

Tips For Better Triathlon Swimming

Head position

This is, by far, the most common mistake I see in athletes. The good news is that it’s also the one that gives the most benefit when fixed. While swimming, people tend to lift their heads too much, especially when breathing. When your head is tilted up in the water, you hips will drop lower in the water automatically. When your hips and legs drop in the water, you will create more surface area and will be plowing through the water instead of slicing through it like a torpedo.

Try to keep you head and neck in a neutral position, just like if you were standing straight up on land. Your face should be pointed to the bottom of the pool (ocean, lake, etc.) and your eyes should be looking ahead. You do need to see where you’re going, but look with your eyes, not your head. Keeping your head down will make your body more hydrodynamic and will help you go faster while expending less energy.

Body roll

The old school way of swimming was to swim with your chest and stomach pointing down at all times and use your arms and legs to propel you. This is a recipe for shoulder problems, rapid fatigue, and slow swimming. Your body is most hydrodynamic while on its side, so incorporating more body roll into your stroke could work wonders.

When you take a stroke and extend your lead arm, try rotating on your side. When your right arm is extended, your chest will be pointing left. A complete 90-degree rotation isn’t necessary, but rotate as much as you can while still feeling comfortable. This should lift your shoulder out of the water and will make it easier to take your next stroke. When you do take your next stroke, you will rotate or “roll” to the opposite side. Just imaging you are on a giant BBQ skewer while you roll back and forth. This does not sound pleasant, but it is a good example of rotating on an axis.

This rotation will allow you to engage your core muscles, lats, and hips to generate more power and conserve your arms and shoulders. It will also make it easier to breath without lifting your head and causing your feet and hips to sink. Look up a few side-kick drill variations to help with feeling balance in the water on your side.

Kicking

Focusing on kicking is not as necessary as some may think. Relatively speaking, kicking does not apply that much forward force to swimmers and uses a lot of energy. The last thing a triathlete wants to do is expend energy, especially in the legs, during the first portion of the race. If you do kick, make sure you are kicking correctly. I only kick for balance purposes and get little, if any, propulsion from my feet.

A lot of times I see swimmers’ legs separating and flailing around, kicking way too much, and bending too much in the knees. All this does is create additional resistance in the water. Keep kicks short, legs close together, knees only slightly bent, and ankles limp. Don’t point your toes unless you would like some calf cramping later in the swim.

Glide

The swim should be smooth, fluid, graceful and almost easy compared to the pounding of the run and burn on the bike, but all too often people struggle most in the swim and are constantly battling the water. Don’t battle the water by constantly windmilling your arms, but glide through it like a fish.

After every stroke, pause for a moment or two with arm extended while on your side. With each stroke you also create forward momentum, which is wasted if you hurry to take another stroke before gliding a bit. This is free speed; take advantage of it and save energy.

Hopefully you will be able to recognize if you are making some, or all, of these mistakes. Don’t worry; these are not impossible to fix with the right drills and some practice. A good coach would be even better since they will be able to see what you cannot. Stop logging more miles in the swim, ingraining bad technique in your brain and muscle memory. Make the decision today to fix your stroke and become a whole new swimmer.

Features of Public Swimming Classes

Unless if you or your child has certain difficulties or conditions that require a more personal attention, then it is a good idea to go public. The costs savings alone are a great feature, with some classes being extremely cheap and affordable. This means that anyone can learn to swim and in the nature of it all, this great sport and all of its wonderful benefits should be able to be shared by all who want to learn. The schedules at these public swimming classes are pretty flexible and you have the advantage of choosing between several different time frames that can suit you whether or not you are working or schooling.

Also public swimming classes means that you have a wide range of people from an entire cross section of the community to interact with. It has always been said that competition is one of the greatest spurs to learning and in public swimming classes, the size of such classes allow for an air of friendly competition which can be a healthy teaching tool as well. Proponents of the class can learn from one another. Teaching should not just come from the instructor alone; it should also come from other people as well in the class. Also, having buddies and making friends within the classroom environment is also an extremely important feature of public swimming classes.

A friendly environment and knowing people in your class is a spur for anyone to attend regularly. This means that the feeling of learning in isolation will never be there and you will learn faster and better when you have your friends around. These are just some of the best features of public swimming classes and why you should consider joining them. While some people might say that these classes are sometimes too large and too diluted to give proper swimming lessons, there are many who would beg to differ. Exclusive swimming classes have their benefits, but many feel that they are too constricting in their methods and are sometimes even regimental in their teaching applications. The fun factor of learning how to swim is taken away and being able to look forward to the lessons is also one of the more important aspects of learning how to swim.