Monday, March 12, 2012

Swimming, and my new found appreciation for it

I'm a terrible swimmer. The thing is, there are a lot of people who are probably terrible swimmers, so maybe this shouldn't be much of a surprise. But when you grow up on a lake in Maine and swim nearly every summer day from roughly age 7 to 17, and take swim lessons as a youngster, and generally love naturally made bodies of water, then this does come as a surprise. And when you consider yourself a pretty fit individual, then it goes from a surprise to a humbling shocker.

Now, I'm an endurance and cardio guy. I don't train much for pure strength because there isn't much need for me to. I generally,although not always, train in mid to high repetition ranges with weights and am an avid runner and biker. Naturally my ego told me that swimming would be a cake walk, so when I swam (I mean actually, really swam) for the first time in nearly 10 years at the YMCA in Freeport about a month and a half ago, I was in for a brutally rude awakening.

One length of the pool is 25 yards and one total lap is 50 yards. I'm a guy who is used to running 3 to 6 miles each time out without thinking too much about it, so I figured I'd be able to reel off 500 yards easily and be on my way. Not so fast! I was absolutely gassed after the first 50 yards and called it a day after 150.

I returned to the pool the following week and the same thing happened. The week after that the same thing happened. And the week after. Why was this happening? I've run a marathon and a half marathon and countless road races, for crying out loud! Well, after a little research--check this, this, and this--I was relieved to see I wasn't alone, that this is actually a common challenge for many runners.

Determined to get better for several upcoming triathlons planned this summer, I joined a fellow trainer's tri class at the YMCA in Portland. After explaining my struggles to her and showing her my ugly swimming form, she gave me a few things to work on. The week after that I was fortunate enough to get some instruction from one of the swim coaches. And this week coming up I will actually be getting in the pool with one of my clients (opportunities are EVERYWHERE if you are willing to look for them and accept them), a gal who used to be a Southern Maine swimming record holder about 35 years ago. The Tri for the Y is on May 19th and my goal is to swim the 325 yards in 7:30. We shall see.

Triathlons aside, if you want an excellent low impact, cardiovascular, total body workout capable of burning from 200-1000 calories an hour that is almost art-like, then I highly recommend for you to give swimming a chance.

The 2012 Summer Olympics are coming up. I will certainly be watching the swimming events with much more appreciation than years past. Much more.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, swimming. I do it because I have to be able to swim 600m for a triathlon. It's also the reason I don't do longer triathlons. It's one of my least favorite exercises, but not because it isn't healthy.

    It is definitely a great workout (PHA/Peripheral heart action training in an endurance setting, anyone?!!!). It also forces a short Valsalva effect (lowering of blood pressure while blowing against resistance or holding breath while straining against something), which can be good for those with high blood pressure, but also cause some odd sensations for those with borderline low blood pressure (fairly common in someone with a resting heart rate in the "endurance" category, around 45bpm or lower.)

    What you may be really surprised by is the difference between pool swimming and open water swimming. I have a good swim-focused plan that I'll be doing this spring in hopes to improve my 600m times. Have to PR the triathlon, every time!