Friday, March 31, 2006

Be Cool, Look Cool, Be Cool Again

If you've kept up, you may recall one of my main premises is that many adults don't bother to learn to swim because the effort required can look very uncool - a real problem given that one of the unwritten protocols of going to any pool is to look like you were born to live in a swim suit. Continuing on from the last post, here's how to look cool and work on your technique. I mentioned hanging on the edge of the pool. Be sure you are in a depth you can stand with your shoulders extending out of the water about three - five inches. Now from a position with your back against the wall, in this order - remember, we're being cool here - take a breath and hold it, close your eyes, remove your sunglasses, step forward one-half step and lean your head back until the water behind you comes up over and covers your face. Stay under about five seconds and come back smoothly on the same track you dipped in. Wait another five seconds and if you are so endowed, push your hair straight back, put your sunglasses back on, and lean back against the wall again. If you've done this all this without inhaling any water up your nose or wiping your face, you are making great progress. Repeat this about a minute later until you have mastered it. If you have trouble with water going up your nose - it happens to the best of us - start out doing this dip face first and work your way up to dipping in backwards as suggested above. Congrats - and by the way, you did look cool!

Monday, March 27, 2006

Take a Shower - Repeat

By now you are probably wondering if this blog is worth your time. If you already are comfortable in the water, this post will most definately underline that concern. Are you ready? This post deals with getting your face wet. Don't laugh - I'm serious. I first discovered the problem of new swimmers getting their faces wet when I was working as a camp swim instructor for the Boy Scouts. One week, I had a bunch of kids from the inner city - kids who didn't swim too often, if at all. I started them off, having them wade into the water and allowed them to get wet. My boss had told me to watch them closely since many had no swimming experience. He was right and they were easy to spot. Almost to a boy, those who had no experience would get their faces wet and then immediately wipe the water off their faces like they had just been splashed in the eyes with paint. They'd blink and keep wiping until they were comfortable again. I was stunned. To me, water on my face was as natural as air. It looked like I had a problem I hadn't ever imagined. I'd have to get them to cease wiping their faces if any of them were going to learn to put two consecutive swimming strokes together. To break them of this, I made up a competitive game of face-dunking. Boys that successfully put their faces in the water and came out without wiping, got to go a little deeper. The power of peer pressure was a thing of beauty. If you are an adult, we have other methods. This only works for wiggly 11-year-olds. Since that time I've seen countless novice swimmers do the face wipe thing. It has nothing to do with demographics. OK, now for the laughable advice - I recommend you beginner adult swimmers take a shower. Put your face in the stream. Get it soaking wet, but keep your hands to your sides or behind your back. Now take remove your face from the stream and open your eyes. Resist any spontaneous urge to wipe your face off. When you are comfortable, put it back in the stream and repeat. If you have some pool lounging time, hang out by the wall and drop your head (or just your face) under water from just a moment and repeat the steps above. You goal is to get comfortable with water on your face whenever it is there. Now practice.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Sit Back, Breathe Deep and Repeat

In my last post, I talked about the importance of breathing awareness - how one should learn to understand how one breathes. This awareness will let you logically know when you must breathe and when you can hold on for a while. Panic attacks may become a thing of the past. I practice my breathing each time I do lap swimming, and my wife tells me I even do it when I sleep. As good swimmers prepare for lap swimming it is common to see them rolling their shoulders - to loosen them up. I use that time to take some seriously deep breaths - then, when I finally enter the pool and start my first lap, I see how far I can go without taking my first breath. I've been surprised to see that I get further almost every week. I'm learning to breathe! If you are new to swimming, you can do this too. Get back in that easy chair I spoke of in my last post, and take a deep breath, hold it for about 10 seconds, and exhale. Repeat this for a minute or two. You may find yourself starting to relax. This is normal and part of your "exercise." If you practice this over time, you may find yourself holding on a little longer. Don't push it. That's not the point, and can lead to trouble. Now breathe and relax. That's how we are going to approach stroke technique when we get to that point.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Hold your Breath - Here's Something to Think About

One strategy I want to focus on first is breathing technique. If you can breathe regularly (in and out without a respirator) you should be able to breathe easily once you've learned some basics about water fun. If you've ever seen someone who is uncomfortable in the water, the first thing they do when they put their head under for just a second or two is to lift up their head quickly and take a huge breath. Why? These folks certainly aren't out of breath after just a second or two. Something else is at work. Probably some sort of survival instinct. In future posts, we're going to work on that and then learn some simple timing rules so that one can breathe regularly in the water. In the mean time, if you are here to learn something about swimming technique, I suggest you sit down in your favorite easy chair and think about your breathing. Don't laugh - that will screw this all up. Really! OK, are you in your chair? Relax and close your eyes. Notice your breathing cadence, your effort, how much air you are bringing in and letting out. Tonight, tomorrow or whenever you are in the shower, think about these same things. Focus on the ease. Think of something peaceful. If you can build a memory of how breathing feels, when we finally get in the pool, you are going to be much better able to build good breathing technique quickly than if you have not. Now breathe!