Friday, May 30, 2008

Is that Primary Amoebic Meningoencephalitis or are you just stupid?

I've always thought the ponds and lakes of the deep south looked inviting. Factor out the snakes and gators and you've got a year round natural open-water swimming. Then I read about PAM (see title) last year.

PAM is a brain eating amoeba. Yes, you read that right, campers. It sounds horrible and it can kill.

I thought I'd link to this since I'm guessing some of my readers are open-water afficienados (sp?). PAM is found in warm waters of a number of southern and some east coast states. It can live in ill-maintained pools and is also found in ponds and lakes (not sure about running water such as streams and rivers).

Among the recommendations of ways to avoid PAM are to avoid getting water in your orifaces. Apparently when you jump into the water and it goes up your nose, you can get the bug. Then it's just a short jump to the brain. One of the work arounds goes against my principals (nose plugs - ewww!). I guess this is one case of me thinking a nice clean pool is better than a natural.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Could Olympics Double Amputee Decision Impact Swimming One Day?

In my mind, the Olympics has done a grave injustice to itself this week by granting, upon appeal, the right for a double amputee to compete. Am I being heartless? If this were just a few years back, I might agree that I was. But I don't feel that way today. With the rapid advance in technology, we really will have accident victims performing like Steve Austin - The Six Million Dollar Man. This runner will have spring in his step that is technically superior to the life-long developed tendons in an able-bodied person. What's next? Would a sickly person be able to take steroids to "fix" their condition and thus compete? I exaggerate, but seriously, look at swimmers. In a recent post I asked the question about whether a new dolphin prosthetic could be used by a double amputee. I really think that's doable. Now take that a step further. Why couldn't that prosthetic make one swim fast - think butterfly. It certainly could. Just look at all the world records that have fallen with the new swim suits developed this year. If you don't think a trained athlete could make webbed prosthetic work in their favor, think again. I think this was the wrong decision. Feel free to agree, or disagree, but this decision is huge.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Zero-Entry Pools - How to Make Your Kid into a Coward

The first swim club I belonged to (as a kid) was a pond with a sandy beach, a pier, tall slides and high diving boards. No, you couldn't see the bottom. That made it more fun! To this day, I love lake swimming. I have acquaintances who enjoy pools but won't go near a pond or lake because you can't see the bottom. We never thought our swimming area was risky - but given today's litigious society swim clubs like this aren't even considered any more by developers. Why? Insurance premiums.

Now they've gone a step further. New pools are now being promoted to the public as "zero-entry". As I understand it, that means the entire pool has no sides, just a gradual slope. What's wrong with sides? Sure, one can fall in. Duh! But life has some risks. What's Johnny going to do when he slips into a pond? Will it be the first time he's ever fallen into water? If it is, Mom shouldn't be surprised if Johnny doesn't come out.

I think developments like "zero-entry" can only make water more dangerous for people.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Dolphin Posthetic - Can It Work for Man Too?

I first reported about a dolphin with a prosthetic fin about a year ago. Since then I've been wondering whether such a device could be made for those folks who have lost limbs, or have limited or even no leg motion.

Seems to me that the human back's muscles could propel a fin much like Winter here does. If I were an injured vet wanting to get back in shape, this might just be the ticket. Any thoughts?

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Glossopharyngeal Insufflation i.e. Lung Packing

The above has to be one of the stranger blog titles you'll see today. In lay-lay (sic) persons terms, glossopharyngeal insufflation refers to the practice of learning to hold one's breath for a very, very long time.

This has been a subject that has been of interest to me ever since I heard that to qualify as a Navy Seal, one must swim underwater for 50 meters (that's been a goal of mine for some time, but to now, I've never gotten much past 35 meters).

In a post dated, May 1, 2008, has published an article about how David Blaine, the performance artist, held his breath on the Oprah Show (those names are two more firsts for this blog) for seventeen minutes! I figured it was all just a fake stunt, but I may have been mistaken. The article discusses how the body processes and prioritizes the use of oxygen and how the brain can help or hinder the body's natural abilities. Some interesting stuff. I suggest the read.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

How to Build Speed and Finish Fast

It's common to see swimmers who start out fast for a lap or two and then plod along for the rest of their workout. It's no small wonder a lot of people give up swimming. What's fun about doing something that just gets worse as you spend more time doing it? What amazes me are the regulars in the pool who do this. I think they should know better.

I figured out a long time ago, that I enjoyed swimming laps more if I built my speed over the time of the workout. This has been reinforced as I've aged, as going fast right from the start isn't as easy as it once was. Now I can ease into the workout and if everything is going well, I'll be able to cruise along at a good, fast pace in the last half of the workout.

I explain my approach below using a mile swim to demonstrate.

I start out with some easy strokes for 400 meters - breathing every other stroke, stretching to my fullest length, making sure I keep a straight line nose to toes. For the next 400 meters I add some time between breaths. I breathe every fifth stroke, alternating sides. Throughout this 1/4 mile my body is building its strength up, my muscles are getting warm and I can feel it. There is a natural tendency to speed up because, in all honestly, I want to breathe by the time I get to the five count. The muscles are working up to strength too with this added pace. The last half mile I maintain the pace but breathe every third stroke, alternating sides. This additional oxygen helps me to crank up my speed further. I can generally shave an extra five seconds off a lap with this added oxygen.

I encourage you to try this speed building approach. You might find the need to breathe more often than I. That's ok. Do what works for you but spend enough time in the pool to let your endorphins kick in. Just don't blow it all out in the first few laps. Just take it slow and ease into your workout. You'll finish faster. And because you are finishing on a high, I can almost promise you'll feel better about coming back the next time.