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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sink or Float?

I learned a valuable lesson Tuesday: I don't know how to swim. Or more exactly, I used to know, a long time ago, but I've since forgotten everything.

Tuesday I had my first SCUBA class, and at the end we had to pass a basic swim test. The basic test is swimming 200 yards, and then a stationary float for 10 minutes. I passed, but only through sheer willpower.

Normally before even attempting something like this I'd spend some time in the pool on my own, figuring out if I can do it (you know, so I don't make a fool of myself). But I had just decided to take the course Monday, and it was either start on Tuesday or wait until mid July. Being the impatient person I am, I rushed to make sure I could get in this month instead of next.

First lap in the pool wasn't bad. Second lap, a little trying. By the third lap it was obvious I was doing something wrong, and the fourth lap was just pure, brute force, nothing-else-matters effort. For the float I didn't even much try to tread water; I just floated with some light kicking and concentrated on getting my very rapid breathing under control. The life guard had an eagle eyed stare on me.

It might not be obvious from my personality, but I loathe sucking at things I think I should be able to do. I should be able to swim. Perfection is not required, but certainly better than my pathetic showing.

So I've done what any self-respecting engineer does when he fails the first time: go back and read the manual! A couple hours on the internet and I can already list half a dozen things I did horribly wrong. My goal is to, on top of everything else I'm doing, spend 5 hours a week in the pool practicing.

I will get better, damnit.

9 Responses to "Sink or Float?"

Steve is blogging again! And about scuba diving!! I am so happy.

I never learned how to swim growing up. Water sports and Nathan's fair skin never mixed so I never learned. I was terrified of water too. My dad scared me and my siblings away from pools by telling us we would drowned. But I think that is how I want to go someday now.
But anyway I decided to do triathlons and for some reason they tend to start with a swim. So four weeks ago I got in the pool hardcore. Every weekday for four weeks. The swim coach says I am a bulldozer I do not float at all. But I get from one end to the other. I am excited I have a 1.2 mile open water swim this weekend. Get to test out my new wetsuit!
Steve if you have any good swimming links I would love to review them. Especially ones about floating better! I must be dense like Mike...

I really like this author:

http://books.google.com/books?id=cypU4LPwIBsC&pg=PA36&lpg=PA36&dq=how+to+swim+laughlin&source=bl&ots=Ev0MikQ5Wm&sig=h5jCYqfEHG4ZOut94H5OCyKT-VI&hl=en&ei=Fsk3Su2ONNrEmQeWoP2XDg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1#PPP12,M1

Pay particular attention to the chapter(s) on balance.

Really even very dense people can float, it all depends on your position in the water. The two things to remember are:

1) Push your chest INTO the water. The first thing to sink is always your legs/lower body, so by pushing your upper body in, your lower body rises.
2) Don't lift your head up to breathe... ever. This is the most common mistake I've seen in new swimmers. It sounds obvious, but when most people go to breate, they lift their head, even if only a little. As soon as you lift your head, even slightly, you will immediately sink. Make sure when you breathe, its just a rotation of the head.

I just started trying to swim again last week. It's sooo painful in Colorado... there's just not enough air!

I've been loosely following the Total Immersion technique. It focuses on form first. Which is great for me because once upon a time I knew all this crap and have just forgotten.

Under free stuff they have the basic book in PDF. Without the DVD it is hard to follow, but you can find example clips on YouTube and guess from there what the text is talking about. It's helped me a lot; I actually feel like I sort of know what I'm doing!

But like I said, "loosely following". I've got some decent form down, and am practicing that, but next week I might start on breathing which would let me do entire laps instead of stopping every 5 meters :).

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