While I am still working on learning how to coordinate the kicking and pulling for the breaststroke, I have started learning the second of the two strokes I wanted to pick up this summer: the back crawl stroke. Although I had learned the elementary backstroke last year, I’m still not comfortable being in the water on my back, but I feel like it would benefit me to learn how to be. The arm movements required for the back crawl stroke seem quite unnatural and strange to me. I screwed up my first few attempts at this stroke horribly, and I ended up with water going up my nose which was not so fun. Although my instructor insists this stroke is easier to learn than the breaststroke, this is really going to take some getting used to…
DanT1999 has written 5 entries about this goal
So far, most of my swimming experience has centered on the crawl stroke (often referred to a as “freestyle”) for the purpose of swimming laps. What I like about the crawl stroke is that it works both the arms and legs intensely at the same time. I do a fair amount of running which does nothing for the arms, but since I’ve been swimming several times a week the past couple of months I’ve been told my upper body seems more built (though I don’t really see it). In learning the crawl stroke, I have had a particularly hard time getting the side breathing down. I’m doing much better at this, but I still can’t make it a full 25 meters without having to stop once after about 15 to 20 meters (when my breathing gets out of sync). I’m close, and I think I will get there if I keep building my endurance and figuring out the right timing for the breaths.
Anyway, at the gym I notice people doing “individual medleys” where they alternate among different strokes while doing laps whereas I’m just doing the crawl stroke. Aside from the crawl stroke, my other swimming abilities are sparse. I can do a basic backstroke (but not the back crawl stroke yet), I can do the dolphin kick (but not the butterfly stroke), and I can do standing dives (not technically well, but I can do it). I was thinking that during my workouts I might burn out less quickly and improve my endurance if I alternate laps with a less intense stroke. So, I decided that I wanted to learn the breaststroke. I’ve heard this referred to as “frog style” because of the frog-like kick, and I’ve also heard that it’s easier to breathe with this stroke.
I went back to the instructor who first taught me to swim for help with the breaststroke. He showed me the kick and the pull by themselves and had me practice these separately. I pracitced the kick while holding on the side of the pool. It wasn’t that hard for me to figure out the kick, and I find it kind of fun. I could tell when I was doing it right because of the way my legs moved the water. I had a harder time getting the pull right, however. My instructor described the arm movements like using both hands to simultaneously scrape the opposite sides of an ice cream barrel. I guess it does look sort of like that. I practiced this with the pull buoy, and I’m going to need a lot more work to be confident with this. Though it was probably premature, I tried coordinating the stroke and the kick together, but I’m just not there yet. It sounds easy enough to “pull, kick, glide” and looks easy, but I still find it like trying to sit on a bike and make it go; I just fall flat. Well, I didn’t expect to get this instantaneously. I’m going to keep visualizing this and keep working on the kick and the pull separately, making sure that I got those down correctly. Hopefully, I’ll be able to put them together before too long…
Something dawned on me while practicing swimming this week: I don’t seem to be exhaling enough air before taking a breath. One thing I just started trying which preliminarily seems to be helping with taking side breaths while swimming the front crawl stroke (i.e. “freestyle”) is to breathe out through both my mouth and nose instead of with just my mouth. This way I exhale more air. Although I have gone through the exercise of simultaneously breathing out through both my mouth and nose underwater, this isn’t what I seem to be doing while actually swimming, and I didn’t really think of that before. I look forward to seeing what results I get when I try this while practicing in the coming week.
I swam four days this past week after taking a couple of weeks break from swimming (after getting a bit discouraged but finally snapping out of it). I’m still working on improving my side breathing (doing the front crawl stroke or “freestyle”). I’m happy I’m able to last longer on each breath I take which means I must be getting more air. I still have a hard time keeping up the right rhythm, but I’m beginning to feel a little more optimistic about the progress I’m making. Even if I mess up and have to stop and grab onto the side of the pool and take a breath, I do it and just keep going and trying again. If I keep up the same pace of practice as I did this week for at least a few more weeks I think I could really get somewhere. I’m also taking some time to observe other swimmers and identify what they do that makes them better and more efficient than me. That does help a little. Finally, I find I’m able to swim more in a shorter period of time. Hopefully this means I’m also getting into better shape…
There are two things I’m working on in particular at this time: taking better side breaths and improving my endurance.
Since I’ve started learning to swim, the side breathing has been something that has never come easy to me. I find I’m able to get in two good breaths but by the time I get to the third and subsequent breaths I struggle. It seems that after each breath, I sink beneath the surface a little deeper so by the thrid breath I have a hard time turning my head out of the water enough to get enough or even any air at all.
I wonder if part of my problem with the breathing is that I tire out too quickly and I get lazy about what I’m doing and just allow myself to screw up. I probably need to do a better job of pacing myself and also pushing myself past any feeling of tiredness as swimming is really not all that different than jogging in terms of intensity. I’m thinking I may need to supplement my workout with jogging or other form of cardiovascular exercise to build my lung capacity.
These are just some thoughts. I’m trying to think of how to get better…
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