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Old 11-17-13, 03:37 PM   #1
Mycoalson
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Not a Triathlete...but, advice/opinion...PLEASE!?!?!?

Hey, all, I'm a 51 yo male, 6'0" 230 pounds. I spent the last 16 months cycling and lost more than six inches around my waist. In Sept/Oct over 22 days I covered 1016 miles, doing a century on the last day to go over the 1000 mile mark.

In the past I was a high school athlete in football and baseball, and in college lifted weights with a greater lean towards powerlifting.

In 2005 I had a total knee replacement on my left knee and an orthoscopy on my right. This leaves me with a desire to avoid running, but find a means to still exercise.

At any rate, winter is coming here in Illinois, so cycling is becoming more limited. To continue exercising, I choose to join the Y and take up rowing on a machine. In the end, I decided to swim as well.

What this effectively means is that five days a week, I'm rowing roughly 7000 meters, swimming roughly 1000 meters and cycling 20k. This past Friday, however, I upped the swimming to slightly over a mile and cycling to 30K.

Okay, all that info to get the message that I'm staying fairly active, but, like many Triathletes, my trouble spot is swimming. I'm currently covering a CUMULATIVE distance. Meaning I'm stopping at every link, and not doing turns in the pool. This means a lot of stopping.

As you folks are doing similar sorts of activities to myself, I'm hoping someone can give me a bit of advice. Namely, I'm considering cutting my swim distance back to half a mile instead of a kilometer in order to put more emphasis on turning and going longer consecutive distances. I don't feel my technique is bad, but I think psychologically I lose it a bit and am afraid I'll just keep upping my distance and time in the pool, but never be really able to put together one long concerted swim. Is this a good idea? Have any of you any good advice on how to compensate for more intellectual/psychological training in one area...which seems to take away from physical exertion, by applying more effort in another? As is, at the end of a length, I seem to be fine, but when I try to stretch into a lap, I seem to suddenly lose my breath.

As is, I'm loving rowing and would advocate it for anyone who can't run, but this is not the place to raise questions in that regard.
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Old 11-17-13, 08:54 PM   #2
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My story is a LOT like yours but, Im just getting started swimming & I wish I could do that much. I do run some, not fast tho. If you don't get a response on here, try slowtwitch.
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Old 11-17-13, 11:46 PM   #3
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My story is a LOT like yours but, Im just getting started swimming & I wish I could do that much. I do run some, not fast tho. If you don't get a response on here, try slowtwitch.
I appreciate the response. I just started the swimming a couple of weeks back and have never done laps or any sort of distance swimming. I'm thinking I'm going to cut back on the total swim distance and focus more on consecutive distance for the next couple of weeks. I don't go to particularly fast either, but I do enjoy it!
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Old 11-19-13, 11:37 AM   #4
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If you're looking for pure fitness and not to race, I would think you would want to use swimming to improve your cardiovascular fitness. That means swimming continuously though not necessarily fast, to keep your HR up for a longer amount of time. I think you should work on flip turns and gradually build up the amount of time you can do continuously, so what you are doing sounds perfect.
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Old 11-25-13, 06:37 AM   #5
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I would seek out a masters swim class local to you.
Where about in Il are you? there are plenty in Chicagoland.
check simple stuff like exhale into the water breathe to the side (not face up high like Tarzan)and try to keep the effort level low and constant, once you are doing a reasonably constant stroke you should be able to build up to 200m and 400m sets, there's no need to head for full 1Km straight out swims int he pool untill you can smooth out your stroke and handle the boredom!

If you don't have a swim stroke book, may be worth while, but definately go over to swimsmooth.com and watch Mr Smooth.
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Old 12-02-13, 08:40 AM   #6
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I would seek out a masters swim class local to you.
Where about in Il are you? there are plenty in Chicagoland.
check simple stuff like exhale into the water breathe to the side (not face up high like Tarzan)and try to keep the effort level low and constant, once you are doing a reasonably constant stroke you should be able to build up to 200m and 400m sets, there's no need to head for full 1Km straight out swims int he pool untill you can smooth out your stroke and handle the boredom!

If you don't have a swim stroke book, may be worth while, but definately go over to swimsmooth.com and watch Mr Smooth.

Great advice!
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Old 12-02-13, 05:17 PM   #7
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another thing to remember is that swimming can be tougher than it seems.... if you are stopping because you need to catch your breath, then you are essentially doing inteval training...which is what a lot masters training is about. I would keep it at a 1000 and focus on doing 50 or 100 and then stopping (even if you are not doing a flip turn). time your rest to say 15 seconds. once 100 is easy then do 200, then 300, etc next thing you know you are doing 1000 non stop. and get a better coach than me
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Old 12-03-13, 08:12 PM   #8
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..... and get a better coach than me
We don't often see such sage advice!

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Old 01-24-14, 09:47 AM   #9
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Bumping this slightly old thread to tell my story. Similar to OP in that I'm 50 (51 in a few weeks), 6'1", 220ish ilbs, lost 70+ lbs in the last year or so and decided to do a sprint triathlon with my 18 yr old son in May. I regularly cycle 500+ miles a month in season and run often. I have done two marathons, though they were 19 years ago.

I, naively thought swimming would be no problem due to my cardiovascular fitness biking and running. WRONG! Like the OP I was gassed after my first 25 yards. I've swum since I was a little kid but never more than a lap or two. I started six weeks ago doing 200 yd workouts. I recently signed up for a group swim class with a coach who focuses on swim technique. This morning I did 900 yds of a structured workout with a 150 as my longest swim. I know I could do more distance now but will work up to it slowly.

After just two stroke lessons I feel like a different swimmer. I can't emphasize enough how much difference that has made. A more efficient stroke propels you further with less effort. My son swims on the local swim team and has developed some bad habits in the process. He is struggling with the coaching because his muscle memory is holding him back. Don't tell anyone, but I am faster than him for now. He can swim all day long and would eventually wear me down, but since I was such a blank canvas, I was able to change my stroke fairly easily. So don't wait, get someone to look at you swimming and correct your stroke flaws. It will definitely pay off.

My coach also has me trying different breathing patterns. Some laps I breathe every five strokes, some every three and some every two. This has definitely helped me build better lung capacity as well.

And I'll echo squirtdad - get a better coach than me!
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Old 01-25-14, 08:02 AM   #10
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If you want to improve your swim speed, I'd recommend working on technique some each session. A large portion of swim speed is technique and you are probably wasting a lot of effort and air by swimming inefficiently. I've only been swimming for a year and a half and I didn't really improve for the first year. I took some masters classes, started working through the book Total Immersion, and watched some youtube and incorporated technique practise into my sessions. It has improved my times significantly.
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Old 03-05-14, 01:39 PM   #11
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Def recommend the swim coach / masters class, swimming has so much resistance that technique is critical.

Regarding distance, I've done tris all the way to IM distance, and even for me after not swimming for months, I have to train back into the distance. Try doing longer distance by swimming REALLY slowly; this helps your exertion within your breathing rate. The goal is to reach a pace that you can comfortable continue over multiple laps, then you can speed up that pace by doing intervals.

It may not be a psychological thing BTW, unless you're prone to that. Completing a single length of a pool and then stopping to breathe normally is different than consistently staying within your swim breathing. You can get out of breath quickly.

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Old 03-05-14, 05:03 PM   #12
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If you can find a class take it. I'm betting I'd still hammer everyone on this thread even though I'm out of shape. Well perhaps not right now, but give me a week more to recover from pneumonia and I will.

Why?

Because decades ago I was a serious swimmer and the technique lingers.

BTW what I remember the most from serious swimming training was not long distances in any single swim but 100 yard repeats. Often going every 1 minute and 30 seconds. Sort of enough time to recover. My bet is doing interval repeats is even more important for someone trying to go on their own, it is usually rather difficult to push hard for over 2-300 yards. It is very easy to back off 'just a little' which soon becomes basically loafing.

For someone more o less starting out I'd suggest doing 50 yards (assuming a 25 yard pool) on whatever interval allows you to go pretty hard for each 50. If that interval is 2 minutes fine, as long as you are going hard. Then trim the repeat time to 1:45, then 1:30. Once down to 1 minute consider doing 100s every 2 minutes.

Oh and strange as it sounds doing one set of 10 50s every minute then a set of 5 100s every 2 minutes does break things up a lot more than you might think. And doing intervals where you only have 5-10 seconds between repeats helps in a different way than doing an interval where you are resting half the time but going full out 100% effort when swimming.

Last edited by Keith99; 03-05-14 at 05:36 PM.
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Old 03-05-14, 07:45 PM   #13
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BTW what I remember the most from serious swimming training was not long distances in any single swim but 100 yard repeats. Often going every 1 minute and 30 seconds. Sort of enough time to recover.
Agree, these are good to build pace (and endurance, if you don't recover fully). They also created an amusing story with some dolt I encountered:
  • I'm at the pool training for a race, and doing 50 meter repeats, with 20 second rest between intervals
  • Random dolt next to me decides he's going to race me in each interval
  • Interval 1 - he's significantly faster than me, and beats me back (by a lot)
  • Interval 2 - ditto
  • Interval 3 - he's not as far ahead
  • Interval 4 - he's just ahead
  • Interval 5 - he's just behind
  • Interval 6 - he doesn't go, and stays by the wall
  • Interval 7 - he gets out of the pool
  • Interval 8 - he slinks out of the pool area...

That was a fun diversion during the workout

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