Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Runner girl's heretical guide to beginning to swim as an adult

Many people writing about swimming seem to be swimming purists... They think we should just love slogging through the miles. But I don't feel this way. As a kayaker, I have tried to avoid swimming because that means I royally screwed up and came out of my boat. This is about turning around my negative swimming attitude and embracing my inner mermaid.

My #1 tip for beginning to swim as an adult is toys! Toys toys toys! The beauty of swimming is it is about "form" and in order to gain that form people have designed many different toys. People like to play with toys and runners don't like to swim because it feels weird and unnatural. So why not make it an adventure into toyland? The difference between toys and 'gear' is that nothing needs to be top of the line. I like to bring my entire bag of toys and mix it up. I have read several articles about how when you see someone with paddles, etc, you know they are triathletes because they are 'gear-heads.' I say Whatever! The toys are making me a better swimmer AND making it fun.

#2. Get goggles. They help so so so so much. Even though it makes me feel good that I can pass the guy who is swimming laps with his head above the water. Don't let that be you when you are trying to figure out how to enjoy the sport.

#3. Make friends with the lifeguards  Not only will this make swimming more enjoyable, but sometimes they let you play with their swimming-toys. This helps you figure out which toys are your favorite. Over Christmas break the lifeguards let me borrow all kinds of different swimming toys of theirs and would bring them daily for me to use! Also will they tell you "oh, you don't look like a beginner at all" and improve your swimming ego. Until you remember that they are comparing you to the people doing water aerobics and the guy without goggles swimming with his head above water.

#4. When all else fails pretend you are scuba diving and swimming in a school of fish, and there go the turtles! Oh wait, here comes a shark! Sprint, go go go go, zig zag, dive deep and up. Few, made it to safety at the other end of the pool now back to checking out the buried treasure in the sunken ship in peace...

My toys:

I use a waterproof ipod nano and listen to PharmRecall while I swim. The repetitive nature of swimming is perfect for memorization. It would also be a great opportunity for learning a new language. My pharmacology grades have improved since I began swimming!

I use flippers a lot! As a runner, my legs like to go wild. Flippers restrict their movement and make them move 'correctly' so I am kicking effectively. Also they make me go a lot faster. And I like going fast... But can't yet without the flippers, so flippers here I come, vroom vroom!

The forearm fulcrums are one that the lifeguards lent me while I was home over Christmas. They have completely changed my stroke and I can feel the water now. I can actually FEEL when I am stroking effectively, instead of just not knowing why I am going so slowly.

Finally, I use paddles now that make my shoulders stronger (once again supplied to me by the lifeguards that compliment me on my non-beginner stroke). They help a lot with my breast stroke that seemed to just take FOREVER and was brutally slow.

These are all the toys I have so far, though I use the pull buoy and kick board supplied by the Y.

Next student loan check in July I will get a snorkle, which I am excited about. This will absolutely help me fantasize that I am snorkling in somewhere crazy amazing instead of in a chlorinated pool at the Y in Grandpa's AND Junior's urine.

And when some swimming purist comments on all your toys just tell him/her... yeah, I have a lot of toys, but at least I'm not a stuck-up jerk. Just say it in Urdu and all other of the twelve languages you have managed to learn fluently while practicing swimming back and forth and back and forth and back...

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