The Art of Treading Water

A few weeks ago I made my first successful attempt at treading water at the neighbourhood swimming pool. At the end of the lesson I asked my friendly instructor to allow me practice treading water and she obliged. Note that I had attempted treading water on numerous occasions using various techniques I had seen on Youtube at the pool only to find myself sinking fast to the bottom of the pool. This time, I did a few things different, thanks to instructions from my wise instructor. First, I had to look upawards. Second, I had to make sure my upper body was bent forward such that a line from my waist to my head made an angle of say thirty degrees to the vertical wall of the pool. Third, I had to constantly kick in a cycling motion, as if riding a bike. And finally, I had to rotate foreams in circles parallel to the surface of the water, palms open. Think of it as trying to wipe an imaginary table parallel to the water surface. On doing these four things simultaneously, I was able to keep my face above water for a good couple of seconds for the first time. Now that is hard core! But I was ecstatic afterwards. Now, having described my personal way of treading water, I’ll quickly go over the common ways I’ve found for treading water.

First, when treading water, it’s very helpful to move your arms in circles such that you effectively push the water downwards. By pushing the water downwards, the water pushes your body upwards in accordance with the law of conservation of momentum. Another helpful motion is the kick with the legs. There are a few types of kicks you can use to thread water.

First, using breast stroke kicks. Think of the regular breast stroke kicks, but you just do it downwards. It’s a fairly easy way to push the water downwards and hence your body upwards.

Second, flutter kicks. You can also use these to tread water. This generally requires more energy though, but for some people it just works.

Below is a nice video that shows using the aforementioned techniques.

Third, egg beater kick. This is basically the same as breast stroke kicks, but one leg at a time. Below is a video that demonstrates this.

So, how do you guys tread like to tread water? Feel free to leave comments.

Using Nose Clips

While having a leisurely swim at the pools a few weeks ago, I came across a girl, Ashley, who swam so well I thought she must be good friends with fishes. So, as we talked a bit, I asked her for some swimming tips. She recommended a few things including the use of nose clips. She explained that when you clip your nose shut, it forces you to concentrate on breathing properly through the mouth while swimming. Also, it prevents water from running up your nose. She told me I could get these from a sports shop.

The next time I swam, I noticed that one of my biggest discomforts was that I sometimes accidentally let in water through my nose, causing fits of coughing. Remembering what Ashley said earlier, I made up my mind right there and then that the next time I visited the pool, it will be with my nose clips. So, I hit Sports Direct and bought a fine nose clip.

A few days later it was time for swimming lessons and I was ready to try out my trusty nose clips. First tip, for those of you with oily noses, you may have a hard time wearing nose clips right away as they may keep slipping off. It’s advisable to first take a swim for a few minutes to get that oil off your nose. Then try on nose clips. Once I had the nose clips on, I noticed that I had to breath in deeper through the mouth to get comfortable. It was amazing to see that even with my nose completely blocked I could breath steadily through the mouth. With this improved depth of breathing, I found that I could cover greater distances during front crawl before needing to face outwards for breath. Furthermore, there was no longer the case of water running up my nose. So, indeed nose clips are a good investment for the neophyte swimmer.

Now, please note, they are good just to help you learn to breath well through the mouth and reduce discomfort of water getting up the nose. Once you learn how to breath sufficiently deeply and properly (blowing bubbles in water for example) and are able to float well, there should be no problems with water getting up your nose and you can safely discard nose clips.

Breathing in during Front Crawl

Hello folks,

In my last post I discussed the lessons I learnt about breathing out in water. Today I’m going to talk about breathing in air while doing a front crawl.

When breathing in, some beginners, myself included, tend to raise our heads to take in air. This is wrong as it causes the legs to sink. You see, the body can be thought of as a see-saw. When one part goes up on water the other part tends to go down.

So, how should one breathe out while swimming with front crawl? The best way which I discovered in my last lesson is to turn sideways with the neck remaining as parallel to your trunk as possible at appropriate moments. So what’s an appropriate moment? I’ll give an example. Suppose you want to breath out to your right side. So, you push and glide in the pool, then start kicking, and then you starting making hand strokes. You wait until your left hand is stretched straight in front of you while your right hand is stretched straight backwards. This is the perfect time to tilt your head to the right and take in some air.

Also, it’s important to keep kicking while breathing in otherwise you generally begin to sink.

It’s all about Breathing

Yesterday was the first time I swam across the breath of the swimming pool without stopping, all thanks to my regular swimming instructor who came back from break and a particularly nice swim mate of mine who offered some crucial tips. I was ecstatic on reaching the other side. I’ll now share the tips I learnt that have improved my swimming technique.

Breathing – you have to breath out SLOWLY into the water. Don’t force out air as this makes you run out of breath quickly. Also it seems this helps you relax. It’s like when in air. You generally breath out gently. Do the same while swimming, but into the water. Previously I used to breath out quickly in water and usually found out to my utter dismay, half way through the lap that I was already out of breath and ready to sink. When I controlled my breathing I found that I could travel longer before running out of breath. This I feel is the single most important factor I altered that improved my swimming yesterday.

You have to really kick against the swimming pool wall at the beginning of a push and glide, kick routine. This gives propulsion that takes you farther through the water. In previous lessons I used to give a soft kick to the pool wall at the start of a glide. But I tried out giving the wall a solid kick and watched in glee as I glided swiftly through the water.

Take a deep breath before taking the plunge. The extra air in your lungs keeps you buoyant for longer.

Kick fast. Fast kicks from the hips appear to propel the body forward and keep you buoyant for longer. The faster you kick, the faster you move through water.

Strengthen both arms. This applies especially when learning front crawl technique. I find my right hand is stronger than my left hand when making a stroke, most likely because I’m right-handed. As such I have to do some exercises to strengthen my left hand so that I can have equally powerful strokes on both hands.

Eat at least a few hours BEFORE going to swim. Eating a lot just swimming makes you feel heavier and gives you more work to do as you try to push your weight through the water.

That’s all for now. To my fellow new swimmers out there, I hope you find some of these tips useful. If you have comments or tips you like to share, feel free to drop a comment below. Enjoy!

Another Day of Swimming

Yesterday’s swimming lesson was very memorable. I had the privilege of learning under a different instructor, Phil, who covered for the regular instructor Claire. Phil is a children’s swimming instructor with deep knowledge and passion for swimming.

I learnt more fundamental things about swimming. Specifically, it was the first day I felt myself float confidently in water.

First, you need to breathe in deeply before diving into the water. The excess air in the lungs make you float higher longer.

Also, I learnt the importance of our ritual of walking across the water back and forth at the beginning of each lesson. We do it to get warmed up and get our muscles ready for the rigor of swimming.

Yesterday was the first time I tried back stroke and for the first time I felt myself float at the surface while doing it.

Furthermore, I learnt officially that flapping of the feet gives me next to no propulsion. I will need to use my hands to propel myself forward in addition to the initial momentum obtained from jumping into water.

There are two types of swimming aids: the paddle and the noodle – noodle helps you float even better. Previously we had been using just the paddle.

Finally, I learnt that when doing a star float face up I need to lean my upper body into the water so that my feet can come up. Basically I have to think of my body as a see-saw.

Ultimately I figured out that the best way to improve my swimming technique is a tried and true method: Practice.

First Day Swimming

It was a nice cool evening and I was ready to swim. Armed with my swimming shorts, one pound coin for using the lockers and membership card, I headed to the a nearby pools and fitness centre. At the receptionist desk a friendly staff showed me the way to the changing room.

Having changed into my swimming shorts and stored away my clothing, I was set to hit to the pool. So I entered the main swimming pool area and feasted my eyes on a few jolly swimmers having the time of their lives in the pool. Behold there was no sign of training going on. So, mildly confused, I asked a lady who appeared to be a life guard where swimming lessons were taking place. She aptly directed me to a room to the left.

On entering the swimming lessons room I discovered another pool with a bunch of swimmers and a nice lady who gave instructions to some apparently neophyte swimmers. “Ah, finally!” I thought. I’m at the right place. The instructor asked me to wait, that our lessons will start shortly. Taking a seat next to another first-time swimmer I chatted away as we both waited patiently for our lessons to begin.

Finally it was our turn to swim. The instructor checked off our names on her register, a POS-like device. The first thing we did was to sit at the edge of the pool with our legs in the water. There were three learners in my group. Next, we stood in the water and then walked up and down the breath of the pool both forward and backwards. I remember feeling quite wobbly as I took my first steps. I had a rather unsteady gait somewhat akin to a child taking his first steps. But I overcame that feeling pretty quickly and within minutes was walking confidently back and forth.

After a while it was time to float. At the instructor’s command we stood by the edge of the pool, stretched our hands toward the wall, turned face down into the water and let our legs float above the pool floor, float for a few seconds and then stand. I was eagerly expecting to float like a beach ball, but something bewildering happened. I sank like a rock!

Something wasn’t right. I decided to look at my fellow learners. To my amazement they floated. One of them, a fine plumpy girl, floated like she had been swimming for years. The other girl, a skinny one, also floated. I then thought “maybe the sinking was a one-off”. So I tried floating again. And again I sank quick. Several sinking experiences later I asked my instructor what was going on. How come I sank while others floated. It was at this point I learnt something crucial about swimming.

Fat floats and muscle sinks. People who have large amounts of fat in their body tend to float on water because fat is lighter than water. On the other hand, people who are skinny or very muscular tend to sink when stationary because muscle is heavier than water. I fall in the second category, so I have to do extra work e.g. kick to stay afloat.

I learnt also that in order to float in water it’s important to relax. If you are too tense you will sink. Don’t fight against the water. Rather you should feel your way through it.

Next we practised push and glide. In doing this we dived into the water, the just glided through until we were almost out of breath at which point we stood, took a breath and did it again.

After that, we learnt to kick in the water. In doing this we stood by the edge of the pool, held our hands straight perpendicular to the pool wall, floated our legs and kicked. The idea was to maintain a position near the surface of the water. Again I got optimistic, hoping this was my time to float. Lo and behold I tried this and sank! Again, my body composition was to blame. In consolation my instructor told me that the more I practised the better I will get and that I needed to kick more vigorously.

I practised push, glide and kick several more times until the end of the lesson at which point the instructor recommended that I buy swimming goggles. I thought she was just giving a friendly admonition. It wasn’t until I got home that I understood the gravity of not wearing goggles in the first place. My eyes hurt like crazy. Apparently the pool had some chemical (likely Chlorine) and my eyes were sensitive to it. So, big advice to anyone attempting to learn swimming in a pool. Buy yourself a good pair of goggles! You won’t regret it.

By and large, I’ve started learning the basics of swimming and will keep you posted. Enjoy.