Friday 1st March Third Session Three
Mind full of masterful plans to conquer the issues of breathing and panic with oral water intake was researched fully online. All the advice was a variation on the same theme. Stay relaxed and calm, work on correct posture and practice inhaling and exhaling timing were all part of the problem. Still in the first week of starting training which had been quite traumatic to date I decided to take the advice seen. This was to forget about getting lengths of swimming in which was just practicing bad habits. I thought I could swim, but it has to be back to learning to swim again not just trying to stay afloat.
It was a long weekend of holidays in Bulgaria starting with the 1st March being Baba Marta Day, (also my name day) through to Monday 4th March where there was a National holiday celebrating the Liberation of Bulgaria from the Ottoman Rule on the 3rd March. I called at the pool to ask whether they were open on the Friday and subsequent Monday where planned to train. Friday they were open, but Monday closed so already there was a break in the schedule planned. No matter Tuesday will do and I’m not exactly exhausted after each session right now so two days in a row won’t do any harm with just practicing technic not stamina.
It was with a fresh mind walking the short distance to the pool today trying to put the bad experiences of the last two session down to running before I can walk. Goggles were smeared with washing up liquid this time so no fear of steaming up as I’m sure that’s why they did on Wednesday. I got there 15 minutes before the officially opened and had to wait a while until she had done here accounts on her little electronic cash register. The long list of account came streaming out of the machine eventually which was the signal she had finished. Whilst the little wait was on three other swimmers turned up, the most to date when starting at 10:00. All I was thinking about was how many people and how many lanes, would I have to share a lane and suffer the indignant swimming style of holding swimmers up with my stop go session. Everyone else I had seen swimming in the pool so far were competent and smooth operational swimmers. I was probably fitter than all of them but not at all obvious in the pool.
I had read that many runners and cyclist who are super fit just cannot hack the swimming events with the same symptoms I have experience. Not being able to complete a length without having to stop was a common problem. That made me feel more comfortable knowing that this can be solved over time with a strict back to basics working on the methods the experts recommend.
So, into the water and 5 minutes of something called ‘Bobbing’. This is simply just standing in shallow water taking a deep breath through the mouth and ducking under the water blowing bubbles out of the nose in controlled manner. Once almost all the air it out, you return the head above the water and grab another breath through the mouth, then repeat the process many times. It was quite easy although for some reason there were times I sensed a little panic of the thought that I might breathe in underwater. Why would I do this as there wasn’t a reason for it? Why was I thinking I might?
There were a few occasions where I exhaled the air out too fast and had to hold my breath before being able to intake above water. This I guess was the point of practice to try and control the volume of air expelled. The five minute ‘bobbing’ exercise was done three times during this session, but I still didn’t feel that it was perfected on just today’s session. I still had to focus really hard with the control of air to avoid gasping when out. More practice to come in future session. I do believe this will help get the process to be done without thinking too much later on.
The next routine was just to get the freestyle stokes to be relaxed and slow with the head in the correct position. It was simply a push off with both hands straight out in front of you with your body straight and parallel floating on top of the water. With a slow almost slow motion whilst holding your breath. Once moving with an easy leg kick, each arm in turn does a complete stroke bringing it back to where it starts parallel with the other arm before the opposite arm does a complete stroke. After six strokes, (three with each arm), you stop, breath, recover and try again. This was repeated time and time again which caused me to feel relaxed and very comfortable with the sequence of arm actions. No breathing involved here, just a focus on easy, economical strokes without panic or rushing. It also helps keeping you head under water facing the bottom of the pool which creates minimum drag. This was done time and time again and I quite enjoyed it for the very reason that I was holding my breath until I had stopped to recover. Quite strange having to wait for an arm to arrive before the other one starts and I still haven’t arrived to doing this naturally so will preserve until I do.
The last bit of training advice taken up bring back breathing techniques in again was with the aid of a simple float. This is held with both hands stretched out in front with an easy leg kick to get you going. I had found that I am more comfortable breathing in from my left side so the exercise is just for my left arm stroke and breathing in from that side. Releasing my left arm to do a complete stroke and back to the float again as it leaves the float the body naturally swivels clockwise to the right and the head can be turned to the left and take in air through the mouth. On the return with both hands on the float a gentle exhaling of air through the nose is made until such time to be ready for the left arm stroke and breathe in through the mouth again.
As I practiced this it became more comfortable and I could now complete lengths quite easily without getting too exhausted, albeit with a floating aid. This aside, it was a very pleasing achievement in view of the past two sessions. In fact on reflection, I felt a little corner had been turned with this exercise. There was a little hiccup when I tried to do exercise this with the right side, I failed miserably with taking in water and having to stop on both occasions. I will continue with the left to gain more confidence before trying that again!
With a little confidence instilled I tried to go for a freestyle length without aids. It all started well but by the time I had got half way down the length panic fell in again with water getting into my nose and all the bad habits of panicking and head raised with either a panic swim to the end and exhaustion, or just stopping with feet down again. A bad end to what I though was something quite promising.
Finishing the session with two lengths of head high snail paced breaststroke then finding that I had been in the pool for 50 minutes was quite surprise. 20 minutes longer than both sessions before and much more constructive.
I still can’t believe how lucky I am to have a pool so close to home and without this taking part in event in September just would not be possible. This is especially so knowing how much work there is ahead into getting up and running with a simple freestyle action like all the other swimmers I see.
Next session is now due on Tuesday 5th March and I am looking forward to doing the same things as today with more confidence.
Just a small note to end with. Only to mention seeing a news article this morning about a Syrian refugee who nearly drowned getting to the UK crossing the sea. This man who couldn’t swim just one year ago is now in full training to compete in the 2020 Olympics as a swimmer. An inspirational story to give anyone who is starting from scratch to latch onto.
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