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Swim Problems Part VII

As we seem to be on Swim Problems today.......

Here is mine.

Basically 2 years ago I was almost a nonswimmer. Did London OD last summer breastroke all the way after months of training in the pool. Took me 45 minutes, that was with alot of hyperventalating early on as I was clearly a little uncomfortable - it was my first open water 1500m - baptism of fire!

Now as I try and progress to front crawl - the aim is get the time down to about 38 mins this year I have encountered several issues.

I cannot swim further than 150m without big build up of lactic acid, this is mainly due to the fact that I have to swim really really fast to stop my legs sinking in the water! I think I have legs made of lead!!

Any suggestions on how to solve the Lead leg issue? Have tried swimming with a Pull Buoy - never have I looked more silly in a public place before!

All advice would be much appreciated. Would love to hear from people who were also once like this and have managed to solve their issues...



  • durhamvamdurhamvam Posts: 246
    Hi Banksy,

    18 months ago I couldn't swim front crawl either - I just panicked and stressed and sank! After extensive technique and fitness squads and lessons I'd just about got the technique cracked when I moved back here from overseas - 6 months lazy training and the fitness is gone according to the tri club coach but I still have the technique - basically I'm really slow but look great doing it! [:)]

    With swimming technique counts for a lot and it sounds like some lessons would be the best idea if you can arrange them. I had total immersion lessons and they were great - but the high degree of rotation is causing me problems with improving my stroke speed that and my intrinsic laziness!

    Basically if you have good form you won't have to kick fast to keep your hips from sinking


  • TommiTriTommiTri Posts: 879
    right yes, I very much know where you are coming from, you have some serious balance issues mister!

    So 1st point, legs should not be used for balance, they should be used for body rotation and stability within the rotation, they can also help keep you straight.

    If you got a good swimmer to just let his/her legs flop and didn't move them they wouldn't sink, or at least if they did it would be very gradual.

    What you need to do is sort your balance out. you need to push on your chest more, have a strong core and have you head in the right position so that you remain horizontal in the water.

    The way I accomplished this was to swim with my ankles crossed (or as some people do you can get an old innertube, cut a section off and tie it round your ankles to stop them moving.

    Now, on the first few attempts at this your legs will drop, and fast, you will trash like mad at the front end to keep going. But after a few attempts you should be trying to push down on your chest more, it sounds odd, but once you get the feeling right you remember it. This will bring the legs up. this may take weeks of practice, it will not happen instantly.

    Work on this and one day you will have an epiphany, your legs aren't sinking! Now you can start to develop that kick into one which actually does something useful like rotate your body!
  • jonEjonE Posts: 1,113
    Try to swim without looking forward,keeping your head down,and try to look at your feet,as your head goes down your feet should raise naturally.Follow the line on the pool floor,watching where it is behind you is another way of looking at it.

    Core strength will again help you keep your legs up.Front crawl propulsion should be about 80% arm and 20% leg,and even then the leg motion is keeping stability for the body.Practice gliding,with a gently leg motion to keep the forward momentum going.

    If you do keep having difficulty,when you purchase your next wetsuit,get one with thicker neoprene on the legs to provide greater buoancy.
  • TommiTriTommiTri Posts: 879
    oh and a pull buoy will do NOTHING for you at this stage, you must first develop you balance, then you can use the pull buoy to start bringing in a rotational kick 2 beat kick, which will be the cornerstone your stroke is based on.

    I was not a good swimmer, I had that epiphany I was talking about at Xmas 08, so about 6 months ago. At the time I was maybe doing a very exhusting 7:30 for 400, couldn't even think about any longer.

    I did a 400 the other day in 6 mins, a 750 OW despite being being beaten up in just under 12.
  • BanksyBanksy Posts: 7
    Thanks for these comments all really helpful - however do you think its true that some people are more buoyant than others? I even have issues floating on my back without sinking :-).

    Not to sound racist, but is the reason that alot of black people have difficulty swimming is due to their muscle density being different to Caucasians or do you think its more down to cultural reasons.

    I definitely feel like Eric the Eel most of the time in the pool.
  • jonEjonE Posts: 1,113
    Probably using the same principle that 'White Men can't jump'.

    You can it is just training your body to do it,because it can.Maybe getting someone to video you swimming,might be able to to show you where your body positioning is going wrong.Please ask the pool manager first,before some irate over protective parent accusses you of the unthinkable.
  • FlavadaveFlavadave Posts: 749
    Banksy wrote:

    Thanks for these comments all really helpful - however do you think its true that some people are more buoyant than others? I even have issues floating on my back without sinking :-).

    Not to sound racist, but is the reason that alot of black people have difficulty swimming is due to their muscle density being different to Caucasians or do you think its more down to cultural reasons.

    I definitely feel like Eric the Eel most of the time in the pool.

    Wouldn't like to comment on the caucasion thing, but floating on your back in a pool is pretty much impossible without your legs sinking. Try it with your hands extended above your head though, you'll find its easier and your legs certainly won't sink as fast!

    Same principle with swimming front crawl. By initiating a glide phase, pausing with one arm fully extended, this naturally balances your body and brings your legs up. You want to be aiming for a near 'catch up' stroke, which is the lead extended arm doesn't start the stroke until just before the other hand enters the water i.e. 'catches up' with the lead arm.

  • durhamvamdurhamvam Posts: 246
    keeping you head down will bring your hips and legs up like Tommi says - perhaps thinking about pushing a ball down with your chest would help but that might make you bend at the waist - not a good idea. The side swimming drills are good for balance in the water.

    Apparently us women have advantages in the flotation stakes - got to be a good use for that extra body fat percentage [;)]

  • Ron99Ron99 Posts: 237
    I'm also a sinker, and a few of the things that really helped me were:

    1. Keep the ankles flexible and kick from the hip - I know everybody says this, but try locking your ankles (L-shaped, like you were standing up) and kick a bit more from the knee - your legs will sink like a stone

    2. Keep the feet pretty close together and with the toes slightly turned in. It helps when you are learning to do this to try to lightly rub your big toes together once every few kicks

    3. Dont kick too wide of the body - this just creates drag. Imagine you're swimming through a very narrow tunnel which is just wide enough for your shoulders (and therefore you have to keep the legs within the same tunnel)

    Let us know how you're getting on.
  • BanksyBanksy Posts: 7
    The whole pushing the chest down thing I can't visualise - having a fairly hollow back anyway I can imagine this would just increase the curvature of the spine.

    Its true some women have bigger bouyancy aids than men - some men that frequent the pub more than others also benefit from this. Maybe drinking a few more pints at the weekend could be the answer?

    A potentially revolutionary training regime? Whatcha reckon hehe
  • durhamvamdurhamvam Posts: 246
    Can I join if this new training session assuming we need to use a decent establishment with real ale to get the best benefit?

    Maybe you should focus on looking behind you then like mentioned above - if you try to keep the core engaged through the lower abs and kick from the hips that should help keep things in line. Don't lift your head to breathe but use the rotation of the stroke. If you lift your head you will jack knife in the middle, your hips will sink and you will struggle frantically to keep on the surface.

    Perhaps some balance drills?

  • ShaggyShaggy Posts: 140
    If you can then lessons are the way. I've been having Total Immersion lessons one-to-one in the endless pool with video cameras. Not cheap, but I'm sure I couldn't have got the foundations of technique properly without. I'm still not that fast, but now I'm confident that I can build on where I am. The trouble is everything you do in the water affects everything else, he broke it down step by step and built it back up again.

    Agree with other comments, lungs and head in the water, look straight down. Balance is key - almost feels like you're swimming downhill.


  • Jack HughesJack Hughes Posts: 1,262
    I had a rather good coaching session on Tuesday. Of course, as with many runner/cyclists, I do have the "lead legs" problem - which results in the "swimming uphill" pose - with lots and lots of drag.

    I've read the TI stuff - so know about "pushing down on your buoy" i.e. pushing down the chest.

    What the coach said:

    - It's a myth that runners/cyclist sink because of their big leg muscles and weedy upper bodies - it's all about core strength and flexibilty.

    - pushing down on your chest/head will just make you go to low in the water, without your legs coming up.

    Lift your hips - it's all about the core - pull in that belly button, lift those hips - it will be a strain, and take some time. Your feet will probably doing the wrong thing - especially if you are used to cycling - your need to really really stretch/point your toes out. This all shouldn't be easy - it should be a real effort at first.

    Using fins can be a help to get the right position - but you have to point those toes.

    It's amazing what the a difference altering that angle makes to your speed - really significant!

    You need to get that balance and that good position before you can do all the rest of the TI moves.

    In the gym, things like the plank, and other core things - like a "superman" on a swiss ball can really help.

  • i could not swim front crawl on jan 1st.

    now i can do 152 lengths of a 25m pool in well under 2 hours.bi lateral.

    twice a week is all it took. at first it was 2 lengths. then a few weeks in 4, then 10 and now i do them in 50s.

    persist at it and it will come.

    get skin tight shorts. baggy ones weigh you down.
  • julesojuleso Posts: 279
    Echoing the posts above, your legs will drop if your head is too high. When you do learn to position it correctly, it'll be like a swimming epiphany!

    The whole lungs-as-buoy thing can be a tricky concept to grasp but it's worth it if you scratch your head a bit, read up the theory, and perhaps dedicate one session to just trying to 'get it'.

  • Jack HughesJack Hughes Posts: 1,262
    First proper session in the pool since my coaching on Tuesday.

    SPL down from 30 to 22.

    That's just from trying to lift those hips and point out my twinkle toes!

    I know feel competent enough to invest in on of those strokie-dookie counters.
  • durhamvamdurhamvam Posts: 246
    Jack: they make stroke counters??? Where can I get one of these wonder gadets and how do they work?

    I get lazy counting my strokes after about ten minutes, well done on the distance per stroke!

  • Jack HughesJack Hughes Posts: 1,262
    I'll sort out the link when I go shopping at lunchtime.

    They are little fingerbob devices - you just click with your finger every time you do a stroke.

    There a load of threads (which I will rummage through) on here shortly... I thought I had placed one in my wiggle wish list.. must have dreamt that though.

    I also want a cheap waterproof stop watch - something to tide me over until my Birthday/Garmin 310 XT comes along. On second thoughts, I'll probably get the 310 XT for being a brave solider when I have my knee op [:)]. Oh yes.

  • risris Posts: 1,002
    the finger-bob stroke counter really appeals to me, i was given a zoggs watch 2-3 years ago that has a counter in it (you press the watch face and it records the lap no, split etc) but it had moments of unreliability if you didn't squeeze it properly.

    jack - good to have a motivating present for when you recover!
  • durhamvamdurhamvam Posts: 246
    Thanks for the info re stroke counters - that's one for the wish list! (no new stuff allowed until some excess baggage lost......)

    When's the op? How about a Forerunner 50 until then? I think I got mine for £40. BTW did they refer you to some sort of pain management clinic? There are things you can do - not just drugs - to make chronic pain easier to cope with. Probably a bit late for that now though

  • Jack HughesJack Hughes Posts: 1,262
    Ha found them! Took a bit more searching than I thought. The posts on the forum only go back to April... I really am going to mirror the site now. Too much info lost.

    OK: What we have is the sport count range of products.


    They are really lap/length counters - but nothing to stop you clicking after every other stroke (e.g. everytime your right hand enters the water).

    Just need to find a "proper" shop to buy them from.

  • FlavadaveFlavadave Posts: 749
    Very useful... have used it for running as well when I've left my watch in a different bag.

  • Jack HughesJack Hughes Posts: 1,262
    I have performed due diligence and now believe that activeplanet.co.uk is a "proper shop" (i.e. I have a reasonable expection of the goods actually being delivered and of not having my credit card details hawked round the world).

    I've ordered the Chrono 100. It can count up to 999.. and remember details for 100 laps. It gives you overall time, fastest lap, slowest lap and average, and, of course, count.

    I will endeavour to use it for counting lengths.. and also counting strokes (not sure how interested I am in the time per stroke).

    Anway, it solves my waterproof stopwatch and not been able to remember a number past 3 in my head when swimming issues.

    There is a cheaper one that just counts... so I hope the chrono 100 is good for that.

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