beginner swimmers

Gym-Free Swimming Challenge

Monday I got home a little before noon. Michael was golfing with Charles on the way home from our camping trip so I had the day to do whatever I wanted. I unpacked, did laundry and then headed to my old pool. Being gym-free on swim days are stressful. I didn’t have any other options than to go to Mt. Scott Community Pool. It was where I started swimming to lose weight. It was where I worked really hard to lose over 100 pounds. I have very fond memories of Mt. Scott.

I also have some not so great memories of the place, which I remembered once I was there on Monday to swim. I arrived about 11:45 and was expecting it to be empty. I mean, it was the middle of the day on a work/school day. I paid the drop-in fee and got changed in the locker room. The pool wasn’t packed but it was busy. The whole pool was dedicated to lap swimming. Every lane had at least 2 people in it. I groaned inwardly and remembered what I disliked about community pools: sharing the lane when it was crowded.

I got in the fast lane with two other people already in it and they circle swam. I also remembered another thing I didn’t like about sharing a lane: everyone goes at a different pace. Even being in the fast lane with other fast swimmers, it’s so hard to find the right pacing. I had to slow down and sometimes stop in the middle of the lane because the guy in front of me wasn’t quite faster than me. I know it sounds petty to be annoyed with other swimmers in the lane but it really is hard to find swimmers who are evenly matched in pace. It’s hard to get a good workout when you have to stop a lot or slow to a breast stroke or dog paddle because you’ve caught up to the person in front of you.

Eventually one of the people in my lane left and we didn’t have to circle swim anymore. The rest of my swim was really enjoyable. It brought back fond memories of my time spent there. The pool at Mt. Scott really is a nice one.

By the time I was done with my 1.5 mile swim the lanes were all empty. Can you believe it? I guess I just picked the wrong time to go.

I relaxed in the hot tub and then took a shower. Where I remembered yet another thing I didn’t like about Mt. Scott: the showers. They are small and the water only stays on for about 15 seconds at a time before automatically shutting off.

You wouldn’t think that’s a big deal but it is when you’re in the middle of the shower and your water shuts off every 15 seconds. It’s these little things that remind me why I must have a gym membershipΒ somewhere.

Don’t let me discourage any Portlanders from using Mt. Scott, however. It suited my purposes just fine for 3 years. I used to work out in their small gym:

It had treadmills, ellipticals, weight machines and free weights. It was convenient to where I lived and in my price range. The pool is really nice, too. I definitely recommend Mt. Scott to anyone in the area looking for an affordable option. I just moved beyond this place and needed more in a gym.

Swim Stats:
Time: 57 minutes
Calories Burned: 400

Despite my minor annoyances, I was really glad I went and got in a swim session. I love swimming so much–it would be a really hard thing to give up. Until I figure out the gym thing I will probably drop-in to Mt. Scott for awhile.

The other part I disliked about swimming there: it took me two hours on Monday to swim. I had to drive to Mt. Scott, change, swim, sit in the hot tub, shower, dress, and drive home. Two hours? Two hours out of my life. It’s just not a convenient location to go to for me. πŸ™

Monday night’s dinner was a quick and easy dinner. I didn’t feel like going big grocery shopping after camping all weekend. I bought a rotisserie chicken from the store and made us salads, complete with tomatoes from our garden.

It was a good, quick dinner when I really didn’t have much motivation to cook.

QUESTION: If you are a swimmer, how do you deal with pacing when sharing a lane with other people?

Swimming Tips for Beginners

Swimming is how I lost the majority of my weight. You might wonder why, at 250+pounds, I dared to put on that revealing swimsuit? The answer is simple: I knew swimming was something I’d stick with.

Some of these tips I learned the hard way through trial and error. Most of them were just second nature to me. I’d been a good swimmer my entire life and was even on the Synchronized Swimming Team in middle school.

These series of Swimming posts I’m writing are not a substitute for actual swim lessons. So please, if you don’t know how to swim, sign up for lessons at the local community pool. You can buy private lessons or classes.

The first step is knowing Lap Swimming Etiquette.

Here are some basics if you’re just starting out a swimming routine.

1. Buy goggles. I see so many people trying to swim without goggles. Chlorine is an irritant and it will make your experience very unpleasant.

2. Start Slow. Swim 15-20 minutes to start with. Don’t try to do too much too soon. It takes time to build up technique and stamina. If you have to rest at the end of each length, do it.

3. Wear a Swim Cap. Especially women. It’s a much nicer experience not having to mess with hair in your face. And other swimmers don’t want to so chunks of your hair floating in the pool…. πŸ˜‰

4. Practice Pulling Straight Back: As your hands enter the water, your fingertips (with a flat palm) should immediately begin pointing straight down. Focus on pulling straight back as you roll your shoulder or take a breath. Your hands should not cross over your center line at any point in the stroke. Basically, don’t make an “S” formation with your arms.

5. Use Silicon Ear Plug: Ear plugs are a necessity. I don’t swim without them. There’s nothing worse than Swimmer’s Ear–days of water sloshing inside your ear. Plugs help prevent ear infections, too.

6. Minimal splashing. You should be smooth, gliding through the water. If you’re splashing a lot, you’re doing it wrong.

7. Kick from the hip, with your knees hardly flexed and your toes pointed. Basically, a scissor kick.

8. If you are feeling tired and fatigue, switch over to low intensity strokes, like sidestroke or breaststroke. You can even swim a few laps, seeking the aid of kickboards. (I use a kickboard after I do half a mile of intense, non-stop swimming to cool down a bit.)

9. Rolling with each stroke is very necessary while swimming. For example , if you have extended your right arm, make sure to keep your right side lower than your left one. Roll back and forth with each stroke–but not rolling around too much.

10. The mouth should be closed while the face is in water. You can exhale through the nose while in water but you shouldn’t open your mouth. If you want to blow out air as you surface you can, but don’t open your mouth wide.

11. Concentrate on increasing stroke length rather than your stroke rate to increase your swim speed. Good swimmers use only a limited number of strokes per lap.

12. Use your hands to β€œgrab” more water with each stroke and extend your arms further to push you out of the water. This will help decrease drag and make swimming easier.

13. Drink water. Stay hydrated by drinking water periodically.

14. Don’t hold your breath the whole time. If you are swimming from one end of the pool to the other, the goal is not to hold your breath the entire time. It makes your muscles sluggish and tires you out faster.

15. Push Yourself. After you get really good at swimming, push yourself harder. It’s easy to get stuck in a lazy pace, not trying very hard. When you get to that pace it’s time to try speed work!

And with every new fitness routine, it’s wise to talk to your doctor about it first. Also, be prepared for an insatiable hunger when you first begin swimming! Keep snacks in your locker.

QUESTION: Are you a swimmer? Did I miss any helpful hints for someone starting out a swimming for fitness routine?

Check back Thursday for Part II.