Swimming Lessons

I like to find the silver lining in even the darkest cloud. In my running life that means taking the positives from a layoff due to injury. To summarize what I learned from my first one-two punch of sciatica and hip burisitis in 2013:

1. Don’t ignore a new pain. Rest. Scale back your miles. Get it checked out.

2. Don’t rush your comeback. Injuries take time to heal. Don’t jump straight back into your regular mileage – this will inevitably lead to a new injury or a recurrence of what you are healing from. Trust me on this one.

From my latest break from running I’m learning something else.

3. Cross-training can be fun!

After completing an 18 week marathon training plan I was a little burned out with running. Or more specifically with following a plan with prescribed workouts – pace/distance/number of runs per week. I wanted my workouts to be fun again. And not being able to run meant that I HAD to change things up. The first couple of weeks I had to avoid anything that put weight on my foot – so no running (obviously!), no leg weight training and no yoga. I was pretty much free to do anything else. Luckily, this coincided with a burst of beautiful fall weather in SLC. So to keep up my cardio I started biking into work 3-4 times a week and I started a swimming program. This time around I completely avoided the elliptical – mainly because I think it is the even more tedious/mind-numbingly boring cousin of the treadmill. Biking got me outside and swimming had a plan with a measurable end goal -> my kind of combination. As I improved (and my foot was never terrible to begin with – see lesson #1 get that sh*t checked out straight away before it gets out of hand) I added back in yoga and weight training with a couple of very short (1-1.5 mile treadmill runs) and on Thanksgiving did my first run outside.

What surprised my most was a new love for swimming.

Like most people I took swimming lessons when I was young – learning the basics before graduating to a weekly 1.5 hour swim practice where I tried to figure out the butterfly stroke. Then I hit my teens and pretty much gave up on any exercise for the next………….um………….10 years.

So I started a swim program with the aim of completing 1 continuous mile after 6 weeks. I also had an old (5+ years) Speedo swim suit and goggles and I was ready to go.

My first day there the plan was to swim 700 yds total (4 x 100 yds, 4 x 50 yds and 4 x 25 yds with rests in between). That sounds pretty easy, right? Well, no. It turns out that swimming is all about technique and breathing (duh!). My technique is pretty crappy but enough to get through a lap. Breathing was the thing that took me longest to figure out. At the start I was holding my breath so that when I turned my head to get air I had to first empty my lungs and then breath in. As you can guess this is not efficient in any way at all. I was literally gasping for air after every lap. But without really working on it my breathing suddenly became more natural. After a couple of weeks everything started feeling effortless. No more swallowing that delicious chlorinated water and spluttering attractively during every break between sets. It’s amazing but true – our bodies will automatically become more efficient with practice.

And for me this effortlessness came after a threshold. 200 yds seemed difficult at first and the 66 laps needed to complete a mile…………..oh my God, how would that ever happen? But once I did 400 yds, 600 yds wasn’t that bad and 1000 yds seemed doable. It was kind of like marathon training. When I first looked at the training schedule that 20 miler seemed crazy. But after finishing 16, and then 18 it suddenly seemed doable. It’s strange to me how progress can sneak up on you that way.

My one piece of advice is to splash out (pun intended) on some gear. My old goggles were made of hard plastic and hurt (I’m talking red marks around my eyes), before they finally cracked just before I was about to get in the pool (great timing!). It also turns out that swim suits have come a long way in the last decade. I took advantage of the REI sale and found a TYR swimsuit and I love it. My other piece of advice is to prepare for some dry skin. I have been moisturizing like it’s going out of style.

Any of course the number one advantage: cute guys in speedos no impact cardio.

Mon: 3.25 mile run

Tues: Strength workout + 1650 yd swim

Wed: 3.30 mile run

Thurs: Yoga + 1650 yd swim

Fri: 4.15 mile trail run

And just have to brag a little about my husband who this week made homemade pasta which was amazing.

IMG_1133

We got to use the latest attachment for our KitchenAid.

IMG_1131

We actually took a cooking class while in Tuscany on our honeymoon and have been waiting for the right moment to try it in our own kitchen. It was amazing – it just slid down my throat and tasted exactly like how we made it in our Tuscan restaurant. Married life rocks.

Tuscan countryside

Tuscan countryside

The view from our room

The view from our room

 

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14 thoughts on “Swimming Lessons

  1. We actually made pasta at a cooking class that was part of my bridal shower a few years ago! It was quite a bit a work and I give your husband a lot of credit for making it on his own:)
    Swimming is such a good form of cross training. I just wish I was better at it and had regular access to an indoor pool!

    • Yes – I would definitely not volunteer to make pasta but if my husband wants to do it I’m not going to complain! I’m lucky that I have a pool so close – I guess that’s not always an option in a (proper!) big city.

  2. I love the lessons you learned. I think we can all learn from those. I wish I had taken real swimming lessons growing up. We had a pool in our back yard and my parents taught me how to swim. I feel comfortable in the water but I don’t know real technique. I am pretty sad to watch swimming laps. Sigh. BTW I also find the elliptical painful to do (mentally).

    • I’m glad my parents were so big on swimming lessons – mainly because they cannot swim well at all and wanted my brother and I to know what we were doing. But I do see all abilities at my local pool. It’s a little intimidating when the university swim team are there doing their thing!

  3. I swam briefly in high school and picked it up again when I was injured and unable to run. Swimming REALLY helps your running and totally helps keep you fit while you are down with injures! I’ve run my fastest marathons (and shorter distance races) since I started swimming again. Great job!

  4. awesome that you’re loving swimming. i used to swim when i was younger and totally dug it, but haven’t done it at all since moving to NYC — unless you count romping in the ocean or my parents’ lake. no serious laps or anything. hope the injury continues to heal well.

  5. Such great lessons. As much as being injured sucks there is so much good that can be taken away from it. I have pool access. I should really learn to be a better swimmer.

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