6 TRUTHS FROM A NEWBIE SWIMMER

Oh swimming, you’re my favorite in-water sport out of all three triathlon sports. Kind of the same way that my dad used to tell me, “You’re my favorite 12-year-old daughter.”

I have two sisters.

As I’m trying horribly learning to like swimming, some fundamental truths have emerged that I feel obligated to share with any runner coming to the dark side…that is, triathlon. Shall we?

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  1. Chose A Lane With Similarly Paced Swimmers

You arrive at the pool full of mojo (or not) and are ready to get your swim on, only to find the lanes spattered with the few guys whose shoulder width is as large as you are tall, the girl in the beach bikini who looks like she could be doing the whole “monkey-tree-rocketship” thing, or is she just floating with a noodle (?), the 20-something guy who just came from getting “totally swoll” and then the average folks just moseying along.

I’m absolutely ok with sharing the pool with anyone who would like to use it, but the problem is, they’re all mixed together like they a SwimOutlet grab bag.

My friendly PSA: if the pool is full, please identify similarly paced lanes and enjoy your time in them. Even if a spot is open with the Olympic-paced-freaksofnature lane, save it for Mr. Phelps. The pools I saw in Europe had signs with these very instructions and I believe that these, and the metric system, may help with American swimming woes.

  1. No One Likes Circle Swimming, But Deal With It

“Hi ma’am, I hate to be the one to ask you this, but would you mind circle swimming?” I ask.

“ABSOLUTELY NOT!” she barks back.

Shocked and taken back by here blatant rudeness, the only thing I could conjure up was, “Ok, thank you for your honesty.” (Seriously, Page?)

People, there is not one person on this planet who enjoys circle swimming. But unfortunately it’s one of those things you just have to do occasionally. Please be kind to your other swimmers and welcome them in because if they are following item number one from above, all will go swimmingly (pun intended).

  1. Don’t Wear Perfume Before You Swim

Somehow the pool exaggerates every foul note of a sprayed-on scent. I do not enjoy accidentally tasting your perfume, let alone smelling it. So let’s save everyone the trouble and just rinse off before you swim. Kapeesh?

  1. Raccoon Eyes, Goggles Marks & Broken Hairs Are Standard

If I look like I just got two black eyes evening, it’s because I didn’t take my mascara off before swimming.

If I look like I’ve been snorkeling for a week in Hawaii, it’s because I’ve been trying to learn to like swimming.

If I look like I have a permanent halo of broken hairs circling my head, it’s because my noggin’ is rather large and swim caps feel like the equivalent of a brain sucking torture device.

Swimming isn’t a beauty competition, but that’s also what I like about it. Just go with it.

  1. Watch The Schedule

This one is a note to myself as even though it was 6 p.m. on a Tuesday, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the pool won’t be completely taken over and your swim will be cut short thanks to aqua aerobics.

I felt confident that such classes were only held in the mornings or mid-day, but then again, we all know what assuming does.

No time is safe and in the words of Sonja, “Keep a pool schedule in your bag.” (I don’t think she was happy that I failed to plan that one.)

  1. We All Start Somewhere

And most importantly, just know that swimming isn’t easy, but you have to start somewhere. I remember the first time I swam laps, I finished the workout and hopped out feeling like the king of the world.

Actually, I have a blog post about that very day.

Looking back on my almost two years of swimming, I know that I am trying to dedicate a stronger practice to this sport so I can grow to love it. If I keep saying, “I’m a horrible swimmer,” then yes, I am going to be a horrible swimmer. But If I can change my frame of mind and realize that this is a practice to work at and grow, anything is possible. It’s a process, but one that I’m working on.

Any other fundamental newbie swimming truths to add to the list?

Happy running (and swimming)!

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17 Responses to 6 TRUTHS FROM A NEWBIE SWIMMER

  1. Amy says:

    Thanks for the great post about swimming and wanting to love it. I so want to love it as well, but am struggling with improving and that dreaded pool time you need to improve. Sigh, if only all pools were outdoor and had underwater speakers.

  2. Sil says:

    Hahaha! All six items sooo true! I already had round #1 with the ‘aqua aerobics ladies’ (kindly called by me ‘Aqua-gordis’ in my Spanish ) OMG! I wrote a whole post about it! And the smells! Pele do not close the door when they get in and I smell the perfume every time I roll to breath and it kills me :/

  3. Colleen says:

    One truth for me is that I NEVER want to go swimming, but I almost always enjoy it as soon as I push off from the wall. Right now I’m sitting here avoiding going to the pool so this post was just what I needed to remember that I just have to grab my stuff and get myself there and everything will be great!

  4. Kelly says:

    The problem with #2 is when people refuse to follow #1 and you end up circle swimming with a person you’re catching every lap — because they’re walking. It doesn’t work so well.

  5. Swimming takes effort, and not just the “swimming” itself. I think the hardest thing for me is acknowledging the investment I will make each time I go to the pool. Shaved legs and bikini line, swimsuit, gear, special shampoo for chlorine, change of clothes, towel, that first dip into the water etc. etc. It’s definitely a process. When I actually start swimming, I can usually get into a zone and enjoy myself. I am actually really looking forward to swimming in a wetsuit for the first time next week!

  6. All of these are great tips!! The only additional thing I would add is to have the curiosity to speak to the swimmer in the lane before joining. I have had someone jump in my lane without mentioning it and it was frustrating because I was in my groove. I realized I was not alone and was happy that I did not swim into his head!

  7. Swim on Monday.

    Like many, I don’t always relish putting on my suit and plunging into the water.

    But if you are training for a triathlon, and your long run or ride is on a Sunday, then swimming on Monday sets up the rest of the week .

    Otherwise, you get to Wednesday, and you find you haven’t swum yet. If you’ve got your Monday swim in, but Wednesday you are looking for your second swim of the week. And then you are most, if not all the way there for the week.

  8. Kecia says:

    Awesome post Page!! I usually don’t have to worry about the circle swimming here, but on the few occasions that I do, people are usually pretty respectful. The other addition I would make is to have an extra swim cap and back-up goggles just incase your swim cap rips or the goggles break/leak. I’ve had a swim get cut short because of a goggle strap breaking and not having a back-up pair.

  9. Jen says:

    Great timing for this post! I’m trying to add a weekly swim as cross-training and it’s really hard to commit when I’d much rather run. For me, getting to the pool is half the battle. Once I’m in, I find that time goes by very quickly! I think that finding the right pool helps a lot. For me, it helps to have a pool that’s relatively close by, with decent lap swim hours, not too crowded, and not too expensive. Any pool that’s too logistically challenging really dampens my motivation to swim at all.

  10. Can I just admit that the biggest reason I don’t want to swim is my hair. Seriously, ridiculous right?!?! In my defense, after my hormones got all whacky it started falling out and is still recovering so I have this fear of it all falling out again. Not going to happen, but still :)

    And ps – more updates please!! Been wondering how you are!

  11. Kimra says:

    I so agree with the person above who said “swim on Monday.”

    Also, go to the biggest pool you can find. The reason I didn’t swim THIS Monday is that one of the pools near me sets up for long-course meters on Wednesday mornings. Fewer laps = less counting = less crazy.

    And I laughed out loud at “Ok, thank you for your honesty.”

  12. Monika says:

    UGH the swim!! I hired a swim coach to keep me accountable and help me improve my speed. We meet at an outdoor pool. Granted its San Diego and not North Dakota, it still feels so cold jumping in and out. I hate it!

    Regarding the broken hairs have you considered a fabric swim cap? I switched to ones years ago and I don’t understand why they aren’t more popular! Love mine!!

  13. I don’t mind circle swimming when people actually know how to do it. Half the time the lanes at my pool are being used by people doing lazy swims and chatting away. :-\ Irks the heck out of me when I want to get my laps in and they’re just floating down the lane recapping their day. Grrr. Sometimes it makes me not want to swim…. but when i actually get in the water and focus on my own drills, then I’m happy.

  14. Katie says:

    I’m surprised at all of the pools you go to that people are circle swimming. If there are only two people in a lane we always just split the lane that way you never have to deal with their speed vs your speed. Just take one side or the other and stick to that side when you’re swimming. Then if there is a dreaded 3rd, 4th… person in the lane, I guess there is no way around circle swimming.

    Love your post. I’ve been swimming my whole life but I relate to the struggle because my biking and running skills are not impressive. You’ve come so far since you first started and should be so proud!

  15. Nicole says:

    I’m with Katie – I’ve never circle swam with strangers . I’ve only split the lane and if there are two people in a lane I just wait. I’ve never been brave enough to ask someone to do a threesome in the lane and circle swim! I’d be afraid it would add too much pressure to my pace and breaks etc. these are all the reasons I ended up mostly doing masters swim during IM training because i couldnt handle all the logistics and unknown with drop in swimming!

  16. The swimming world is a different…world! I forgot to check the swim schedule once and headed to the gym after work (meaning after 8pm), got dressed to swim, just to find out that a tri team takes over the pool from 8-9pm on Wednesdays. I was so angry and I wasn’t going to wait around 45 minutes to do a 30 minute workout! Otherwise, people just seem to jump in whatever open lane there is and swim two to a lane, splitting it. I have yet to circle swim, I hope to keep it that way! Especially since half the people tend to wear flippers and snorkels. I’m so confused.

    If you have any tips on counting laps, please let me know! Once I lose track, all hope is lost and I just swim for time.

    • PageWilliams says:

      I couldn’t imagine the chaos of swimming in NYC! And don’t worry, I’m horrible at counting laps as well — so swimming become a pretty mind-numbing process. And I try to rely on my Garmin (when not doing a kicking set).

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