Monday, November 28, 2011

Total Immersion Swimming Progress

It seems so simple:

  • put my face in the water
  • exhale
  • turn to the right, mouth above the waterline
  • inhale
  • repeat
I find it frustrating that I can't just do it. Why oh why didn't I learn how to swim properly when I was 6?
Even so, I'm making progress, be it every so slowly.

I'm becoming much more comfortable in the water. While doing the backstroke, which is the stroke I use to swim laps (at least until I can become a real swimmer), I'm more comfortable with how my body moves in the water. I'm getting used to rotating my body as I pull with my arms, and letting my legs and feet streamline is becoming very natural, almost happening without thinking about it. Part of Total Immersion Swimming is resting the legs more than using them, the two-beat kick as it's called. I'm getting better at allowing my feet to remain still, using them mostly for balance, and not for propulsion.

When my body is rotated with the right side down (toward the bottom of the pool), I pull with my right arm and kick once with my right foot. I rotate left, and do the same with the left side. My body awareness is increasing too. I can tell when my feet get too high in the water and when my kick is above the water line, creating bubbles instead of balance.

I've been practicing my TI crawl stroke, while using the snorkel. I concentrate on streamlining my body:
  • reach with the right hand
  • relax the hand
  • head in line with my spine, and relaxed
  • legs relaxed and streamlined
Using Terry Laughlin's advice, I'm trying to be "lazy" about getting my forward hand into position. I'm sure the people on the second floor who might be watching, think I'm moving in slow motion. But the key things is, I'm developing techniques that will help me later on.

I've seen several videos demonstrating technique practice, so I've been trying to practice those too.
  1. the superman float: both hands out front, head relaxed and in position, leisurely, consistent kick.
  2. both hands by my sides, rotating my body left side down, then right side down, learning to maintain my balance in the water.
  3. one side streamlining: kicking for propulsion, leaving one hand out front, body rotated properly, moving my head in and out of the water.
I'm also trying to develop a proper breathing rhythm, which is the bane of my swimming experience. I'm getting better, but I want to be able to do it now. I've discovered that when I'm snorkeling, very little, if any, water gets in my nose. But when the snorkel is out, I can't keep the water out of my nose. So today I started practicing a short exhale out my nose, then finishing through my mouth, before rotating my head up for a breath. I can do it great in the spa, pretty good in the kiddie pool (which is only 3 feet deep) and a total fail in the lap pool. One step at a time, right?

I don't know if I'll be able to swim the crawl for the February triathlon, but at least I have a chance. I keep hoping that one day something will just click, my body will understand what's supposed to be happening, and I'll start swimming, like a real swimmer.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Poco a Poco

Today I swam for 75 minutes, without a break. In order to complete an Ironman, I'll have to be able to swim for more than 2 hours without a stop (2:20 is the time cutoff for the swim leg). I was thinking that I am really far off being able to do that, even being 5 years away. But my first 1/2 mile was 40 minutes. I just need to get that distance down to 30 minutes, which feels doable (at least it did in the pool this morning).

Today I also made my first meal from my new gluten-free cookbook: Potato-Egg Bake. It as a quiche like thing, and it was delicious. This weekend I did some GF grocery shopping, and found my new favorite crackers. Blue Diamond (the almond people), makes a product called "Almond Nut-Thins." They're gluten free and they're very tasty. The package didn't last very long. I'm going to have to work on that - limiting portions.

I also found a GF brownie mix. I doubt it's going to be as good as Ghirardelli brownies, but I could be wrong.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


I read an article touting the benefits of networking. Everyone does it, it seems. My dad is a master networker.

Problem is, I don't know who I should be networking with, or why.
Do I network with school counselors? I'm not going to be able to go back to school counseling.
Do I network with private practice counselors? I'm not yet healthy enough to start or join a private practice.
Do I network with photographers? I love photography, but I'm not interested in turning it into a business.

So if I were to network ... with whom would I? I don't have an answer to that question. At least not yet.

If any of you readers (I think there are at least 7 of you) have any ideas/answers, feel free to contribute.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Adult Onset Swimmer

As I was laying/floating, staring up at the ceiling of the Nampa Rec Center, I had a lot of time to think, about a lot of things. In my quest to become an Ironman, I have several concerns. First, I'm not sure how my wrists are going to handle riding a real bike. On the stationary bike, I spend a lot of the time riding "no-hands." I don't have to steer, I don't have to balance the bike, I just focus on pedaling. The arthritis in my wrists has caused some severe limitations. My wrists are weak, have limited range of motion, and tire quickly. How am I going to be able to ride 112 miles, during which I have to maintain a grip on the handlebars?

True, I do have 5 years to figure out a solution. I thought maybe I could use one of those recumbent bicycles.
recumbent bicycle 1 aUcSM 17621

But I tried one at the rec center (a stationary one, obviously), and I found it less than comfortable. I'm sure I could get used to it over the next few years, I guess. It's also possible that my wrists will improve or strengthen, allowing me to hold on to the handlebars. If my core strength, specifically my abs, was stronger, there would be less pressure on my wrists.

My other concern is being able to swim, and by swim I mean the front crawl stroke. However, I'm making progress. Over the last two days, I might even call it significant progress. Spending more time in the pool has allowed me time to gain some awareness of my swimming issues (I know that sounds like counselor-speak, but ...).

I don't like the bubbles rising in my face. I have no idea why that would cause me panic - albeit small panic - but it does, or rather, has. I've been practicing exhaling underwater, becoming more comfortable. After swimming laps, I spend time at the edge of the pool (standing), practicing my breathing. Exhale underwater, turn to the right, inhale, repeat.

This practice has revealed another issue: my breathing. I'm finding it difficult to establish a good breathing pattern. I've learned that when I exhale underwater, I tend not to exhale enough. Which means that when I turn to inhale, my lungs are mostly full. The inhale is only "topping off the tank;" it's very uncomfortable. So I'm learning to finish the exhale when I turn to the right, then inhale. It means there's a pause in my swimming stroke, but that's okay. I'm learning to match my breathing to my stroke. As part of the practice, I've added the swimming motion with my right arm. The Total Immersion Swimming system works on reaching with the forward hand while rotating the body. I'm adding that in my practice.

The next step will be to practice with both arms (probably while still standing). The next step after that, maybe swimming a few strokes to see if I can put it all together.

While practicing the Superman Float (so labeled by TISwimming), I've discovered another area of concern, and of potential growth. When floating face down, I start to panic when my head goes completely underwater. I can feel the water close over my head. Even though I have a snorkel in my mouth, and I know there's plenty of air, something in me still screams, "You can't breathe when you're underwater!!"

I'm overcoming that, learning to calm down. I've become acutely aware of my body position in the water. Inhale, I float up; exhale, I sink down. It's actually becoming a comforting movement. I'm learning that no matter how much I exhale, I'm not going to sink to the bottom of the pool.

I still have a long way to go, but I also have a long time to get there. Even as recently as last week, I didn't think I'd be able to front crawl by the triathlon in February. But now ... I think it might be possible. And if I can do that, my swim split will be amazing.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Life Change, Major Life Change

Several years ago I had some tests done to reveal my food allergies. Those tests revealed that, although none of the allergies are serious (they're really just sensitivities) I'm allergic to everything I like. The only thing on the list that I've given up: milk. I love milk. I could drink a gallon a day, and often did. Now that I've been off it for quite a while, I don't miss it very often.

Those tests also revealed that I'm sensitive to gluten. Consider this Reason #1 for the life change.

Since I've set this goal of competing in an Ironman Triathlon (I've changed that goal from 6 years to 5 years, hoping I can find an event on my 50th birthday. Wouldn't that be a great birthday present to myself?), I need to accomplish a number of things in order to meet that goal.

  1. I need to become a better swimmer. I'm working on this two ways. 
    1. I swim nearly every day. Today I was able to swim 30 minutes without any break. I didn't keep track of how far I went, just the time. At the end of the 30 minutes I was doing well. My heart rate was at a good pace, my breathing was relaxed, my muscles also relaxed. I could have gone longer, but didn't think it wise to try to push too hard until I know what I can actually do.
    2. I'm learning the Total Immersion Swimming technique, slowly, with baby steps. For now, I'm trying to swim as relaxed as possible. Swimming doesn't require use of all muscles and using unnecessary muscles just wastes energy.
  2. I need to increase my cardio fitness, which is being accomplished through stationary biking and utilizing my heart rate monitor.
  3. I need to lose weight, 50-60 pounds.
In my research about triathlons and rheumatoid arthritis, I've come across multiple articles touting the benefits of a gluten-free diet for people with RA. I've avoided a gluten-free diet because ... well, just because. I don't want to give up bread and doughnuts and pasta and the other 14,487,963 things in which gluten is an ingredient. But it's time. Medication is not adequately treating my arthritis. I need to try some natural remedies, like diet change. Consider this Reason #2 for the life change.

When I started working out August 1, 2011, I weighed 245. I quickly dropped to 237, which was encouraging. I weighed this morning and I've gained weight: 249. What?!? And no, it's not an extra 12 pounds of muscle because I've been working out. I need to lose weight, for my health, for my arthritis, and for my state of mine. Consider this Reason #3 for the life change.

For these 3 reasons, I am starting a gluten-free diet. Today I bought a gluten-free recipe book. Looking through it I had the thought, "I've made these foods." There are recipes like "Meatloaf" which are gluten-free. It's not like I'm going to lose all the foods I like. I'm just going to have to be more aware of what I eat. I know the pounds aren't just going to drop off, or melt like butter. But if I keep working out regularly, and eat healthy foods, the weight loss will come. The increased fitness will come. And the goal of becoming an Ironman will happen.