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.
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