It’s been less than a year since I started swimming. My first pool swim was on April 9th, 2007. That day it took me 40 minutes to go 750 yards, or an average of 5:00/100 yards. Seriously. I think doggie paddling or floating on a pool toy would have been faster.
I started off swimming with about the same swim skills as everyone else. Like most people, I could lounge around a pool, or splash around the waves at the ocean without issue for hours. But swimming back and forth across a pool and doing some form of aquatic breathing was not in my athletic playbook. The equivalent of man-ballet.
Had I not already decided to sign up for a Half-Ironman BEFORE I got in the pool for the first time, I might have just quit right then and there. I could barely make it across the pool. But I kept at it. I swam three days a week, every week. More important than that though – I followed a relatively simple guide from a relatively simple site. No flashy graphics, videos or complicated words.
I followed this guide on ‘How to swim from 0 to 1650m’ (a mile) in six weeks. Here’s a snippet from their intro paragraph:
“Young or old, fit or not, six weeks seems to be the most common length of time it takes to be able to swim a mile without stopping for breath.”
The workouts didn’t have any special drills or fancy swimming terms in them. You simply just swam. There was a pattern though. The pattern helped to push you along – to get you in a groove and focus on a goal. Here’s an example of the first week’s workout:
WEEK one (Three Days):
100 yards…rest for 12 breaths…repeat 3 times.
50 yards…rest for 8 breaths…repeat 3 times.
25 yards…rest for 4 breaths…repeat 3 times.
total: 700 yards
I can say that I probably did a lot more stopping than the above guidelines the first week. Like at each side of the pool….for a while. But the workouts gave me a goal and I stayed with the program for probably about four weeks before I strayed and starting doing my own workouts. By that time I was more than comfortable in the water and could pretty much go back and forth for extended periods of time without issue.
One thing I did do though is start bilaterally breathing from the start. I was determined to make that a natural part of my swimming toolkit. It was a bit funky at first, but then again – everything in the pool was funky. Given I couldn’t breath on one side – breathing on two sides wasn’t really any worse (kinda like how zero times any number is always zero).
So – now all your non-tri folks out there (I’m looking at you runners!), have no excuse to not jump headfirst into the sport of tri (even if you do a belly flop along the way). Now’s the perfect time of year!