Swim for fitness. That sounded easy: I already knew how to swim. So one day I stood on the pool deck looking at all the other happy lap swimmers, from speedy athletes to the portly old lady, swimming slow and steady. I was about to join their ranks, but I was woefully unprepared.
When I pushed off the wall to swim my first length, I began to sink. I flailed my arms to keep from drowning, and then I started kicking, but then my legs sank and were basically useless. Then I felt like I was going to suffocate, so I forced myself to the surface, gasped for air, and dove down again. When I finally reached the end of the first lap, I clutched the edge of the pool sucking in air. The old lady glided up next to me, touched the wall with her hand and then her feet, and serenely glided away. How could I be more like her?
I took lessons when I was a kid, which didn’t go very far. I remember understanding freestyle things I needed to do, but lacked coordination to get it right. I didn’t fear swimming, but starting triathlon training was the first time I’d even been in a pool for a very long time. I’d heard about Total Immersion from a co-worker, and I found it a much better experience than the lessons I got as a kid. I highly recommend Total Immersion lessons if you can find them.
The article glosses over the length of the pool. 50 yard/meter is obviously twice the distance – it’s not what I’d recommend for beginners. The distance is also important when you quote times for a given distance – you’re coming off the wall (turning around in the swim lane) more often in a 25 yard/meter lane, which is free speed. Whereas with open water, there’s no push off. Open water starts range from standing on dry land to treading water. And there’s no walls to get free speed from in open water… but you can wear wetsuits for open water swimming. Lots rely on the wetsuit to correct their swimming – organizers from a local triathlon the previous year restructured their race because over 25% of registrants were going to withdraw because the swim was looking to be non-wetsuit (due to temp rules).
I’ve heard stories from others about their experiences with the local Masters swim club. Masters swimming for them seemed to be made of ex-competitive swimmers, which made it difficult for a new swimmer to do anything. Hopefully others experiences are different/better, but a triathlon club might be a better experience. Lots take the swim portion to address swim fears.
The article also didn’t mention water temperature. The lap pool can be colder than some would like, but that just means you need to get swimming. I can’t swim in heated pools for very long before I have to hop out in order to bring down my body temperature.