Injured runner: Learning how to swim yet again

I have had to learn how to swim now four times in my life.

  1. As a child when I was maybe three or four and my parents had me take “little tadpools” swim lessons — or whatever the classes were called at the time.
  2. As an adult when I decided to participate in my first triathlon the summer of 2012 and had never done any “serious swimming” before.
  3. As an adult when I found out I was injured from running last summer and needed to learn how to swim on a consistent basis and for a longer period of time.
  4. Most recently, as of a week ago, when my physical therapist told me to continue swimming without kicking my legs!

This post is going to be devoted to the fourth point because I have conveniently linked out to past posts about points #2 and #3 and I didn’t have a blog when I was four.

Ever since re-learning how to swim as an adult for my triathlon five years ago, I have had mad respect for swimmers. They are tough. They are relentless. They are strong. They can freakin’ hold their breath for so much longer than the average person!

And, now that I have attempted to swim without kicking my legs — so, yes, only using my arms — my respect for swimmers has increased twofold.

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I arrived at the pool Friday a little nervous. I was hoping that the lap lanes were not crowded because I didn’t want to be bumping into other swimmers. Luckily, I only had to share the lane with one other woman so we split the lane. She’s someone I regularly see at the pool and for some reason this time we started chatting and actually introduced ourselves to each other. I mentioned to this 60-something-year-old woman that I probably wouldn’t be in the pool for very long today since I was going to be swimming without kicking for the first time. She replied that she thinks that swimming without kicking is easier.

I placed the little floatie-thing — is there a name for it? — between my legs, just above my knees, and was on my way. As soon as I swam my first stroke, I felt uneasy. My stroke felt “uncontrollable.” I don’t know how to explain it other than saying that my lower half of my body felt like it was floating so much that my top half felt like it was being submerged under water with a greater force than normal. I felt like I couldn’t easily turn my head to take my breaths of air. Whenever my hands and arms would swing back into the water, I felt like I was pounding into the water and creating huge splashes. Sometimes, my arm would even waver and cross over my body as it re-entered the water.

I basically felt like I was not in complete control of my body. A few times I even swam too close to the lines that divide the lanes and ended up hitting the plastic markers!

Oh, and I was moving way slower than I normally do when I swim while kicking.

This was all so hard that after one lap I wanted to quit. I took off my googles, because for some reason they were fogging up, and looked over to my new friend and said, “Wow, that was tough! I don’t know how many more of these I can do.”

I don’t know what I was expecting her to say to me but what she did say kept me going.

“I’m rooting for you, Kristin!” she replied and dunked her body back into the water and continued with her laps.

OK, if this woman thinks I can do it, I can do  a few more, right?

With each lap I completed, the easier it became and the more comfortable I felt about my new swimming routine. I kept telling myself, get to 5 laps, then get to 10 laps, until I reached 15 laps and decided to call it a day.

For reference, I normally swim 30 to 36 laps on an average good day, with upwards of 40 to 45 laps on a really good day.

The good news was that after this workout, I didn’t experience any knee pain. The main reason my physical therapist does not want me kicking while swimming is because I told him that sometimes I have knee pain while swimming.

I’m doing all of this — including my PT exercises — to build strength and eliminate my knee pain.

And, so that I can get back to running once again.

So I’m OK with learning how to swim yet again.

Injured runner: Not a swimmer but a swimmer

I don’t know who I am anymore.

I’ve been prioritizing my after-work swims as diligently as I used to prioritize my marathon training runs.

I’m not a swimmer so this is a big deal.

In the last week, I have swam — or is it swum? — 5 times.

This is a big deal.

I usually arrive to the pool around 4:40 p.m. every day after work. I’d like to think of myself as a regular just like the handful of “real swimmers” I always see. We exchange head nods or smiles. Sometimes I muster a “How are you?” or “Hello” but other than that, I keep to myself and just swim laps.

My “routine” consists of swimming breast stroke out and then the crawl back. I do this over and over until I get tired and then will swim with the kick board for five laps or so. I do all of this for a total of 36 to 40 laps. (Thirty-six is the minimum number to swim one mile at the pool I frequent).

I’ve gone on runs in the past that have felt bad, or even horrible. But, unlike running, with swimming I never have a bad one.

Maybe it’s because just getting out to swim is a victory for me. I’m spoiled with being able to go to an outdoor pool for my lap swimming and I think being outdoors really makes a difference. On the few days where I have to hit the gym and use the stationary bike (because of scheduling time constraints) rather than go to the pool for a swim, the gym feels torturous.

But, just keeping active while being injured is doing wonders for me.

It still sucks to not be able to run, but at least I can still do something.

That something of choice right now is swimming in the Seattle sunshine.

Injured runner: I’m having a hard time swimming

Things OK to do while on the mend:

  • Walking
  • Elliptical-ing
  • Biking/spinning
  • Core and strength training
  • Swimming

Things not OK to do well on the mend:

  • Running
  • Jumping
  • Bearing weight on my knee (so like, table top/cat/cow position in yoga would all be a big fat no!)

I’ve been doing a pretty good job of consistently doing all but the swimming on my first list. I stopped going to yoga altogether after I talked to my doctor about a month ago to get specifics on what I can and cannot do while I let my stress fracture heal. I know I can still go to yoga but that I wouldn’t be able to do all the moves everyone else is. (So far, I haven’t gotten the courage to go back).

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So, why is swimming so hard? I’ve done it before.

But, my doctor had also told me to avoid breast stroke when I swim — too much kicking of the leg/knee out that could cause aggravation to the injury. Um, as a runner where swimming is not my forte, breast stroke was my saving grace! Now that I have to do the crawl the entire time, swimming is way more stressful and tiring and time consuming.

Right now, I only have the lung capacity to do two laps (so out-and-back twice) of the crawl. After two laps I am winded. I am gasping for air and my heart is beating pretty quickly. I hate having to pause/take a break, especially if there are other swimmers in the lane — it just messes up with the whole flow!

So, what do I do? Just keep going to the pool and get better? The last two times I went to the pool, I spent a majority of my time using the kick board. I wouldn’t mind doing backstroke either, but this takes skill if you have to share the lane with others …

It’s also hard to get better at swimming when I only go once a week. But, the lap swim schedule and my work schedule and how crowded the pool gets on Saturdays leaves me with just Sunday swim days.

Maybe I’ll try aqua jogging. That doesn’t take being in the lap lane. I keep running into my old high school cross country coach at the pool and he’s been telling me to aqua jog instead of doing mindless laps back and forth if I hate it so much.

Maybe I don’t need to get any better at swimming. Maybe I’ll just stay in the slow lane and kick board the entire time.

But, it would be nice for my workout to not take an hour plus …

Becoming a swimmer

I don’t think I will ever call myself a swimmer.

But, hey, I can be someone who swims on the regular!

I ramped up swimming this week, which may or may not have been influenced by the fact that the (outdoor) pool I go to is in its last week for the summer season, and it felt great!

Is it possible to get endorphins from a swim? Because, I never feel great like I do on a runner’s-high-type-o-great.

But, each day I have swam this week, I’ve left the pool feeling overall tired and that I got a “decent” workout in.

I swam a little over one mile each time I swam this week — FIVE DAYS IN A ROW.

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With all this swimming, Bryce is trying to convince me to make my comeback next year by doing a half-ironman.

My response was that I want to focus on breaking 4 hours at the marathon first.

“Just think how great of shape you will be in! You’ll crush your marathon coming off of a half-ironman!” was his response to my response.

Point made.

The crazy thing out of this conversation is I didn’t immediately respond with a big fat “no” to his half-ironman suggestion.

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Who am I?

Not running is giving me crazy ideas. I swim five days in a row and suddenly now I think I may be able to swim a mile, bike 56 miles and run a half marathon all in one go?

Maybe I can.

For now, I need to research “affordable” gyms that have a pool so I can continue my swimming regimen. The thought of having to spend my fall and winter in a gym with a bike or elliptical just seems so, depressing …

 

 

 

I’m just here to get back to running one day

I’ve been trying to go to the pool as often as possible before it closes for the season. My family belongs to a local swim club that is only open from May-September and since I cannot run, I have been trying to utilize it as much as I can.

When I went for my first swim in mid-July, I managed to do 25 laps. One lap is 50 yards so this equates to 0.7 miles. Since then, I’ve worked up to doing about 26-28 laps per swim session.

Then I tried pushing myself some more. Because, I never really feel exhausted after I jump out of the pool. I never feel completely spent like I do after a good long run.

I did 30 laps a few weeks ago, on two occasions. And then last night I did 32 laps in the pouring rain!

I just calculated that 32 laps equates to 0.9 miles. I really want to hit a one-mile swim before the pool closes for the summer in a week. I’m pretty sure I can do it. (I don’t swim for speed or anything. I’m just trying to stay fit and get some cardio in while I’m on this break from running).

Every stroke, every lap, every swim, I tell myself I am doing it all so that when I am back to running, I won’t be completely out of shape.

Same goes for the gym. I have been trying to get a bit of cycling in by going to spin class —this has only happened once so far —and using the stationary bike at my nearby gym. I hate being in the indoors and working out because I just get so darn sweaty. But, every time I have gone in, I have told myself that I am doing this all so that I am not completely bent out of shape when I am running once again.

In the back of my mind, I am doing all of this for that eventual sub-4 marathon time.

See, even when I cannot run, I can still aim towards that running goal — even if it means not running right now.

Injured Runner: Embracing the swim

I’ve written about swimming, or rather, my lack of swimming skills before.

And, I’m going to do it again since swimming has apparently become my main source of exercise for the past month.

Every other sport that isn’t cross-country or track consider running as a punishment.

For runners though, the pool feels like punishment. If you are aqua jogging or swimming, it usually means you cannot run. So maybe that’s why I have a negative association of swimming/the pool.

But, I’m getting better.

I try not to race the other swimmers next to me because I know I’ll never win. I don’t have the endurance or lung capacity. Plus, I’m just at the pool for rehab.

The other day I went to the pool and a middle-aged man came to my lane and asked if we could share it. I said yes and he replies, “oh, and I’m not actually a swimmer.”

It was the most comforting thing I’ve heard at the pool this whole summer!

“I’m not a swimmer either. I’m an injured runner,” I exclaimed.

He said he was injured too, but not a runner.

I felt so much better.

I always feel like everyone is judging me when I swim. They probably think I am flailing my arms around too much, that I am not kicking appropriately. The teenaged lifeguards wouldn’t even be able to save me if I actually needed saving since I am twice their size!

While I don’t have a schedule for going to the pool, I try to go “as often as I can” which turns into somewhere between one to three times a week. I’ve gotten a routine down where I swim breaststroke out to one end of the pool and then do the crawl back. I keep doing this until my lungs get too tired and then I take out the kick board and do two to four kick board laps to mix it up.

I’ve also learned to try to be more relaxed and calm when I do the crawl. I don’t know why but I always feel like I have to kick and swing my arms really hard while doing the crawl. This isn’t the case though. This just causes more bubbles and splashes which tend to freak me out. I think that’s why I prefer breaststroke: less bubbles/splashes = less stress under water.

 

These all seem like logical thoughts coming from a runner who is trying to belong as a swimmer.

Now if only someone could teach me a trick to getting my swim cap on in less than five minutes!

Just keep swimming

I’m not as terrified of the pool as I was two years ago when I was beginning to train for a triathlon.

I do get extremely tired after like two consecutive laps. I can’t do a proper crawl. I can’t do that flip-thing against the wall to turn. I just move my body from one end of the pool to the other and then back again. I’m actually a horrible swimmer. I never did swim team. I am just a “good enough” swimmer to save myself if I were on a sinking boat — or so I hope.

The pool was crowded yesterday. I mean, with 80-degree weather in Seattle, I’m sure every outdoor pool was crowded! If two’s a company and three’s a crowd, four’s too many and five is just not gonna’ happen — in one swimming lane! I went to the “fast” lane since it only had two swimmers in it. Plus I was nearly done with my workout. Both the medium and slow lanes had four swimmers each!

There was one younger guy who looked about my age or maybe in college in the fast lane. He looked at me and I asked if I could share the lane with them. He replied “yes” and said that he and the other “fast swimmer” were just doing loops (rather than splitting the lane since now as the third person, I was crashing their party). I never exchanged words or even made eye contact with the woman who was also in the lane since she was in the zone — and fast! — and never took a break.

The guy told me I could start ahead of him but I let him go. I didn’t want him on my tail the whole time! I’m sure he’s faster than I am! The thing is, I’m pretty sure the woman was the fastest of us. Each time I started to swim, I thought she was going to catch me so I proceeded to kick faster and swing my arms harder. I could only do this for four laps. Then I called it quits. I was out of breath and my entire body felt exhausted. (Plus I had already done 16 laps before it got super crowded and 20* was my goal for the day).

I jumped out of the pool and my legs felt like jelly. I hobbled to the showers and rinsed some of the chlorine off. Then, it was off to my car to drive home run home. My legs continued to feel like jelly but I managed to trudge home in the uncanny Seattle heat. Since I just pulled shorts over my swimsuit, it was difficult to tell what was sweat and what was remnant pool-water from my swimsuit.

Summer has (sort of) arrived so I’ll take advantage of outdoor-pool weather while I can.

Plus, my knees will thank this runner later for swimming when I’m older, right?

 

*I was really proud of my 20 laps. But, upon looking through my old running logs (where I also kept track of other physical activity), I realized that last year I was doing 30+ laps at a time and the year before that (when I was training for the tri,) I was doing upwards 40!

Just keep swimming?