My three year old son Albie had a balance bike (small bike with no pedals) for christmas. He feels safe on it because when he wants to stop he just puts his feet down on either side. He started off just walking it around but now he will lift his feet up when he gets a bit of momentum and he is learning to balance.
If I raised his saddle a few centimeters he wouldn’t be able to put his feet down to stop, he wouldn’t feel safe and he wouldn’t learn how to ride.
In the water it is necessary to feel safe and in control in order to begin to learn to swim. In a similar way to a child learning to ride a bike it is important to know that you can safely stop at any time and feel comfortable. In shallow water this may be regaining your feet and standing up. In deep water it may be floating on your back.
I love the smell of chlorine in the morning! I’ve always enjoyed swimming crawl more than breaststroke and now I think I’ve worked out why. I am in possession of legs that don’t float well. I’ve known that for a long time but I’ve only just worked out why it is affecting the way I feel about my breaststroke.
At the moment I’m reading “Conquering Your Fear of Water” by Melon Dash and that’s got me thinking about how fear, at any level, affects your performance in the water.
I realised at the pool this morning, that I have a subconscious fear of my legs sinking during my glide, so I shorten my glide in order to kick my legs more frequently to keep them up. Obviously, a short glide means a shorter period of time with my face in the water, resulting in a knock on effect to my breathing pattern.
So what I am doing now is thinking about pointing my toes in the glide while keeping my ankles, knees and hips relaxed. This allows me to glide a bit longer and lets me exhale more slowly and my breaststroke feels hugely improved.
If you search the internet for articles on swimming breathing you will more often than not be provided with information about head position rather than the processes of inhalation and exhalation. A useful simplification of how to breathe while swimming is to always use the mouth to exhale steadily when your face is in the water and inhale gently when you face is out of the water. Problems arise because of the conflict between subconscious breathing and conscious breathing.
When not in the water we rely mainly on subconscious breathing patterns. In the water we have to consciously decide to breathe in or out at the right time. As anxiety about being in the water stems from our subconscious thoughts and has the physical effect of changing our breathing patterns (usually causing rapid breathing), there is always going to be a conflict between our conscious and subconscious patterns of breathing.
When learning to swim you need to be totally aware of when you are breathing in and out and the best way to do this is to make a quiet “aaaaaah” noise when exhaling. You will know when you are inhaling as it is impossible to make that noise while inhaling. Just be careful not to hold your breath at any point.
Happy New Year. How many people are saying “This is the year I’m going to learn to swim”? Do it people. Do it. What a fantastic new experience to have.
During the snow and freezing weather conditions, the family and I slid our way up to the local pool one frosty afternoon before christmas to find that we had the pool to ourselves. 25m x 15m of still, clear water exclusively ours. Did we each swim 40 laps? No! We jumped in at the deep end. We dived down to get goggles from the bottom. We had splash fights. We threw balls around. We swam under each others legs. We enjoyed being in the water and that’s what it’s all about.