Why can I run and cycle FOREVER, but struggle to swim 400m?

From bike riding in your bathers to making the distance

Re: Why can I run and cycle FOREVER, but struggle to swim 40

Postby winstonw » Tue Oct 04, 2011 7:48 pm

I think one reason a lot of people struggle moreso with swimming is the higher cardiac output required.
In running and cycling, oxygen is required primarily by your leg muscles.
In swimming, oxygen is required simultaneously by muscles that drive your arms and legs.

Regarding good form - relaxed head, trunk roll, up to 45 degree (per side) pelvic roll, long forward reach, high elbow, low lateral movement, and 6 beat low amplitude hip initiated kick, are classic points for improvement.

Keep in mind faster stroke rates than that used in the pool are recommended by many in triathlons, as the water is choppier and laminar flow is less likely.

Further, the shorter you or your arms are, the faster the stroke generally required to go the same speed. A good coach is usually required to match optimal stroke rate, fitness level, and upper limb length.
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by BNA » Thu Jan 19, 2012 11:21 pm

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Re: Why can I run and cycle FOREVER, but struggle to swim 40

Postby mark field » Thu Jan 19, 2012 11:21 pm

ive been swimming for about 2 years, average 30 laps every couple of days at 35-40 second laps, ive just lost 18 kilos and now i strugle to do 20 laps at 45-55 seconds because i sit in the water differently, there are so many reasons for not being good at swimming hence it is most peoples weakest leg in the triathlon and prolly why its the first leg and not the final. go here: http://www.swimsmooth.com/
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Re: Why can I run and cycle FOREVER, but struggle to swim 40

Postby sandberry » Fri Jan 20, 2012 12:25 am

Find any decent coach (or even a friend who swims alot / competetively) and in just a few laps they can probably give you a few pointers. I used to swim competitively before working for a little while as a swim teacher, and just having someone watch your stroke (or even using video to see your own) can do wonders. But as others have said, there are a multitude of reasons.

One of the most common culprits - which can be relatively easily addressed - comes down to the arm stroke, where-by the hand enters the water too soon, cutting short what should be a large stretch (and produces a kind of hacking/chopping motion right in front of the head). Even if this isn't the case, it's always helpful to do exercises to improve your reach, which will improve your stroke efficiency (occasionally on my team we were to count how many strokes we took in a 50m, mindful of time, and over time aim for less).
Some easy ones are to drag your finger tips across the top of the water, kind of like a zombie before entering at full extension of the arm, or to make a 'zipper' motion with your thumb up the inside of your arm as you reach.

Also, keep in mind open water swimming is a whole different kettle of fish to lap swimming - best to work on technique in the pool, then practice it in open water training swims (edit: I would imagine, that is, I don't have any experience in triathlons, I was a pool sprinter!)
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Re: Why can I run and cycle FOREVER, but struggle to swim 40

Postby dynamictiger » Fri Jan 20, 2012 7:04 pm

How much is real?

The issue with swimming is your holding your breath or better breathing out under water so you are forced to breath in a controlled manner. Your body doesn't naturally do this in any other sport. As a consequence it tells you you are out of breath etc. The trick is this may or may not be true, depends on your actual condition.

Rather than stop for intermittent breaks try and stop at a set distance for a set number of breaths in and out. Perhaps 20 to start at every 100m. Over time as your condition improves reduce the breaks to say 15, 20, 12, 20, and so on until you are swimming 200metre intervals. Then just push through your body will make it.
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Re: Why can I run and cycle FOREVER, but struggle to swim 40

Postby TrekStar » Thu Jan 26, 2012 5:57 pm

In November 2011, I wasn't even able to swim a 25m pool in freestyle. I would get to the other end and be completely dizzy. This is me, 3 weeks after completing a 160km ride. So yes, the fitness from cycling isn't necessarily transferrable to swimming. I literally bonked on my first outing to the pool when I tried to swim for an hour. It was horrendous.

2 months later: January 2012. While I still struggled to swim 300m in a recent tri event, I have since found the right breathing technique and pace, and am glad to say I have managed to finish 3 x 750-1000m swims in the pool (non stop, except a quick push off at each end). I attribute this to the right technique in your stroke, but especially the breathing - the breathing is the key. I'm not fast, but I'm happy with my stamina to swim without feeling like my chest is bursting and my head is spinning.

Important Tips - this works for me, but may not work for you. One important thing is to spend a lot of time in the pool swimming and learning about yourself and fine-tuning your feel for the water.

1) If you have bad technique, get a coach. The correct technique when starting off is important - it's like golfing - get it right first so you build on a good base.

2) Use swimming aids, such as pull buoys, paddles, fins. They help you get a feel for the water. I find that fins help you learn how to streamline your body to reduce drag because with fins you go faster and exaggerate the drag. Pull buoys are good for working on your upper body.

3) When you swim, and this is what my coach told me, keep your head low and do not raise it up when breathing. Half your face should be underwater if possible. This reduces drag. I have since found also, and this is where my breakthrough is to swim 1km within 2 months, is to 'rest' your head on the water when you breath on the side, because your head will float, supported by the water, reducing the strain on the neck and hence effort to swim. You will feel like you're not expending energy to lift your head, which technically you don't need to. Then it's all about your stroke 'cadence' and your breathing.

4) Out of breathe and feel like you can't go on? Then train in the pool on how to recover. Once I was comfortable swimming longer distances, what I did was do speed swims to purposely go into oxygen deprivation. You're tired disorientated, and feel like you can't swim anymore. Then, slow everything down, slower stroke, steady breathing. Learn to recover. If you can learn to recover, and then set into a steady pace, you can swim for a long time. Once you learn how to recover, you can always choose to speed up because you know you can recover by slowing your pace - it's like learning how to spin on a bike after a sprint. You don't stop, but you give yourself some time to recover.

5) Watch a lot of youtube videos. Look at the drills and then go to the pool and try them out. It helps.

My next goal is bilateral breathing and to get better balance for my body when I turn to breathe. If I get these 2 right, I think I will be 95% closer to getting my technique correct and putting in better times and distance. My goal? 1.5km swim for the Noosa tri this year, and hopefully a Long Distance course or half iron man within the next 12-16 months.
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Re: Why can I run and cycle FOREVER, but struggle to swim 40

Postby TrekStar » Thu Jan 26, 2012 6:04 pm

One more thing - start including some weight and strength training into your routine. Also get some stretch bands as they simulate the use of swimming muscles pretty well. Build up your upper body strength to cope with swimming. Same principle as cycling - build up the muscle strength required for that leg of the race.
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Re: Why can I run and cycle FOREVER, but struggle to swim 40

Postby liamb » Thu Jan 26, 2012 7:35 pm

the most important thing I have found is to breath out constantly while your face is in the water. If you hold your breath you only have a tiny amount of time to breath out and in while your face is up and if you dont breath out enough you will hold Co2 in your lungs and somewhat suffocte yourself!!!. I am still not great but swum 300m today in a Tri. I am also getting some coaching from a World Champ and she is working on small technique things like arm postions and head positions and body position, but my biggest improvement has been breathing!!!.
When I swim with a pool bouy or wetsuit I can swim over 1000m due to a better position in the water but on days like this where the water was 24.1c you cant use wetties so I need to work on body position and arm strength.

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TdF 2011: as Cadel Evans crosses the finish at Alpe-d’Huez: "I reckon tonight in hindsight he may have won the Tour de France tomorrow." The man Phil Ligget !!!
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Re: Why can I run and cycle FOREVER, but struggle to swim 40

Postby faustorider » Fri Apr 20, 2012 9:56 pm

Without wanting to sound like a self promoting wonderful person, I was albeit a long time ago, one of the fastest swimmers in the country. However when it comes to coaching I seem to suck, as I am not having much luck in trying to teach my wife how to swim properly as it always ends in an argument. Marital issues aside, in my opinion learning to attain a steady rhythm is vitally important. The key component to getting this is with your breathing.
I used to also compete in surf swimming events also which is similar to triathlon swimming. It is definately more difficult to keep the rhythm going in rough seas or when getting hit by other swimmers. You need to learn to breath both sides, or to one side if for instance the wind is blowing across to your left, breathe to your right so as to reduce the risk of sucking in wind-blown chop. You have to learn also to look up forwards occassionally whilst swimming so you don't go off line, particularly important once you get faster and end up out in front. On that note too, if you find someone that is around you pace, just swim at next to their feet, if they seem to be holding a good line you can take the risk and just concentrate on your swimming, keeping that person in easy view.
One more tip, when swimming in a big crowd, sometimes I have nearly broken my fingers from hitting people when I go to put my hand in the water, make a fist and hit ..... I mean just be careful in that situation.
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Re: Why can I run and cycle FOREVER, but struggle to swim 40

Postby Ken Ho » Sat Apr 21, 2012 10:07 am

If you suck at coaching, you are probably trying to teach too many things at once.
Pick one thing, preferably the worst thing, and just stick to tht until it's improved, then move on to the next thing.
Most of us are small chunk learners. Break it down into little bits.
It's very possible that her expectations are too high too.
Arguments are invariably caused by conflicting expectations.
You have officially become your parents.
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Re: Why can I run and cycle FOREVER, but struggle to swim 40

Postby vbplease » Tue Apr 24, 2012 10:49 am

Ken Ho wrote:If you suck at coaching, you are probably trying to teach too many things at once.

This is so true.. I've known from the start that my breathing is the biggest problem.. so I've had a few lessons to get it sorted out. But the coach is more concerned about fixing my kick, body roll, stroke, head turn all at the same time.. very frustrating :(

Just need some simple drills to lock in the bilateral breathing :)
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Re: Why can I run and cycle FOREVER, but struggle to swim 40

Postby dynamictiger » Tue Apr 24, 2012 12:40 pm

vbplease wrote:This is so true.. I've known from the start that my breathing is the biggest problem.. so I've had a few lessons to get it sorted out. But the coach is more concerned about fixing my kick, body roll, stroke, head turn all at the same time.. very frustrating :(

Just need some simple drills to lock in the bilateral breathing :)


Fixing my kick, body roll, stroke, head turn is all about Bilateral breathing
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Re: Why can I run and cycle FOREVER, but struggle to swim 40

Postby RunForrestRide » Mon Jan 21, 2013 3:08 pm

So glad someone asked this question. :D
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