When the Real Novice Gets Wet

My wife, who has never swam a day in her life besides a few doggie-paddle lengths, has decided to take on the challenge of a 3.8km ocean swim and do an Ironman

How does she get started swimming from ground zero? Well she certainly needs to be ready for a lot of patience and plenty of persistence. We start talking fitness first, technique second. It takes time to be swimming-fit, so she started off with short 500m swim workouts. She has slowly progressed to 1000m albeit not comfortably as yet. She has a strong running and biking background and therefore good lung capacity to ensure success, but somehow she cannot manage to transfer that fitness into the pool. I am sure some of you have had similar experiences or know of someone that has?

So, what do I suggest?

  • Training Groups: You need to get into a squad type set up where swimmers of similar abilities are in the pool together thrashing out a session. The confidence boost of training and facing similar challenges together is what you need to truly make the jump up from your current abilities.

  • Learn to Kick Properly: All swimmers that struggle in the pool simply cannot kick. Why? I’m sure it differs for each athlete, but they all seem to suffer from the same symptom of kicking hard and going nowhere. Solution = Zoomers training fins. For a novice, kicking without Zoomers is a complete waste of time. By using the fins, the leg and foot are put into the ideal kicking position for creating forward propulsion. Zoomers can also be use while swimming until the athlete is comfortable with their own kick and swim stroke.

  • Pull Buoys: This is a definite must in aiding the legs to stay afloat until they become strong enough to carry their own weight. Weak swimmers will drag their bodies through the water rather than swim on top of it. We need the standard Pull Buoys or Rangs to keep those hips up nice and high.
  • Fit First: Don’t concentrate too much on technique to start off with. Get fit and then we can start honing the stroke technique to improve one’s proficiency

As mentioned earlier, there are no quick fixes when it comes to getting swimming fit especially if you’re a novice. You need at least 3 sessions per week for a period of 3-4 months before you start to turn that corner. For now, I am stuck with the wife who will slowly but surely get there. She might drive me dilly until then, but she has the persistence and the drive so the battle is already half won.

- Glen Gore (guest blogger)