Tag: parents

Should adult swimmers receive more swimming lessons?

At a gym you get a tour, an induction, a programme; at a pool you simply get told where the changing rooms are. But bad stroke technique can be counterproductive and even dangerous.

There’s a woman I see regularly at the pool where I swim. She completes one length of breaststroke – at best – to my three, an expression on her uplifted face suggestive of the pool being filled with sewage or something equally terrible. It’s plain that she is enduring rather than enjoying her swim, and I can’t help thinking that part of the reason is her lack of proficiency: after all, mastery enhances the pleasure to be had from executing any skill.

I often feel sorely tempted to say something. If only she’d stop kicking her legs and stroking with her arms simultaneously, she’d stop cancelling one action out with the other. “Legs then arms,” I silently will her.

Of course, she’s not a solitary example. My pool, probably like yours, is filled with people struggling along with a grimace. A few years ago, a group of US researchers stated that 98% of recreational swimmers fail to improve aerobic fitness – presumably because they aren’t working hard enough to elicit gains. That might sound surprising when you consider another study that found untrained swimmers used 50% more oxygen to achieve the same speed in front crawl as trained swimmers did, but the chances are that the exhausted majority simply throw in the towel (or pick up their towel) before they’ve done enough to impact on their fitness level. And in the meantime, those arched backs, craned necks, strained knees and shoulders could be taking a bit of a beating.

“Oh leave us alone, you swimming fascist!” I hear you cry. “Let people swim how they want.” But should we? Even if they might be doing themselves at best no good at all, and at worst harm? Envisage a similar scenario in a gym, where people come in and yank weights around with appalling technique – or get on the treadmill, only to walk slower (holding the handrails) than they did from the car park to the gym – while the instructor looks on and says nothing.

Is it not in everyone’s best interests that every exerciser is shown how to get the most out of their efforts? While a swimming teacher might not always be present at the pool, I would imagine that the average lifeguard is capable of spotting obvious technical faults (given that a criterion of qualification as a lifeguard is being able to swim 50m in under 60 seconds).

“Many recreational swimmers seem to think that whatever they do in the water is going to do be beneficial,” says Ian Cross, swimming and Alexander technique teacher at Swimming Without Stress. “Medical professionals who recommend swimming to people without questioning what kind of swimmer they are don’t help either.” Six Physio, a London-based chain of clinics, is so keen to ensure that when their clients hit the pool for rehab they don’t do more harm than good that they refer them for a “swim check” – a stroke assessment with Immerse, which specialises in teaching adults.

For Nick Fugaccia, co-founder of Immerse, one of the biggest no-nos is swimming with the head out of the water. “You’re creating a high-resistance position and literally trying to drag yourself through the water,” he says. Often, a raised head is down to anxiety rather than to a lack of technique and, as Cross points out, it’s tricky once you reach adulthood to find the time, space or resources to overcome this. “Pools seem to cater mainly for swimming up and down,” he explains. “So people who aren’t technically proficient or relaxed enough in the water to benefit from swimming laps have no other choice. Pool managers could change the way we approach swimming in UK by creating spaces for people to work on themselves in the water. Almost like aquatic yoga studios, instead of aquatic gyms.”

I like this idea – and I admit it sounds much more nurturing than the protocol in my “raising the standards of swimming” fantasy, where the lifeguard roams the side with a megaphone barking: “Lane six, drop your head a little! Lane two, you’re too flat in the water. Rotate your body. Lane three, arms then legs!”

Personally, I’d welcome feedback on my stroke when I’m knocking out my morning 2km, and in fact it was some tips from a fellow swimmer (who turned out to be one of the masters club coaches) a couple of years back that galvanised me to join a masters group and up my sessions from two to three a week.

“The problem with swim club training is that often the focus is often on going further or faster, rather than on improving technique,” says Fugaccia. True – and you need to already be pretty proficient to keep pace with many masters groups.

I ask Fugaccia why he thinks we are so bad at swimming in the UK, compared to his native Australia. “We’re so safety conscious about the water in Australia – mostly because we’re surrounded by it and we have greater access to it because of the weather,” he says. “You’d be hard-pressed to get through school without learning to swim to a reasonable standard.” In contrast, an Amateur Swimming Association survey in 2012 found that one in three British children couldn’t swim by the time they left primary school, despite lessons being part of the National Curriculum. As a result, the ASA has launched a manifesto to improve the situation. But the statistic does shed light on the reasons why so few of us can swim with finesse as adults.

I wonder if public pools could run regular open sessions, where anyone in the pool can get feedback and suggestions on their technique from attendant staff. Or what about swimming “inductions”, where you get a brief outline of stroke basics when you join a leisure centre or health club?

“It’s tricky,” Fugaccia says. “If someone identifies themselves as a ‘strong swimmer’, you have to be careful with that. People don’t take kindly to criticism. You’ve got to wait until they ask for help.” Help from Immerse comes in the form of one-on-one sessions, for which the instructor is in the pool with you. “So many people have bad memories of swimming lessons,” says Fugaccia. “Being freezing cold, not being able to see properly, a teacher towering above them on the side yelling instructions. Swimming clubs or group sessions that place less focus on performance without losing the commitment to swim well would be helpful. We aim to get people to feel relaxed and have fun in the water first – then when it comes to the arm and leg movements it’s easy.”

One pool operator that has taken a fresh approach is DC Leisure, which launched its Swim4Health initiative in 2010 – winning a ukactive Flame award for innovation (and a host of new swimmers). “We offer a whole range of pool-based activities via Swim4Health – from aqua jogging to aqua fit, Aqua Zumba and Swim4Fitness – but more importantly we provide the same sort of supportive, hand-holding approach that you’d get on joining the gym,” explains group swimming manager Mark Haslam. For example, at Buxton Swimming and Fitness Centre, one of 40 DC Leisure-operated sites offering Swim4Health, you can book in with an “aquatic advisor” for a free 30-minute appointment to learn about what’s available and to help identify your personal requirements. “When you join a gym, you get a tour, an induction and a personal programme; usually when it comes to swimming you’re just told where the changing rooms are,” says Haslam. “We wanted to offer a sort of aquatic equivalent to gym membership.”

One Swim4Health offering is “stroke and coach” sessions – instructor-led courses or drop-in sessions for adults. “Adults don’t always like being classed as ‘beginners’ and there can be some stigma surrounding having ‘lessons’ – but these sessions strike the right balance of providing technique guidance and feedback along with good camaraderie and motivation,” Haslam says. “With kids, there’s a clear learning pathway when it comes to swimming, but that’s been missing with adults until now.”

Swim4Health participants can also sign up to Swimtag – a free “tracking” service. You simply don a wristband each time you hit the pool, and afterwards you can go online to check out your stats – for example, how many lengths of which stroke you did, your stroke count and average length speed.

I hope more pools seek out ways to help the 5.56 million of us who count swimming as regular exercise to improve our techniques. Or at least to swim with a smile on our faces.

 

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Top Father’s Day Gifts for Swimmer Dads

Father’s Day is just around the corner! Here’s a couple gift ideas for Father’s Day, but specifically for those dads that are active swimmers:

Underwater Audio Waterproof iPod

Hydroharmony with silver iPod on woodUnderwater Audio Waterproof iPod – this is a great gift, because it allows you to listen to your favorite music while swimming laps, training, or even relaxing in the spa after a long day.
Bonus: the Waterproof iPod also functions as a regular iPod! It can be used while running, snowboarding, walking, or lounging around the house. It’s a must for all those active dads!

Swimbuds Sport Waterproof HeadphonesEarbud Headphones

Earbud Headphones – what would a Waterproof iPod be without headphones?!
You can purchase the newest and latest earbud sport headphones. You can also buy them in bundles, which gives you more for your money.

Family Swim Day

Floating Water Radio

Floating Water Radio – this is perfect for parties or family days at the pool. Everyone can enjoy their favorite music while splashing around the pool all day.

Waterproof Stop WatchWaterproof Stopwatch

Waterproof Stop Watch – a must have for all those professional or swim training dads. They can keep track of their time and speed each time.
Which allows them to push themselves harder and beat even their best time!

Water Joggers and Resistance Cuffs

Water Joggers and Resistance Cuffs – an amazing new way to train in the water. The joggers and resistance cuffs add the extra resistance to training, but without being too hard on your body.

10 REASONS WHY SWIM DADS ARE THE BEST DADS

Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham

10 Reasons Why Swim Dads Are The Best Dads – Father’s Day

Swim dads are the unsung heroes of swimming and without them, teams would have a tough time staying afloat. Some swim dads are responsible for the day-to-day responsibility of getting kids to and from practice, while others help with meets and fundraising. There are many things dads do to help their children, teams and swim family.

Here are 10 reasons to be thankful for swim dads:

ONE

Dads drive their kids to practice and meets and make the drive more fun by stopping for treats on the way home.

TWO

Dads do the heavy lifting to set up swim meets and carry pop-up tents at away meets. They’re the last ones on deck tearing down and putting meet equipment away.

THREE

At meets, dads are not shy about stepping up to help wherever they’re needed—whether it’s behind the hot grill, wearing the neon vest as a deck marshal or timing.

FOUR

A silly joke from a dad plus a big hug can end a swimmer’s tears after missing a cut for the big meet.

FIVE

Swim dads spend entire weekends at the pool without a complaint to watch their kids swim a few minutes.

SIX

They freely give advice and reach out to newer swim families.

SEVEN

At the end of a long weekend, after the sprint and IM families have gone home, you’ll find dads lap counting for their distance kids.

EIGHT

Dads often serve on parent boards and volunteer their expertise in making decisions.

NINE

Dads encourage their swimmers to be their best and cheer loudly for their kids and teammates.

TEN

Dads are a source of unconditional love. They love their children regardless if they get a personal best or DQ.

Brush Up on Your Pool Talk With This Handy Swimming Glossary

By Alex Kostich

On the bottom, we’re going to descend 5 x 200 at 3:00, even split, 3:1 with full gear.

If the above sentence makes no sense, it may be time for you to brush up on your swimming vocabulary. Regardless of whether you are a Masters swimmer or a weekend warrior who trains alone, it is helpful to familiarize yourself with swimming lingo should you come across a situation that requires it (you know, cocktail parties, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, or simply using Active’s Swimming page).

What follows is a brief list of terms that can handily be printed, posted, or memorized should you venture onto a pool deck and feel the need to blend in!

50: generally refers to 50 yards or meters, a common repeat distance for sprinters and endurance athletes alike.

100: twice the length of a 50, and a common pace distance.

500: 500 yards or meters, this is a longer distance common in many endurance workouts (equivalent to 0.33 of a mile).

Short course: a 25-meter/yard pool where four lengths (or two laps) equal 100 meters/yards.

Long course: a 50-meter pool where two lengths or one lap equals 100 meters. Also referred to as Olympic distance. Nonexistent in yard format.

Length: distance swum in one direction in any given pool.

Lap: distance swum up and back in any given pool.

Set: a grouping of distances composing part of a workout or drill; 5 x 100 is a set that is 500 meters long; 500, 400, 300, 200, 100 is a set that is 1,500 meters long.

Interval: the time given to complete a certain drill. A 2:00 interval for 100 meters means that if you can swim 100 meters in 1:40 minutes, you will have 20 seconds of rest before repeating the next one.

Repeats: the components of a set; 5 x 100 is a set of 100 repeats.

Threshold: the maximum time you can hold, or repeat, for a given distance during a highly aerobic set.

Pace: the time per repeat you can hold consistently during a set, and ideally the time (per 100 meters, for instance) that you can hold during a race.

Negative splitting: the act of completing the second half of a set distance faster than the first half.

Even splitting: the act of completing both the first half and last half of a set distance at equal speeds.

Descending: increasing one’s speed incrementally during a set distance (She is descending her one-mile race by 100 meters).

On the top: starting a set on the 12 o’clock (or 60-second) mark on a poolside pace clock.

On the bottom: starting a set on the 6 o’clock (or 30-second) mark on a pace clock.

Tapering: the act of paring down your workouts (in length and intensity) for the weeks or days leading up to a specific race.

Full gear: all pulling equipment (buoy, tube, paddles) worn simultaneously during a pull set. The best way to get an upper-body swim workout.

Buoy: flotation device used to stabilize the legs and correct body position in the water.

Tube: a basic inner-tube from a small wheel used to bind your ankles while wearing a pull buoy; prevents kicking and helps keep legs together (and buoy from slipping).

Paddles: plastic hand-disks used to maximize an upper-body pulling workout. Available in several shapes and sizes, depending on your skill and preference.

Dragsuit: a baggy, nylon unisex swimsuit, worn over a regular practice suit to add resistance to everyday training.

Band training: dry-land workout using rubber stretch cords to strengthen muscles used in all four strokes.

Hypoxic training: any type of set where a breathing pattern is the focal point of the drill.

3:1: Breathing pattern where you take one breath for every three strokes; this is a bilateral breathing pattern (you breathe on both left and right sides).

2:1: Breathing pattern where you breathe once for every two strokes (you only breathe on one side, your left or right).

Circle swimming: swimming in a lane in a standard counter-clockwise direction, up the right side and back down the left. Preferable when more than one person is sharing your lane.

Catch-up stroke: special drill where basic crawl (freestyle) is altered so that each arm catches up with the other before completing the next stroke (one arm is stationary above your head, in beginning-stroke position, while the other completes a full stroke rotation).

Sculling: special drill using only your hands (not your arms) to scull your way through the water; arms at your sides, with your wrists whipping back and forth in a waving motion (designed to develop feel for the water). Good workout when lap swimming is not an option (hotel pools, crowded slow lanes).

Vertical kicking: special drill executed in deep water (diving wells and deep ends of hotel pools when lap swimming is not an option) where one kicks in a vertical position with arms crossed over chest, or extended above head for various intervals/sets.

7 Ways to Keep Your Kids Safe on the Beach This Summer

THINKSTOCK IMAGES VIA GETTY IMAGES

Allow me to tell you about the angriest I’ve ever been in my life. I was a lifeguard in Long Beach, NY and the ocean was particularly rough on this day. (I know you’re thinking, But it’s NY! How rough can the ocean really get there?? Well, click on this link to have a look. http://youtu.be/PiPNAeo-174 That’s about 100 yards from the spot I worked, so lesson one is don’t underestimate any body of water you plan on entering.)

On this particular day I had a rescue when a riptide eroded a sandbar that a large group of people had gathered on. Almost everyone made it to the shore on their own except for the two small children I pulled out. They were brother and sister. He was 8 or 9 and she was maybe 11. When I returned them to land, I had expected to see mom or dad waiting to hug them; relieved that their children were safe. They weren’t there. As a matter of fact, I had the kids take me all the way to the back of the beach where I found the mom sleeping… with headphones on! She was completely oblivious to the fact that she had almost lost both of her children while she worked on her tan. Please don’t think I’m exaggerating. Her kids were at the very end of their struggle to stay afloat when I got to them. They were going to die. I was furious at this person for being so careless when it came to the safety of her kids and I made sure that she knew it.

When you go to the beach (or anywhere) with your kids, YOU are the first and most important line of defense when it comes to their safety. Gone are the days when the beach meant that you can sit in a chair and read a book, or take a nice nap in the sun. You now have to be constantly on guard. If your child is near the water, you need to be near the water too. If your child is in the water, you should be ankle-deep right behind them at the absolute minimum. You’d be shocked at how quickly a small child can go from wetting his or her toes to being knocked over and washed out with a surprise wave. A 10-second glance away could be all it takes. Consider the lifeguards a final option when all you have done to keep them safe has failed. Do not rely on them or anyone else when it comes to the safety of your kiddos.

Here is a list of things to run through before you head to big blue with the kids:

1. Know your swimming limitations

Please take note that I’m not saying “DISCOVER your limitations.” If you think the water might be too rough for you, then I assure you that you are right. Err on the side of caution always. Don’t put yourself into a dangerous situation, especially when you are with your kids.

2. Be especially cautious in unfamiliar waters

By most standards, I am an excellent swimmer. However, new bodies of water present new challenges that I might not know about and don’t want to discover when I’m in it. Always investigate the place you’re entering first. Ask locals, scope out potential problems and stay out if you’re unsure. If it’s a hot day and you see a delightful-looking area of water that is free of other swimmers, assume there is a reason for it. There might be a riptide, polluted waters or it might be off-limits for some other reason you are not aware of.

3. Recognize a Riptide

Riptides (sometimes called “undertows”) are channels of water that flow from the beach out to sea. You have all of these waves coming in and they have to go back out to sea somewhere. The water is pushed to the side by the waves that are behind it until it finds an exit. This is usually in a spot that’s deeper than the surrounding areas and when the water rushes out, it forms a channel and makes it even deeper. Take a second to watch the water before you go in. Is there a section of the beach where the waves just aren’t breaking? Does the whitewater that’s rolling in mysteriously disappear in a section? That is the deeper water. Waves break where the water gets shallow. If they aren’t breaking, it’s deeper there and you should move your kids somewhere well away from it because chances are, that’s the spot that’s pulling out to sea. What looks to you like the most serene patch of water can very well be the most dangerous. Also, don’t swim very close to jetties or piers. Riptides often form next to them as water is forced out to sea.

4. Know how to get out of a riptide

Riptides can be very scary if you’re in one. You swim and swim and swim towards shore, but either make no progress, or get farther and farther away. If you’ve never been in a riptide, imagine swimming to the end riptide-diagramof your pool, only you’re swimming uphill and the water is pushing you back. There is a very simple solution to this. Swim parallel to the shore, not towards it. The riptide might only be a few yards wide. Once you’re out of it, getting to shore will be relatively easy again.

5. Talk to the lifeguards before you go in

This is a surprisingly simple thing to do that most people overlook. You might be looking at the lifeguard and think to yourself, Pffff… That kid is 19 years old, tops. What can he/she tell me that I don’t already know… Well, when it comes to the ocean, I guarantee you that they know more than you might ever know. In one summer, it’s very likely that those “kids” will spend more time on the beach and in the ocean than most people will in their entire lives. They are the experts and you should respect that. Ask them where the safest place is for you and the kids. Have them point out dangerous spots (they’ll know where they are and where they form with changing tides). If you’re not a strong swimmer, let them know and ask them to keep a particular eye out for your children. I promise you that if you show them that you are making an effort, they will make an effort for you as well.

6. Recognize when someone is in trouble

I strongly recommend that everyone read this article and share it with everyone you know. “Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning”http://mariovittone.com/2010/05/154/. It gives you a very real description of what to look for and recognize when someone is in desperate need of help. They cannot call out, they cannot scream. They simply go under. I’ll leave this quote from it here: “Children playing in the water make noise. When they get quiet, you get to them and find out why.”

7. Assign a guardian when you are away

There are obviously going to be times that you can’t watch the kids. You might have to go to the bathroom or feed a parking meter. A mistake that many people (especially those in groups) make is assuming someone else is watching the kids. They are there with eight other adults, so someone is looking out while you’re away, right?? The problem that arises is that every other parent is also assuming someone else has their eyes on your kids. When you need to leave, assign someone specific to watch your children. Tell them “You are in charge of them until I come back. DO NOT STOP WATCHING THEM UNTIL THEN.” Be firm about it. If you don’t give someone this responsibility, you can’t assume that someone is going to just naturally take over.

So please take caution this summer. Watch your kids at the beach, at the pool, heck, even near the mall fountain. Once you know what to look for and what to look out for, you can spend time on the beach passing that knowledge on to your children. They will be safe while you’re with them and armed with the lessons you give them, they’ll be safe in the future when they are on their own.