Relax and Swim

Questions & Answers

About breathing

Q: Do I breathe out my nose and my mouth? Or just one or the other?
A: You first learn to bubble your air into the water from your nose. (As air goes out, water can’t come in.)
As your swimming improves and you take deeper breaths, you’ll learn to exhale everything out both your nose and mouth. Recall that you’ll need the room for the next breath.


Q: You say that I have to bubble out my nose to practice breathing. How will I have enough air left to swim with?
A: Good point. Bubbling out your air in a thin stream is a first step to understanding breathing. You learn this separately from learning swimming strokes. When you add breathing to your swimming—later—you’ll adapt this first breathing exercise.


Q: So what’s the next step after bubbling?
A: You’ll practice your strokes in the shallow end, on a full breath (and therefore fully buoyant) without exhaling. You’ll stand up when you need a breath, and then resume swimming while holding your air. Adding rhythmic breathing, adapted from the bowl-of-water technique we’ve discussed comes last in the process. So, swim practice will be controlled, with you learning to breathe while swimming added absolutely last.


Q: I have a noseclip. I can’t bubble or rhythmically breathe with it, but it keeps the water out of my nose. Can’t I still use it?
A: Nay, friend. You need both your nose and relaxed mouth to breathe. Practicing bubbling out your nose with ease keeps you from inhaling water up into it, even if it takes some practice at first.

Treading water

Q: I have a backyard pool. How can I practice treading?
A: Always, always swim with supervision. I strongly urge you to have lessons first. If you can arrange for private lessons or supervision at your home pool, all the better.


Q: Can I learn to tread water in a lake or the sea?
A: Sure, as long as you can learn under controlled conditions. If a lake or a clear, warm sea is calm and there is a dock or platform for the teacher nearby, and you’re comfortable, why not?

Seeing underwater

Q: I wear contact lenses. How do I manage to see where I’m going underwater without them?
A: Optometrists discourage swimming with contact lenses, but recommend prescription goggles, which they can order for you.


Q: Can a lifeguard double as a teacher if the pool is quiet?
A: Possibly. You must be certain of that person’s undivided attention and of their position at the pool’s edge near you. Your safety must come first.
Secondly, knowing you are supervised enables you to confidently focus on your practice.


Q: Some teachers use swim fins during lessons. Is that cheating?
A: I don’t consider this cheating. Fins, flippers or little “zoomers” can be useful swimming aids. The good part about long fins is that you can only kick slowly and relaxed-like with them on. Short “zoomer” fins allow your kick to be faster and more natural, with a more bent knee. I like them best for pool work. Keep your kick narrow, without keeping your feet far apart, to reduce drag. Fins give you some confidence in the deep end, too.
But, your confidence will only be 100% when you can tread without them in a pool’s deep end.


Q: Well, what if my cruise ship springs a leak?
A: Ooh, honey, pull those fins on pronto! And remember your sunblock and a hat!


Q: My ear is seriously painful. It itched a little yesterday morning, it hurt when I ate lunch afterward, and last night it really hurt when I went to sleep. I can’t even think of getting into the pool to practice today. Help!
A: Don’t wait, gentle reader, go to the doctor already! It may be swimmer’s ear (otitis externa), typically caused by excess moisture. Your treatment will involve a cleaning with antiseptic, topical (not oral*) antibiotic drops into your ear and pain control. Ouch! But you go to the doctor promptly once you notice your discomfort, you ought to recover in less than week.
* If you dilly-dally and put off going to the doctor, you may also have to take oral antibiotics.

Swimming history

Q: How did the crawl stroke first appear?
A: The rudimentary crawl stroke developed in the South Seas culture of Oceana. By paddling and flutter kicking to catch the crest of a breaking wave, on a board or by bodysurfing, basic streamlining evolved to catch and ride an ocean swell. Later in 1911 the Hawaiian surfing and swimming champion Duke Kahanamoku introduced the world to his crawl stroke with his powerful kick.
Before the turn of the century in Sydney, Australia, variations of the early crawl stroke developed for short-distance swims. Some of the notable innovators of this period included Alick Wickam of the Solomon Islands, the Cavill brothers, Barney Kieran, Cecil Healy, and Freddy Lane.


Q: What about that dreamy Johnny Weissmuller?
A: We know the 6’3″ swimming superstar was a magnificent Tarzan. But did you also know that he was also famous as “The Human Hydroplane” back in the 1920s? Weissmuller tweaked his stroke to try to skim the water by keeping his head way up and back extremely arched. Hydroplane, shmydroplane! Not humanely possible. But everyone wanted to look as good as he while trying!


Q: How have pool lanes changed over the years?
A: Lanes were once simple ropes with Styrofoam floaters threaded onto them like beads. The ropes kept swimmers apart during laps. Today’s lanes have discs strung together on cables, like so many flat doughnuts. Each disc is full of holes and rotates freely. The pool lanes break up all waves that swimmers make, making a swim smoother.


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