#57. ESME’S HELPFUL HINTS FOR SWIMMERS

by admin on February 14, 2011

pool with frost

getting ready to swim

as a person who has swum almost daily since about age 6, esme has given a lot of thought to swimming (and has learned to conjugate the verb “to swim”  correctly—-do NOT let me catch you saying you “have swam”!) 

she has been swimming in pools of all sizes, shapes and temperatures, has tried competitive swimming (hated it), lap-swimming, and paddling around for fun.  she swam in the frigid waters of the s.f. bay for ten years, and in the pee-warmed soup of the toddlers’ pool after having christophe.  she has swum in happiness and sadness, in sickness and in health.  for awhile she had to swim with one arm tucked under her when recovering from a dislocated shoulder.  so, here are her best nuggets of natatorial wisdom:

#1.  learn to do a free-style stroke with side-breathing.  i made christophe follow this advice as a child and he ended up on the swim and water-polo teams in high-school!  the really important thing is the side-breathing.  if you can’t breath easily you will never swim with comfort and pleasure. 

esme read a new yorker article years ago about a guy in cap-d’antibes who teaches non-swimming adults to swim.  the first thing he does is have them learn to breathe using a salad bowl filled with water. any shallow bowl (or even a bath-tub) will do.  lower your face over the bowl. breathe in. then, immerse your face in the bowl and BREATHE OUT COMPLETELY.  lift your face out of the bowl and BREATHE IN ONLY.  as you can see, the crucial step is learning to breathe IN when your face is out of the water, and breathe OUT when your face is in the water.  beginners make the mistake of trying to breathe both out and in while their faces are out of the water:  this doesn’t work and leaves you gasping for breath! 

an interesting aside is that many adults who are unable to swim have had traumatic near-drowning experiences as children.  there are teachers who specialize in this population.  so….if you’ve always wanted to learn to swim, do it!  esme has meet many a dedicated lap-swimmer who learned to swim in her later years.

#2.  swimming with your head out of the water is 10 times more difficult than swimming with it in, plus it will give you a neck-ache.  esme knows (women) who are perfectly good swimmers but won’t immerse their heads for fear of ruining their hair!   what can i say??  you must keep your priorities straight, and i ‘spose it’s better to swim with your head out than not to swim at all, but…..myself i’d change my hair style/color before i’d let it get in the way of my swimming!  anyway, i’ve always loved that slight greenish tinge that the regular swimmer’s hair acquires, especially if she is blonde.  another alternative is to wear one or even two good swimming caps.  these will provide an amazing amount of warmth in addition to protecting the hair. 

when esme swam in the san francisco bay the temperature ranged from around 65 degrees in the summer to 45 in the winter.  many of us wore several caps, including neoprene surfer caps that came under the chin.  it is no myth that one loses lots of heat through one’s head!  note that these days i won’t set foot in a pool that is much colder than 84 degrees…how times change.

#3.  i’ve been surprised how many life-long swimmers do not know this trick.  to get water out of one’s ears (without jumping up and down on one foot which becomes difficult with age), simply pour a small amount of rubbing alcohol into the ear, let it gurgle in, then tip the ear towards the floor to let it run out.  you will never be troubled with that wierd swirly-gurgley feeling again!  you can buy a little container of alcohol called “swim ear” and then just refill it when needed. esme learned this trick from her ent when she was a child, so it comes medically approved.

#4.  learn to conjugate:  today i swim; yesterday i swam; i have swum many times…got it??

#5.  if worse comes to worse, do the dog-paddle—comic-looking stroke in humans and very good exercise.  hunter recommends it and he has never mastered free-style with side-breathing!

going along swimmingly,

esme

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