Thursday, June 20, 2013

Getting In The Pool

Usually, when I decide I want or need to do something outside my comfort zone (read: most things I don't already do), it takes me several weeks or months to go from "I guess I should do x" to actually having accomplished it.

Take when I decided to join the gym near my office. First, I had to spend a few days stalking their website. Then I had to practice driving by it & getting comfortable knowing where it was. Then I had to drive there with the intention of going inside & then chicken out once or twice. Then I had to go in & ask some questions while insisting I was on a very tight schedule so as to avoid being dragged into the manager's office for the soft sale. Then I had to stew for a few days over whether the money would be money well-spent or not.

Finally, about a month after initially deciding that this was something I should probably do, I officially signed up & started going.

When my foot was hurt in December, I began this process with the pool running class at UCSF, but by the time I got anywhere close to actually going there my foot was healed & I was cleared to start running again. (I have a feeling this process might have taken even longer, as it would have also involved purchasing new equipment, some of which is clothes.)

So on Monday morning when my PT was like, "You gotta get in the pool," and I said to myself, "Self, we HAVE to get in the pool," the smart money would've been on my actually getting in the pool somewhere around July 1 at the earliest.

Then a funny thing happened. On my way home from work, I went by the Sports Authority to buy a Lacrosse ball & completely coincidentally ran across the swimsuit section. It occurred to me that if I was getting in the pool, I'd need one of these. (The last time I was swimming regularly was in college over a decade ago, and that poor suit had been stretched out & faded beyond all reason & tossed during my last move.) And....I found two (count 'em, TWO) in my size that weren't horrid within ten minutes. (This never happens. With anything.)

I also picked up some goggles & a swim cap. After karate (yes!! I went!! I couldn't do much, but 'not much' > nothing => progress) I stalked the hours & fees for the UCSF lap pool, then set my alarm for 5:30 & went to bed at a reasonable hour. (Again...this never happens.)

AND....I actually got up at 5:30, which deserves its own paragraph. (With the exception of races & unreasonable flights, this hasn't happened in YEARS.)

Friends, at 6:10 am, I was in the pool.

I have to admit, it's kind of hard to beat the rooftop pool at UCSF.

Like I said before, I haven't swum laps in at least 10 years. I did date a swimmer in college, which is how I learned a proper front crawl & bilateral breathing & all that, but I really had no idea how long it would take me to re-figure all that out & be able to properly swim laps again. Well, it turns out that swimming is a bit like riding a bike, and apparently your body just never forgets.

The only problem with all of this is that it all happened so fast. Half of me had kind of figured I'd need a few dry runs -- one day to set my alarm for 5:30 but not actually get up, one day to get up & drive to UCSF & locate the pool but not actually try to use it, one day to get to the pool but mostly just try to remember how to not suck water up my nose....etc.

Suddenly, I found myself in the pool with no real idea of what I was actually supposed to be doing. So I made stuff up. I found that I could swim about 100 yards pretty comfortably without stopping, and then I needed a little rest. My very very first swim workout since the early aughts ended up being 10 x 100 yards @ not-dying pace / 1:00 rest. Which is probably more of a swim "warm-up" than a proper workout, but the way I see it, just making it to the pool at all on the first try was a pretty huge success, so any exercise I managed to get out of it is gravy.

Angela: 1. Cardio-hole: 0.

Later I tried googling "swim workouts for runners" to see if the internet had any better ideas for non-swimmers than "swim as many 100's as you can until you're exhausted or run out of time."


"For Interval Training: Sprint 25 meters, rest 30 seconds, then repeat four to six times. Eventually increase your sprinting distance until you can do 50 meters six times.

For Stamina Training: Swim a brisk 100 meters, rest two minutes and repeat. Gradually work up to a 200-meter distance with the same two-minute rest in between sets."

From the Time Magazine Health & Family section:

"Warm-up: 10 x 50 yards easy, focusing on form and comfort,

Main Set: 5 x 150 yards. Swim 100 yards steady and 50 yards easy, maintaining similar effort across all of the repeats. Use each of the easy 50-yard swims for recovery, and take as much time as you need on the wall to rest between efforts."

From Runner's World:

"Swimming 100-yard repeats at a slightly faster pace will spike your heart rate and serve as lactate threshold training. For starters, try 6 x 100 at a comfortably hard pace with 30 seconds rest between each. Mix things up by swimming interval ladders (50-100-150-200-150-100-50) with a 30-second rest break in between."


"The ideal pool workout should include 30 minutes of lap swimming and 30 minutes of pool running to ensure a full-body workout. For the running segment, perform one of the interval workouts below:

ENDURANCE-SPEED 3 x 5 minutes at perceived 10-K race pace. Jog two minutes between each.

SPEED 6 x 2 minutes at perceived 5-K race pace. Jog 60 seconds between each effort.

SPRINTS 10 x 60 seconds at perceived one-mile race pace. Jog 30 seconds between efforts."

I don't know how I feel about pool running but maybe I should try it. I think the UCSF pool is ~4 ft pretty much everywhere, though, so that might be too shallow.

Real questions I want answers to:

  • What should non-swimmer runners be doing in the pool for cross-training purposes?
  • Is there any legitimate mileage equivalence in terms of endurance training? I've read 4:1 in a few different places (ie, 100 yards swimming = 400 yards running), but I've also read a few things (mostly on, so who knows how legit) saying there is no equivalence so don't waste time thinking about it.
  • Any pool / swimming tips in general from those of you in the know? (Triathletes, I'm looking at you.)


  1. Nice job Angela! I am super proud of you! I am still petrified of lap swimming and constantly talk myself out of it.

  2. Yay for swimming! I love it and need to do more of it! I have a few swim workouts I can share with you if you are interested.

  3. I hate swimming for fitness. Prancing around in the pool with the Dude - fun. Swimming properly? Ugh. Utmost respect for you. Hope it really pays off in terms of maintaining fitness!

  4. I wouldn't call myself "in the know", really, but I do try to get my ass to the pool more than once a month for cross-training. I currently <3 for magically generating workouts based on my ability. Yay for getting yourself to the pool so quickly (and early! Wow.)

  5. My pool is a close second:

  6. I laughed out loud when I read the description of your anxiety over committing to an idea. I am presently doing this over getting a bike. My husband is about to go crazy. I'm pretty sure he's just going to buy one to make me stop talking about it!