If you’ve ever watched me swim in person you may have noticed that my head rides a lot higher in the water than is socially acceptable these days. I first got into swimming competitively in the mid 90′s when they taught you, especially if you were sprinting, to keep your eyes fixated on the wall. This is no longer en vogue, but it is firmly ingrained in my muscles as the thing to do. I get picked on for this by every coach I know and I’m really trying to fix it!
Last week when I was working out with Coach Nancy at Conejo Valley Multisport Masters she strapped a snorkel to my head to help me get used to the idea of keeping my head down. I promptly proceeded to almost drown myself… whoops. Turns out I breathe in and out a lot through my nose when I swim. We trouble shot the situation with a nose clip and after a little practice hanging on to the wall I figured out how to breathe through it… kind of. As much as I suck at using a snorkel I have to admit she was onto something.
I got my hands on a Finis Center-mount Swimmer’s Snorkel and made a trip to the gym today to try and master the dark art of breathing through a little tube. It didn’t go well but it wasn’t a complete failure. I can go wall to wall using the snorkel (as long as I have a nose plug in play) without much incident. I feel my head holding that down position much better and I feel a little smoother. It also takes some pressure off my neck which has been giving me trouble lately. Despite a few attempts, flip turns remain a no-go for me. I managed a few push-offs from the wall where I had to clear the snorkel when I surfaced but I’m still not very good at it. I have a really hard time dealing with the inhalation of water and my gag reflex. If there’s just a little bit of water in there and I suck it in I have to stop and kind of reset my breathing.
After swimming with the snorkel for a while I switched back to regular swimming and I could feel myself maintaining a much better head position. I continued to switch back and forth between snorkel and no snorkel swimming every couple hundred yards. Even though I’ve yet to master the snorkel I did feel like I got a lot of help with my head positioning and this is an excellent tool for those of you like me with a heads up freestyle affliction. I still have a lot of practicing to do before I can bring this thing to a workout with me, and I’m going to try a few other things that have been recommended to me to try and bring my head in line. Hopefully in the near future I will learn how to put my head down and go fast at the same time!