Category Archives: Swimming

Swimming Tips!

DISCLAIMER:  This post will have no tips that will make you a better swimmer.  I’m one of those people that go “you’re doing x wrong, just look at how I do it and try to do the same.”  Yep, I’m super-helpful like that!  (If you want to read about what do I know about swimming after all, I wrote a bit on it here.)

Now that my pool is officially closed, and I didn’t get nearly as many swims in as I was hoping (why does family have to visit in the summer when the weather is nice?  Oh, right), I figured I’d share a few of my swimming tips with you.  I did start typing this weeks ago, so it’s only typical I’m posting it now when all the other pools have closed (at least in this area.  If you live in FL and have access to an outdoor pool year-round, don’t rub it in).  I’m still debating whether I want to spend $120 a month for a gym membership with a pool.  Yep, that’s how much my gym is charging if I add the Crystal City gym to my membership, which is now $70/month for me and Karl.  So without further ado…


-If you swim enough times you are very likely to get an ear infection.  Yep, it sucks.  There are ways to prevent it though.  One that I do every.single.time I go in the water, be it at the pool or the beach is this:  after swimming (or playing in the water), get rubbing alcohol and fill the cap up.  Put your head to the side and put the alcohol on your ear.  Wait a little bit, turn your head around (use a towel to pick up the alcohol so it’s not dripping down your face) and repeat on the other side.  The alcohol will dry out the water.  Don’t wait until you feel discomfort, do this religiously every time.  If it hurts, your ear is likely already infected — this shouldn’t hurt at all.

If you swim a few times a week, you might want to use a mixture of 50% alcohol with 50% white vinegar instead of just alcohol (it’ll help balance the PH of the ear, or something like that).  The downside?  While just alcohol the smell is gone once it evaporates, this mixture will make your ears smell like a salad.  But heck, it works.

-When I got back to swimming a few years ago, I refused to wear a swim cap when swimming outdoors, because I look like an alien with it, and I was single, and wanted to look cute and all.  My hair was as long as it is today (way past my shoulders), soon enough, after swimming 6 days a week for a few months, this is what had to be done:

See the lack of hair?  Yep, I had to cut shorter than ever because of it, as it was ALL broken, it had a green tinge (my mom finally brought me some shampoo from Brazil that would remove chlorine from hair, and I still use it to this day), and it was very weak.  I’m not exaggerating…  I went to pick something from the bottom of my closet, got up too fast and my hair got caught on the door handle.  And it just stayed there, this big chunk of hair on the door handle, it broke it off just like that.  By the time I started wearing swim caps again (and making sure my hair was completely dry before going to bed), it was already too late, the damage was done.

So much was cut off that I couldn’t even put it on a pony tail.  While the hairdresser was cutting it off (no way around it, as there were chunks broken off), I literally cried my eyes out.

I have somewhat wavy hair (depending on the day, but the shorter it gets, the more waves show up), unless I spent a lot of time trying to style it (which I never had patience for) short hair did not suit me as my hair kind of poofed out…

The point of this?  If you’re actually swimming laps, wear a swim cap, regardless of how unattractive it’ll make you to the opposite sex.  The other trick I learned?  Wet your hair BEFORE going into the pool (even if you’re not planning on doing any swimming).  The hair is like a sponge, it’ll absorb as much water as it can — if you use regular water first, it’ll absorb a lot less of the chlorinated pool water.  Even better?  Wet your hair and put conditioner on it beforehand.  Or even super-better?  Wet your hair then use coconut oil — that stuff will stick to your hair like no one’s business, and it’ll help avoid the pool water from damaging it.  (Don’t worry, the oil will wash off completely with shampoo, so you won’t have oily hair after a swim.)

If you’re spending a lot of time in and out of the pool, putting conditioner in your hair every time you get out helps.  I use a hair mask with SPF, and the heat of the sun actually functions like a deep conditioning treatment — my hair is at its softest when I shower after a day at the pool or the beach!

When I swim laps, I jump in the shower first (a good idea anyway to rinse off sweat and product so that stuff is not washing off inside the pool), wet my hair completely, remove the excess water, put coconut oil on my hair, concentrating on the ends and tie it on a bun.  When I get to the pool I put the swim cap on and I’m good to go.  The swim cap also traps a lot of heat on your head — guess what?  Deep conditioning again!  Woohoo!  (And don’t worry, any shampoo will take coconut oil out of your hair easily, it won’t be greasy after you shower.)

-Now onto swimming attire…  Unless you’re competing and seconds make a big difference, the best swimsuit to get is a polyester one.  Speedo make great polyester suits.  It’s much harder to put on compared to the lycra suits, but it’ll last you a VERY long time.  You know how when your suit gets old it becomes see through as the lycra breaks off?  That won’t happen with the polyester ones.  I was swimming 5 times a week a few years ago, and haven’t been swimming at all for about 3.5 or 4 years.  I pulled out my old polyester suits, and they’re like new.  Seriously.  There’s no lycra to rotten.  They’re not super cheap (about $50-$70), but the investment is worth it.

-If your goggles fill up with water, it can be two things:  you need to tighten it up, or you need to get new goggles.  Not everything works for everyone…  I have good luck with the Speedo Vanquisher for women.  And dark goggles work great for sunny days, but it’s horrible in indoor pools — it really is like wearing sunglasses indoors!

-If you’re swimming laps, this little gadget is a good investment:

It’s simple to use (just press the button every time you complete a lap), doesn’t mess up with your stroke at all (you can’t even feel it), and it keeps good count.  Some people are good at remembering it in their head, I personally suck: I get lost in my own thoughts and then don’t remember where I was.

-If you swim laps regularly and don’t know how to do a flipturn (I’m surprised by the number of people who don’t), try to learn it.  Not only it’ll make you more efficient, but it’s SO much fun!  It’s always my favorite part of each lap!

This is all I can think of it now — I need to get another swim in to remind me of the list I was going to post when I first started writing this.  What swimming tips do you have?

In running news, Wednesday run sucked (had an odd pain on my hip and knee — maybe from bootcamp?), and tomorrow is a drop down week with only 12 miles on the schedule.  23 days until Chicago.  ACK.

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Filed under Non-Running Stuff, Random, Swimming

Tuesday Run + Swim!

Yesterday I ran the 3.1 miles from work to Pentagon City.  It took 15 minutes for my Garmin to get a signal!  WTF!  Then after waiting all that time I realized that it was stupid to wait, since 90% of the time when I do this run, my Garmin thinks I’m zigzagging across downtown DC…  I think from now on I’ll give up if it takes more than 5 minutes, then just adjust on Garmin connect…  So what if my unit will underestimate my mileage?  It’s not like I’m not keeping track of it in other places, and I run the exact same route each time, so I know what the mileage is.

Then I got home, rinsed off, and went out to the pool.  My goal was to complete at least 1km this time, since last Tuesday I swam 900m.  Turns out I wasn’t tired at all, and swam a mile non-stop.  A freaking mile!  Non-stop!  Though it’s not that much for most swimmers, it’s more than what I swam in the last 3 years combined.  Yikes.  By the end, my arm was starting to get sore (out of shape much?).  So then I put on my zoomers, and did a couple of laps of dolphin kicks and butterfly.  That caused my calves to tighten, and I knew it was time to stop…

So I ended the day with a 5k and an 1800m swim (1.11 mile).  Not too shabby!

Last week, I wasn’t sore after my swim, but I have a feeling that I’ll be sore tomorrow.  My calves are hurting right now, and my shoulders are tight.

But the swim?  Totally worth it!  I feel super tired, but awesome.  I won’t have time to get any more swimming done this week, but next week, I’m hoping to fit it in at least twice.  Probably short swims since my parents are in town, but it’s better than nothing…

And I need to get back to biking soon…  Maybe I can bike to/from work on Monday?  I definitely need the cross training, and my poor bike has been neglected for almost a year now.

One question:  what do people have against flip turns?  There are many swimmers at my pool, some are not even bad swimmers, but I have yet to see someone else doing flip turns.  That’s my favorite part of the swim!  (And yes, having a 25 meter pool, I’m really careful not to push off too strong, so I don’t lose the swimming benefits — I’m not there to be fast, I’m there to get the most exercise.)  Back when I used to swim at the gym, it was the same thing, no one else would do flip turns.  Anyone knows why?


Filed under Chicago Marathon Training, Snow Run, Swimming

Chicago Training Week 6

This week has been tough.  The weather hasn’t been nearly as hot as the past couple of weeks (mid-80’s versus the low-100’s we were getting), but the runs feel so hard (thanks to DC humidity!  It’s times like these you can tell DC was built on swamp).

Tuesday, I ran to Pentagon City from work (before my swim) and though I finished in great time for me (10 min/mile pace), the run felt way harder than it should have.  Here I thought that maybe I could beat my time at the Crystal City Twilighter 5k next week, but now I’m starting to think it won’t be that easy.  Or even feasible.  Specially after a 14 miler that morning.

Yesterday, I met up with the group for a 6 mile run.  It was hot, I shared my water with one of the new girls that was running with me, so neither of us had enough to drink.  I was feeling great for the first couple of miles, but then the run got tough — my stomach started hurting, and it was hard to concentrate.  I still kept up with the run, albeit slowly, mostly because I had company, but I admit if I was by myself I would have given up and walked.

I was really looking forward to running to work this morning — this has been one of my favorite runs so far, and I limited myself to once a week, so I can still have the run to work once a week as well.  But, as luck would have it, after the first mile I started feeling like crap.  Just completely exhausted…  It was just so hard.  And though I still ran for most of it, I walked more than I’d like to admit.

I’m not completely beating myself up for that — it’s been a long week, super busy at work (my coworker is on vacation) and to top it off I’m getting less than 6 hours of sleep.  I try to remind myself that any run, even a bad run, is better than nothing at all.  But on days like today it makes me wonder how did I ever even run a half-marathon non-stop?  Heck, I ran 12 miles straight through on Saturday!  And now I had to walk shortly after the first mile on a 4 mile run?

Why the hell do I even think I can run a FULL marathon?

Saturday we’re scheduled for 9 miles (yay for drop down weeks — but this will be my last single-digit long run until taper starts in 2.5 months, ack!).  I hope by then my body has recuperated a bit.

In much happier news, tonight I’m back at the pool!  My neighbor is supposed to meet me there, let’s see how that works.  I never have met anyone else at the pool before, and aside from when I used to be in actual training, my swims have always been pretty solitary.  Not sure if having company will be a good thing or a bad thing…


Filed under Chicago Marathon Training, Run Commute, Swimming, Training

My Relationship with Swimming

I love being in the water.  Seriously, my little facebook thingy under my profile picture says “just add water” — and it’s true, that’s when I’m at my happiest.

With my dad a "few" years ago

I learned how to swim when I was 2 years old, and was in swimming classes until around 8 or 9 years old, when our swim coach kept getting upset that I wouldn’t show up for the weekend swim meets and was threatening to downgrade me to a lower level.  (I have ALWAYS hated competing while swimming, it caused too much anxiety not knowing if I was winning or not until the end.)  My mom finally took me out of the classes and later said it was time anyway, since girls that keep on swimming when their body is developing tend to end up with very wide shoulders and back (the so called swimmer’s body, which looks way more attractive in men!).

I spent my childhood swimming here! Always a fish...

By the way, if you think learning to swim when you’re only 2 is young, my brother actually learned when he was 8 months old — we don’t have it on camera, unfortunately, but we do have videos of my mom throwing him from a 3 meter diving board into the deep water and him swimming to the side when he was just short of 2 years old.  It’s too cute!

With my brother at the club we used to swim at. The stairs to the diving board can be seen on the upper right corner of the picture.

When I first moved to the DC area from NYC metro, I was giddy with excitement that not only I lived in a building with a pool, but I could actually afford a gym with a lap pool.  I started swimming again after years and years away.  At first it was hard, I would swim 25 or 50 meters and have to pause to catch my breath.  But within a couple of months I was swimming a mile to a mile and a half at least 4 days a week.  I kept it up for a year.

When I first moved back to DC and was super excited to have a pool in my building!

Then I found that DC also had another thing I loved:  VOLLEYBALL!  So between doing my lone swim laps or hanging out with a crowd, making new friends while I played volleyball for 4 hours straight 5-6 days a week (really not exaggerating, I was obsessed), I chose volleyball.  This was right after I got dumped by my boyfriend when he moved out of the country to work for the State Department in Poland (a very good decision he made at the time — a long distance relationship for that long and that far would have ended badly, he decided to end right after his move when he realized that it would be unfair to either of us to try it.  He is now – I think – happily married and they just had a baby girl).  Anyway…  I was in NEED of new friends.  I gave up swimming and didn’t regret it once.

I keep saying that I want to get back at it, specially now that my volleyball schedule died down a bit (and I just left my league last month, since marathon training is taking too much of my free time), but I never actually seem to get myself out there.

On Sunday, while lounging at our pool, I approached a random neighbor who was swimming and asked if she wanted to join me for laps during the week — I just needed something to make me get out there.  After such a long time away, I was hesitant to start again.  She was up for it, and we made a pool date for tonight.  The forecast tonight sucked though, so she canceled, but as soon as I got home from my run from work, I rinsed the sweat off, put on my swimsuit, and out I went!

Our building's pool

It was even better that the finger lap counter I bought online on Sunday, arrived on the mail today!  I couldn’t find my old one (not that the battery would still be good), so it was great to have it (I get so lost in my own thoughts while swimming that I always lose count).

At first, I had to take a break after every 100 meters…  Then I decided to swim the way I used to 4 years ago (not the proper way of swimming but helps defeat boredom and keeps me from tiring out):  out freestyle (front crawl) and back breaststroke.  After doing that, I didn’t have to take a break once.  I was so in peace with myself.  Plus my favorite part of swimming is the flip-turn (yes, I’m still a kid), so I get to do it going on both directions!  (You won’t ever see me talking about backstroke — I’ve hit my hand on the edge of the pool way too many times so I hate it!  Specially since the pool doesn’t even have flags, so I won’t even try it…)

Unfortunately, it started to rain and the lifeguards closed down the pool.  I was hoping on using these for some leg drills with dolphin kicks, but didn’t get a chance to.  (They’re great for working out the quads, so I highly recommend them.  Plus, I have long lost ago lost my core strength to cross a pool swimming butterfly, but this gives me just enough “oomph” that I can pull it off.)

I checked how many laps I had done and did the math:  I swam 900 meters today!  Not much, but definitely great for my first time out in years.  It’s probably a good thing the lifeguards kicked me out, otherwise I would have easily been there for an hour.  I’ll definitely be sore tomorrow.

I was surprised I was not once out of breath.  Hmmmm, all this running might be keeping me in good shape…

I went home super happy and couldn’t stop talking about it with Karl!

I really need to start learning how to take better pictures of myself. But I was so freaking happy, it didn't matter. Plus, I'm sparing you the goggles with swim cap picture, now THAT is scary. (It really is just a matter of time until I posted it here though, let's face it...)

Now let’s hope I keep up with it (I’d be stupid not to, I loved every minute of it).  Maybe I’ll finally get those toned arms and shoulders just in time for the wedding?

How do you feel about swimming?  Do you use it for cross training with running at all?


Filed under Cross Training, Pictures, Swimming