7/1/11 - 8/1/11

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Jul 25, 2011

Chemicals and Pools - What You Need to Know (far beyond chlorine)

Have you ever wondered what chemicals are in the pool you swim in? Do you have a pool of your own and are not sure what chemicals are important? With hundreds of people going through your local swimming pool like on a car assembly line and with your own pool probably being exposed to outside weather, there needs to be some system for the pool water to stay clean and not turn into an algae infested murky puddle. The intelligent futuristic system is called pool chemicals. The advancements in modern chemistry science is what allows us to swim in crystal clear waters all year long without the worry of any infections or skin diseases.
Clear hotel pool


This is a guest post by Scott H, and The Staff of Crystal Clear Pools & Spas in Austin, Texas who are renowned area experts in pool cleaning, maintenance, repair and renovations.

Enter Scott H
Before you can enjoy the cool refreshing water of your swimming pool, you must first understand the simple, yet very important nature of pool chemicals. In order to ensure a clean and hygienic pool, and to make sure your water is safe for day long poolside adventures, certain chemical precautions have to be made to the pool you swim in!

Pool chemicals are needed in pools because they keep the water safe and free from harmful bacteria. The art of adding chemicals to a pool is a delicate task however, due to the fact that if you add too much of one chemical, you can cause problems, and vice versa for adding too little chemicals. Some combinations might even turn your pool into the neighborhood science experiment, so it is very important to know the pool chemical basics.

Sanitizer: Good old chlorine

Chlorine is used to kill germs and bacteria in the water. Chlorine is also the key component in making swimming pool water safe. Be safe - never mix up different type of chlorine, or any other chemicals, and always add chemicals to water, not water to chemicals. There are other types of sanitizer such as bromine, ozone or biguanide, but chlorine is by far the most popular and some of the sanitizers are not compatible with some pool types.

Crystal clear pool

Algae Control: Algaecide and Algaestat

An algaecide is a pool chemical that kills all algae that is in the pool. An algaestat on the other hand is used to make the conditions unfavorable for the growth of algae. This prevents green and murky pools.

pH Control: Can I borrow your baking soda?

Pool pH levels should stay between 7.2 and 7.8. If the pH is too low, you can use soda ash or baking soda to quickly raise it up. (Note from Swimator Blog: You could sometimes see the pool maintenance man or lifeguard dumping bags or boxes of a white powder into the water. Now you know that it is probably baking soda.) If it is too high, muriatic acid or sodium bisulfate can lower it to safe levels. The pH level is important in keeping your pool fresh and safe.

Particle Remover: Clarifiers and Flocculants

Water clarifiers and flocculants help particles floating in the water attract to one another and get filtered out or sink to the bottom of the pool. This makes it easy to vacuum the particles out of the water and keep your pool sparkling clean.

Calcium Hardness: Keep your pool equipment safe

Calcium can have major affects on pool equipment when kept too low or too high. In order to best maintain your pool and its equipment (such as pool steps, drains, gutter, lane lines etc.) calcium hardness levels should be kept between 250 and 400 ppm.

More about the team at Crystal Clear Pools & Spas: They have been installing pools for decades, and pride themselves in creating and installing high quality pool environments in your backyard that not only look amazing, but cool you down in the hot summer months.

From Swimator Blog: Don't be scared though. All the talk of chemicals in the pool can be a bit overwhelming and frightening, however, it is normally perfectly safe to swim in a pool. You can rest assured that your local swimming pool is probably doing a pretty fine and regular job of adding the appropriate chemicals into the pool and if you haven't heard of any stories where people's hair fell out after a swim then it's just fine:). (Note: wearing a swimming cap does not prevent your hair from getting wet) In most western countries, there are random health inspector checks performed throughout the year, so pools need to adhere to certain standards. If you are unsure about swimming in some pools, try asking the lifeguard about their chemical procedures or just quit being paranoid and jump in :). When you get out and your skin starts turning red, only then it is the time to go see the doctor.

If you have your own pool and would like to learn more or become an expert in pool chemicals and pool maintenance, there are usually courses available to get certified in keeping a pool chemically safe. You can for example become the Certified Pool Operator. If you think you had enough of the chemical talk for now, why not forget about the pool and go play the new Michael Phelps game on Xbox 360.
Be seen, keep your stuff dry and take a break when needed.

Jul 21, 2011

Michael Phelps - How a short movie can help you swim?

One of the most written about swimmers in today's world is Michael Phelps. He also has an Xbox 360 Kinect swimming game created in his spirit called Push the Limit. Now, Michael Phelps also has a short movie. The movie is filmed in Phelps’ hometown of Baltimore, Maryland, USA and it premiered at the opening ceremony of the 14th FINA World Championships in Shanghai, China. You can watch Micheal's movie below:



As much as I don't really care about what goes on in Michael Phelps' life, he makes a couple of good points in the movie which relate to learning to swim.

a) He says: "I started swimming when I was 7 and first couple of years I was afraid to put my face in the water, I just wasn't comfortable. Eventually I just put it in and off I went." Remember when I was telling you about being as a log in the water, well there you have it spoken by the greatest swimmer of all times. I am not just making this up, swimming with the right body position is a key and if you are struggling with it, just remember that even the unbeatable Michael Phelps ones had the same problem. So, get that head in and forget about how other people around you swim.

b) He also says: "As soon as I walk into the door, everything else that is going on in my life does not matter. It is like my brain shuts off. I don't have to think about anything. I am there to swim. That's it." Does that ring a bell? Swimming is a great relaxation and a form of escapism, but don't take Michael's words literally. He is not implying that when he gets into the pool he stops thinking all together. He probably analyzes every stroke he takes. Does he have the most efficient arm catch, is his body balanced properly. In other words, he practices mindful swimming which takes some effort and concentration to master.

So, if you are struggling or are frustrated with your swimming, don't beat yourself up. We all have been there at one point or another, just take a different approach or change something from your swim routine and you will see that you will move on and enjoy swimming even more.
Learning to swim is priceless and SwimSmooth Learn to Swim DVD is a great start

Jul 18, 2011

How to choose your swimming lessons? (Is there one recipe for all?)

Choosing the right swimming lesson program is not as simple as signing up at your nearest swimming pool. Well, it could be, if you don't mind the potential of being disappointed. In order to get the most out of your swimming lessons experience, you should consider a few important aspects before you join in.

Group of Swimmers by Lomography.com

Swimming Skills

First, you should assess your swimming skills. In other words, be honest with yourself about what you can do in the water. If you have zero swimming skills or are afraid of water, don't be embarrased by that, you will only slow down your progress if you try to artificially bump up your skill level. Learning the basics first and practicing them over and over is the key to success.

Swimming Goals

After you have evaluated your swimming skill level, then it is time to set some goals. It is always good to have a goal in mind before starting swimming lessons. The goal should be achievable and realistic in my opinion, but not something that you can master in 30 minutes. The goal should keep you motivated, push you and it also should give a better idea to the swim instructor in terms of what you'd like to learn and how he/she should adjust swimming lessons so you are able to succeed. It is better to set intermediary goals during your learn to swim path, so you can track your progress better. For example: If you are afraid of water, set yourself a goal to learn how to relax and float without the sinking panic in your mind. Then when you master that, go a bit further and mark a goal to swim one length of the pool in any stroke. After that, why not shoot for lowering the effort it takes to swim that far etc. etc. After you set your goals, it is a good idea to discuss them with the swim instructor and adjust them according to their feedback.

Self Learning Swimming Lessons

When you figured out what you want to learn, it is time to start thinking about how you want to learn it. Some people prefer learning to swim on their own. This approach has become more popular with the Internet age and it could work well as long as you follow a good swimming lesson program structure (on DVD or online) which allows for this type of learning. I'd however argue that at some point you will still need an outside person to evaluate how you are doing and adjust your swimming skills to be more effective and efficient. One crucial problem with learning to swim on your own is the fact that every person is different in the way they learn and in their physical ability, so you might end up spending a lot of money and time before you find the right swimming lesson program for you. Unfortunately, there is no one way to learn to swim. There are guidelines and loosely defined steps that many swimming instruction DVDs follow, but remember, these products are targeting the mass market, so if they work for one person, they migh not necessarily work for another. These instructional videos are also made with a simple idea in mind where you need to first master skill 1 before moving onto skill 2. This approach makes sense, but sometimes proves to be challenging and even impossible for many people. So, if you do plan on learning to swim on your own, I'd summarize it to the following recommendation: If you are just starting out, learning on your own can be tough and not recommended as your only learning path. If you are a bit more advanced in swimming, learning new skills on your own gets easier, but try it before you buy it :).

Private vs. Group Swimming Lessons

Learning to swim in private (one on one) or in group swimming lessons is the way to go for majority of us. Private swimming lessons, meaning that there is one instructor for one or two swimmers, could be a bit more expensive endeavor at first, however, the rate of learning is much higher and more flexible. So, in reality the return on your investment is much higher in terms of saved time and frustration since you'll learn to swim much quicker. (If you live in the Helsinki area in Finland, I do teach private swimming lessons as well as provide video analysis of swimming strokes) On the other hand, in group lessons there can usually be 5-20 swimmers who are all following the instructor's advice, so there is not much hands on activity, however, they are much cheaper. The rule of thumb that I'd use here is that if you don't mind paying a bit more money at first, definitely go private. You will learn more in less time, so in long run, it actually could be a better investment than taking numerous swimming lessons. If you have a hydrophobia (fear of water), I'd recommend private lessons as well since you can advance in overcoming your fear on your own pace. However, no matter what lessons you choose, I'd strongly suggest exploring miscellaneous online swimming resources that are out there. You never know, maybe you will pick up the right explanation which will make sense to you in one of them and this will make the particular swimming skill a bliss to master.

Asking the Right Questions?

If you have the time and luxury of choosing between more than one swim instructor, it is a very good idea to first go and observe the particular swim instructor at work. What you should look for is the enthusiasm with which the instructor operates. Does the instructor only stand on the pooldeck throughout the entire swim lesson or does he/she get in the water with the swimmer to show and explain the different techniques? How many students are in the swim classes? Does the instructor pair you up with someone during the class, so you can correct each others' mistakes or you are left all alone? Is the instructor supportive and patient in educating the new swimmers? If you like what you see, why not take a few swimming lessons to start with and then see how it goes. If you are not very happy, then look for another swimming lessons program that will suit you better.

Remember that swimming is a priceless skill to have and no matter what path you will choose on your way to improve your swimming skills, you can learn to swim if the choice is wise. However, is there one recipe on how to learn to swim that works for everyone? Definitely not. We are all individuals, so we all need an individual approach to swim learning in order to achieve our swimming potential. So, don't loose hope, get out there and get swimming.
Safer Swimmer - the must have swim safety device for all open water swimmers

Jul 11, 2011

Triathlon swimmers! Focus on technique! (Dropping the hand paddles and pullbuoys)

Triathlon athletes are no doubt one of the most versatile and toughest athletes out there. Combining three totally different sports into one good race, is an art within itself. However, it comes as no surprise that with the increasing popularity of the triathlon sport, there is a lot of misquided advice and misconceptions about how to properly train for swimming, cycling and running. There are countless, so called professional triathlon coaches which pray on the unexperienced public who of course will take any advice that gives them at least some superficial guidance into where to start their triathlon training. The public is not to blame, they don't know any different, but the triathlon coach who gives advice about what he/she does not know much about should re-evaluate their education priorities and use some sport specific resources to eliminate the knowledge gap.

The pitfall: pullbuoy and hand paddles
The problematic area in training for triathlon is the fact that all the three sports are different, so naturally they also require different approach to training. Many triathletes or so called professional triathlon coaches are usually experts in one of the three sports and just apply the same training regimes to the other two. This unfortunately does not work very well, especially with cyclists or runners trying to improve in their swimming (which is the most frequented case). True, swimming in a local level triathlon races is usually not the game changer if you can swim a little and are an expert in cycling or running, but it will give you an energetic advantage if you know how to swim efficiently.

Swimming is unique in the sense that the triathlete has to move through water and not air. Since water is denser than air it is extremely important that the swimmer's body produces very little drag. Just understanding this fundamental difference is the first step to faster and more efficient swimming. Thus every triathlete should first focus on improving his/hers overall body position while swimming and not on how powerful he/she is in the water. Believe it or not, the better the positioning and balance of the swimmer in the water, the more power one can actually generate at a later time.

It is easy to recognize triathletes amongst all the other swimmers in the pool. They spend most of their time swimming with hand paddles and pullbuoys trying to increase the power output of their arms, so they can swim faster in their triathlon races. I call them the paddle nazis. :). On a first thought, this is a quite logical behavior since arms are used more in swimming than in running or cycling. However, overusage of hand paddles is detrimental to a swimming stroke if there are flaws in the stroke to begin with (and there always are). It is so painful to watch this misconcepted behavior being repeated over and over in the triathlete community. Please, stop it!

Arm lead balance drill
If I were to give just one advice to a triathlete who is trying to improve the swimming leg of the race, it would be: "Drop the hand paddles and pullbuoys and start incorporating proper swimming drills into your workouts instead." Just this minor shift in swim training attitude could produce huge results and would also eliminate the unnecessary shoulder pains and save you some money on swimming gear.

If you are one of the guilty paddle nazis, try to go back and remember the first time you started using the paddles. What was the reason? Are you just using the paddles because you saw other people using them or were you told it will improve your swimming? Whatever the reason is, I guarentee you that you do not need them until you are an experienced advanced swimmer and you definitely do not need to swim with them majority of your swimming practice. If you still feel like you do need to use some hand paddles, I'd suggest trying out the antipaddles to incrase your feeling for water. By having a better feel for water you will in turn swim more efficiently.

Hopefully, I convinced you that swimming needs a different approach to training than running and cycling. Just remember, the more relaxed and balanced you feel in the water, the faster you will swim. As a side not, there are more exercises you can do with paddles than what they were originally made for, check out the 8 ways to use hand paddles post to learn more.

Learning to swim is priceless and SwimSmooth Learn to Swim DVD is a great start

Jul 4, 2011

How to Keep Water Out of My Nose (The Human Nose Clip) - part 2

I already showed you, in my previous article, how to prevent water getting up your nose while going under water, floating or swimming on your stomach. This is, however, just one part of the nose plugging story. If you do not know the rest of it, I am afraid that for some swim positions, nose clips/plugs are the only available tool to help with stopping water running through your nostrils.

Nose clip with lips (front)
You already know how to plug your nose with the soft palate technique while swimming freestyle or while sinking under water, however, what if you find yourself under the water on your back? May it be when you push off the wall to swim in a streamline, during a flip turn or when you just look up to the ceiling while under the water. You probably already noticed that plugging your nose with the use of the soft palate approach does not work in this case. Air buoyancy and the difference in pressure will cause the air from your lungs to escape from your nose and water will get in there instead. A totally different nose plugging technique is required to remedy the loss of air and influx of water. While being under water on your back, there are actually two questions which you need to answer. How do I plug my nose, so the air does not escape out of my lungs through it? and How do I stop water from entering my nose? Luckly there are a couple of nose plugging techniques which will help you answer both of them, will make your swimming more enjoyable and make your nose dry.

Human Nose Clip Technique

The first and the best human nose clip technique utilizes your upper lip to plug the two nostrils on the bottom of your nose. Beware though, your upper lip cannot curl up by itself. If you only concentrate on moving your upper lip up towards the nostrils, it will not work. You will first need to use the bottom jaw (mandible) to achieve the desired human nose clip grimace. Find yourself a mirror, ideally somewhere in private. Watching your mouth in the mirror, move the lower jaw slightly forward as if you want to create an underbite where your lower teeth are in front of your upper set of teeth. Beware of moving your entire neck though. Just move your lower jaw slightly forward and keep your head and neck stationary. When your lower jaw is moved forward, then put your lips together in a puckered position as if you would like to kiss someone (in other words, you push with your lower lip up). For you naughty ones, no french kissing here :), keep your mouth shut. You will notice that if you keep the lower jaw forward, you cannot kiss someone in front of you, but your lips will start bending toward your nose a little as if you'd like to land a big fat kiss to the tip of your nose. Of course, this is a bit of an exaggeration as this is for most of us impossible to do, so better way to describe it is that you will notice your upper lip touching or being quite close to the nostrils. Check out the two nose plugging images on this page to visualize what it looks like (it ain't pretty, but it does the job :)).

Nose clip with lips (profile)
The ultimate goal is to get that upper lip flat against the nostrils, so there is no or very little air that escapes from them. When you master this human nose clip techniqe, you will be able to lay on your back on the bottom of the pool with very little or no air escaping from your nose. If you are struggling to get the upper lip to your nose via the above described process, don't despair. Keep practicing this in front of the mirror and perhaps you will improve. If you have a thick mustache, the human nose clip echnique might prove to be quite challenging as the air escapes through it. Shave the mustache off and try it again.

Fill the Nose Technique

Unfortunately, some of us have very small lips and maybe even small noses, so there is no way for the upper lip to reach the bottom of the nose to plug it up properly. If you are one of these unlucky individuals, I am afraid, you will have to take another route which is a bit more uncomfortable. This brings me to the second approach of plugging your nose. You will be happy to know that this approach does not involve any weird lip and mouth gymnastics. It merely involves sucking some water up your nose while you are under water which in turn will plug your nose against escaping air and no more water will get in as you have also evened out the pressure. As you can see, this technique is quite simple, but not ideal as it is very uncomfortable to be intentionally sucking water in your nose all the time. Moreover you will end up with a snotty nose for a few hours after your swim practice. There is nothing more exciting than going on a date after exploring this technique in the pool :). Let's just say, you might not get a second one hehe.

That said, both of these techniques are used successfully by top athletes and lap swimmers all over the world, so it is just up to you to choose which one best suits you. If you are having trouble with water getting up your nose in frontal position, please try the soft palate approach. Truth be told, none of the techniques are perfect. Using a regular swimming nose clip is still the best and easist way to plug your nose, so if you have failed to replicate the above techniques, just get a nose clip and your swimming will be a blast, your nose dry and you might get a second date :).
Safer Swimmer - the must have swim safety device for all open water swimmers