Sunday, August 26, 2012

Alex Learning The Survival Stroke - New Indoor Pool



Song:  Will You Be There (Theme From Free Willy)

Rendition:  Calikokat



We went to a new neighborhood indoor pool (15 min away).

This one has open swim on Saturdays
(this is going to be our indoor swimming pool from now on...
it is heated year round to 86 degrees).

I will be teaching Alex the very basic strokes...
how to swim underwater...
and the all important survival stroke...
every Saturday.

I will detail the survival stroke later in this article.


For most of our swim...
it was just Alex, and I, in the pool.


We are reviewing the breast stroke.


Although this pool is smaller...
it is perfect for us as the deepest it goes is 5 feet.




I am teaching Alex to swim underwater.



I am teaching Alex the basics of the survival stroke...
the frog kick and small sculling of the water with the hands.



The survival float.

The basic premise is to naturally increase the body's buoyancy by increasing
the amount of air in the lungs...even at rest.  It then becomes a relatively simple
matter of using minimal motion and energy expenditure to propel yourself in the
desired direction.

By floating on your back...
and by arching your back (thrusting your diaphragm outwards)...
it allows the normal resting lung reserve to be more full...
which makes you naturally more buoyant and tire less easily.

The main source of forward drive comes from a modified frog kick.
The modification comes from using the least amount of leg motion to effect
the forward motion of the body.  The whole idea is for efficiency...not speed.

You allow yourself to naturally exhale and inhale
(which is partial...since very little energy is expended)...
during the stroke...a short "ahh" for exhalation...
and a longer relaxed inhalation.

The stroke is done at a leisurely pace...
perhaps one every few seconds.
The idea is to kick and glide...using as little energy as possible.
Think how a squid swims...that is the idea
(the rhythm of it...the frog kick being your jet like propulsion).

The arms give very little in way of propulsion...
just as a fish's forward fins act during swimming.

I had demonstrated this to Alex by locking my hands behind my back
and survival stroking with very little forward motion lost
(you may easily swim with your hands tied behind your back...
or even with your hands and feet tied...
by merely substituting the dolphin kick for the frog kick).

With the survival stroke...
a person may swim for 10s of miles easily...in temperate waters.

This stroke may be taught in one lesson...
and it could save many lives.

Drowning happens because of two basic reasons...
panic results in overextending the body by using inefficient flailing
and tiring the body beyond its capacity to recover.
The person can no longer keep himself afloat because he is relying
on the flailing.  Just as one may only sprint for short distances before the body
starts shutting down...the muscles may no longer contract...
when this happens in water...well...

When in a waterborne survival situation...
it is a marathon...and not a sprint.

The other is in cold waters.
In relatively short periods in cold waters...
hypothermia is the greatest danger.

Even before actual hypothermia sets in...
the body starts to go numb and all energy seems to be lost
(the body shunts the blood away from the extremities to the core to 
limit heat loss and to provide survival temperature to the organs).

I will go into two instances I have been in 
where I had to use the survival stroke to keep myself from drowning...
one in rough ocean conditions (temperate waters)...
and one in very cold waters (snow melt river).

I lived in Hawaii for 4 years (from 17 - 21 years of age).

I loved to swim in the ocean...
mostly in Waimea Bay during the winter swells...
and other beaches for the summer
(I was an avid body surfer).

Once when a particularly large set rolled in...
I had tried numerous times to get back to shore...
but the waves were so big...I was just being rolled in the shore breaks...
and dragged back out to sea.  After numerous times of being slammed
to the sand and rolled underwater...I was tiring.  The large waves had set
up a powerful rip tide which had dragged at least 30 people out to sea.
The lifeguards were busy paddling their extra longboards...
retrieving the ones a mile out.  While I knew enough to swim perpendicular 
to the rip tide...I still couldn't get to shore as the waves were so large.
To have fought the power of the ocean in my depleted state would have resulted
in my drowning.  I merely survival floated to catch my breath...and survival swam
just enough to keep from being tossed on the rocks near the tip of the bay.

I stayed out there until the set subsided...
and I then swam back in.

Another time was actually more dangerous.
There exists in California...many snow melt fed rivers...
which in spring...and into summer...
flow fast and COLD.  Every year...people drown because
they underestimate the effects of the frigid waters on the body.

Decades ago...
I had decided to swim in one of these rivers for the first time.

I knew my ability to swim.
What I hadn't realized, at the time, was the dramatic effects of swimming
in frigid waters for extended periods of time...the deteriorating condition
of the body...especially after heavy exertion.

I was in the middle of a snow melt river...
the current which was stronger than I had realized...
and the effects of the numbing cold on my arms and legs worse 
than I had imagined.

I was soon unable to use them effectively...
my body felt as if I had just finished running a long hard sprint...
all of my energy was being sapped...and I was getting light headed.
I knew then that to try to continue to conventionally swim would be to drown.

I switched to a survival stroke and made it to the side and just lay there recovering
my energy...my body had felt leaden.

In a situation where there is no hope for rescue...
and some milage to cover in cold waters...
what is paramount is protection from the frigid effects of the water...
while making headway toward your own rescue.

The key to cold survival is insulation.
In air or water...there exists a layer of warmer air or water...right next to the skin.  
Heat loss still exists...but is greatly accelerated whenever that layer is disturbed.  

Now, again...
we are not talking about using your clothes as a life preserver...
not as something to float you as you await rescue.

What I am talking about is using your clothes as a makeshift wet suit.

The whole premise behind the wet suit...
besides its inherent ability to insulate against heat transfer...
 is to trap the layer of water next to the skin...
the one that gets warmed by the body...
and to prevent it from getting replaced by newer...colder water.

The whole idea is to arrange your clothes to prevent that warmer layer of water
next to your body from being replaced by cold water as you survival swim.

When there is nothing but your clothes...
your pants cuffs could be torn a few inches and the resulting material
could be used to tie off the pant legs.

Your shirt collar should be buttoned...
as well as your shirt sleeves.  The bottom of the shirt
would be tied off at the bottom.

The whole idea is to prevent new water
 from replacing the warmer water next to your skin...
as you survival stroke.

The beauty of the survival swim is the fact that you would wish to remain
fully clothed (even your jacket) as you would not be using any upper body strokes...
and so you would not need to keep your arms free.

This would allow you to retain more of your core heat.

Remember...
the idea is not to keep from getting wet...
but to prevent a steady current of cold water from washing away
the warmer water near your skin.

And also remember...
with your ability to survival float...
floatation is not your concern...
keeping warm is.



After our swimming...
as we had to go shopping at a local Asian market...
we decided to eat first.

We had decided to try a new Mexican restaurant on the way.


Alex loves his fish...in this case...Trout.


Alex always finishes all his fish down to the bones...
he even scours the meat off of the head.

So...
a hearty meal...
a successful day of swimming...

What is the musical tie in?

Hmmm...
the music from Free Willy 
(a killer whale...and yes...I know...they are not whales but toothed porpoises)...
and a middle aged retired man swimming...
one who has free access to All You Can Eat buffets...
it is a joke that tells itself  :)

2 comments:

  1. I enjoyed this post very much... I will try to remember the survival stroke so that I can practice it the next time we go to a pool, and then hopefully teach it to my son. The whole idea of using your clothing to keep the warmer water around you is a great technique, one that I did not know about. Thanks!

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  2. I am amazed that this isn't the first lesson in any swimming lesson. Alex was, of course, taught how to float. But drown proofing is necessary when going beyond the pool...where you may have to swim for miles. Anytime a person goes boating...all should be drown proofed.

    In the military...we had to do it fully clothed and geared (and to be able to take off the gear...let it go 15 feet down...then swim down and put it all back on before surfacing)...just as a preliminary test to try out for some of the schools. We had to show no hesitation at heights or water. The survival swim will give people the confidence to survive where they should. It is so simple...it makes most cases where people would have otherwise drowned...completely survivable.

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