When I learnt swimming properly at the age of 16, I thought there was something wrong with me, most of my friends were able to easily float, I seemed to struggle. As I refined my swimming technique, I realized my sinking legs tend to slow me down. I tried and I tried I couldn’t make it float, Teachers and friends keep on saying, just relax, allow your body to float, it seems unreal to them that one person doesn’t float as well as they do.
But as I started to learn to relax my swim, and doing open water swims, I realized that my legs sank less. As I taught others to swim, I began to see a pattern. Here are a few points I realized:
- Most women float regardless if they were skinny or not
- Most obese/overweight/fat people float.
- Most runners have sinking legs
- and in very rare occurences, ripped people, who have six packs? sink… like a rock… (regardless of how relax i tell them, or how much air they breath in and hold, they just sink slower)
- the body interacts with the Pool water and Sea water differently. in general most people, if not all, float better in sea water.
So I have come to my own conclusions base on a few scientific facts.
- Most women float, because in general they have higher body fat percentage then men. In general a healthy body fat percentage for a guy can go as low as 5% while a female will go as low as 15%.
- Fat is less dense than water, so most people with more fat, will float better.
- Most runners have more muscles than fat in their legs compared to people, in addition, runners experience a lot of impact in their legs, and in turn may cause their leg bones to be more dense than normal.
- ripped people have low body fat percentage, as I understand it as low as 5%.
- Sea water is more dense than pure water, of fresh water. therefore the body is more buoyant in sea water.
But I have learnt to accept my stature as a sinker. there are pros and cons.
- Can sink and dive
- and due to that, have more control of movement in the water.
- Still untested, the lack of buoyancy might mean that there is more inertial momentum (where is a physicist when you need one?)
- generally sinking legs mean more muscle and more power, therefore they can actually propel themselves a lot faster.
- Sink, I can actually sink effortlessly in the deep diving pool, I just need to breath out a few breaths. Thankfully for me, I still float in sea water (one of the fears I have, I have yet to ask my sinking students to try and tell me about it.
- will use more energy to move upwards in addition to forwards
- due to sinking legs, the forward motion is slowed down by the body’s profile which is less streamlined in the water.
- can be easily relaxed in the water
- they don’t have to try too hard to breath
- most of their energy can be spent on moving forward rather than keeping them upward.
- since their legs easily float, they can streamline in the water a lot easier. and can glide further without much effort.
- they will find it difficult to sink or to dive
- and relevent to that may find it more difficult to move around in the water
- In worst cases, the body will float significantly making it difficult for the swimmer to balance and move in the water
When I teach people to swim, I actually assess first whether they are one or the other. It most cases for the sinkers, they will float (at least their head and chest) if they take in a deep breath and hold it in, and will start to sink when they let it out. A floater might even feel wrong for not being able to sink, as they can see their instructor (me) sinking to the floor, and they try to follow. Either can panic as they float or sink in the water. I share with them these facts and its pros and cons, and tell them they are who they are, and nothing can really change it in the short term. For now they just have to deal with it, and just use whatever is theirs to take advantage.
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