Tag Archives: swimming

The Smell of Chlorine

WordPress does a nice job of monitoring what terms people enter at search engines that subsequently direct them to our blogs. It turns out that many of the searches that lead people to HalfAwake are along the lines of “how can I swim without water going up my nose”. These keywords are being directed here via my “Sink or Swim” post, where I discuss my own fear of water going up my nose, and my eventual acceptance that there’s not much you can do about it.


I’d like to elaborate on this issue a bit. First of all, as far as your ability to continue living is concerned, water going up your nose is not a serious problem unless it goes up so far that you begin to inhale it. My friend from highschool Earl could string a wet noodle into his nostril and back out of his mouth and then use it to floss his tonsils, and he seems to be OK. I don’t know anything about the physiology of the nose, but I think it’s a generally sensitive area, and that is probably why getting water up there is uncomfortable for most people (probably not Earl though). Furthermore, if you are panicked or nervous when the water does enter your nose, I think you are more likely to actievely pull it into your lungs. As I said in my previous post, getting water up my nose got less bothersome for me once I put myself through it many times. The water still goes in there, it just doesn’t make me want to call for the lifeguard anymore.

That being said, you can take steps to help prevent water from entering your nose. Here are the things that I have empirically found to help:

  • Think about the position of your head when you jump in. Experiment and see if certain positions work better for you.
  • Also think about the position of your head when you do rotary breathing. I’m still a very weak swimmer — I can barely swim fifty meters at the altitude I’m living at now. I don’t understand it well enough to draw a picture, but I have learned that at certain angles, my nose is much more likely to take on water during rotary breathing. If I’m careful, I can avoid it.
  • Make sure you take a deep breath before going under water or jumping in.
  • I’ve never used them, but my friend Paul had alot of success with nose-clips. They do keep the water out of your nose, but may also cause some uncomfort in your ears if you swallow while you have them on.
  • Practice ‘bobs’ (dunk your head, exhale rapidly, come back up, take a deep breath, repeat). When you do bobs, some water goes up your nose from the force as you enter the water, and from the bubbles as you blow the air out. Start out doing the bobs slowly, and only do a few. If your can work to the point where you can do many consecutive bobs, it will probably help you learn how to avoid getting as much water in your nose (and how to tolerate that water which you cannot avoid).
  • Holding your nose when you jump in helps, of course, but it’s sort of like putting a bandaid on your headache.

Let me reiterate again that I’m a terrible swimmer and certainly not a doctor of any sort. If water going into your nose makes you cough or have trouble breathing, then don’t push yourself. I’m only suggesting that water going part-way up the nostril isn’t always as bad as you may fear, and you might be able to learn to manage it better.

Author’s Note: I just saw that one search for “water up nose pain excruciating” led someone to my blog. Please, if water going into your nose is causing any pain, let alone excruciating pain, see a doctor.


Posted by on July 23, 2007 in No Easy Days



Sink or Swim

I’ve wanted to do a triathlon for many years. I love running, and I like biking. The only problem is that I can’t swim.

Or at least that I couldn’t up until very recently.

Learn to Swim






(Someone who is not me swimming.)

I took swim lessons when I was in second grade, but generally hated it more than I hated painful orthodontic procedures. It did not come naturally, I loathed putting my face under water, and in high school I even had an irrational fear of water itself (sprung in part out of reading Seventh Son).

This winter I took a beginner’s swim class, and I’ve now graduated from “water incompetent” to “mildly aqua challenged”. In the process I had a number of fun experiences besides learning the crawl and backstroke:

Under the Sea– Before taking this class, I never opened my eyes under water. I think this contributed a lot to my general lack of comfort in the pool. After my first swim lesson it dawned on me that swim goggles would be a great investment. The first time I went under with the goggles I realized that watching the sub-surface scenery is part of what makes swimming so fun and appealing. If your eyes are always closed when you go underwater, you miss out on all the underwater tea parties! (Not to mention that it’s easier to overcome a fear of drowning if you can see the bottom of the pool and recognize that it’s not getting any closer).

Water Smells Bad – I’ve always had a fear of water going up my nose, and I think this is why I never liked putting my face under water. Well, in this class I had to get over my insistence on holding my nose every time I dunked my head pretty fast. In the first lesson, we practiced “bobs” (dunking your head repeatedly while exhaling underwater and inhaling above water). When I asked the instructor how to prevent water from going up my nose he said “you know, I’m sorry, but in this class you might get a little bit of water up your nose”.

I’ve talked to several friends about this, and they all insist that water doesn’t go up their nose unless they breath in underwater. They politely and condescendingly explain to me that I must be breathing water up my nose, because that’s the only way water can get in there, and of course they know better how I’m breathing than I do.

Well, after taking this course, I’m convinced that they are wrong. I can dunk my head now, and I still feel the water entering my nose in various positions. Growing up swimming and learning to just deal with water being in your nose and at the back of your throat is an important part of learning to swim. Of course, if you gently dunk your head and hold your breath, water won’t go up your nose… But I also think that there are many situations where you might do everything else right and still get water up your nose, and I’m just not totally used to it yet (though I have developed a bit of a tolerance).

A Whole New World – Halfway through the class I decided to try opening my eyes under water without goggles. It seemed that this practical experience might come in handy if I were ever on a sinking boat without my goggles. I finally forced myself to do it, and I was amazed by what I saw (almost as amazed as when I first opened my eyes with the goggles). The world looked so strange and wiggly… It was definetely harder to see distinct shapes and people. What surprised me the most was that everything was so BRIGHT. I even asked around the class to see if anyone who could explain to me why the underwater would be so much brighter than the air. Some people suggested that it was an effect of reflection, and Paul went as far as to suggest that I was actually having visions of the future.

It wasn’t until I was on my way to my car in the parking lot that Paul said “Maybe it was brighter because your goggles are tinted?”

I felt pretty dumb after that, but it was the good kind of dumb where you can’t stop laughing at yourself.

For Mature Audiences Only – Will, a friend who happened to see one of our swim lessons, had the “call of the week” when he pointed out that Paul looked like he was practicing giving head when he did his bobs.

It’s Not That Funny– One of the younger class participants (maybe 19 years old) found it necessary to approach me EVERY SINGLE CLASS and tell me that he felt like he could fall asleep on the water. He would swim or float over to me, say “I think I could just fall asleep on the water.. no I seriously could” in a slow southern drawl, and then float away as if the repeated demonstration of his tranquility would convince me of his aqua-narcolepsy.

The same student once accidentally poked me in the nipple when he was practicing his front kick, and my natural response was of course to let out a shrill feminine scream. He thought that was hilarious, and for some reason from then on would periodically approach me in the pool to pat and/or gently caress my shoulder. I’m usually not a big fan of strangers touching me with my shirt off, but honestly this minor discomfort paled in comaprison to listening to him talk about falling asleep on the water every time I saw him.

Swimming is About Comfort in the Water – Last week I passed the swim test at the end of the course. It consisted of swimming 3-pool lengths; one length had to be front crawl, one had to be backstroke, and the third was the swimmer’s choice. This was *hard*, but it was also something I couldn’t have imagined doing four months ago, so I guess I now feel that I know how to swim. More importantly, I am much more comfortable around the water. I can jump in and swim around and put my head under the water without thinking too much about it. I think that’s a good basis for whatever I do in the sport in the future.

Overall this has been a great learning experience because it was challenging and attainable with measurable results. I highly recomend it for anyone else who has been meaning to try it out.


Posted by on May 7, 2007 in No Easy Days