Too Lean to Float
Everyone has a weakness they must address prior to attending ANY Special Ops program, but floating and treading water proves difficult for many students who have selected a program with water training as a requirement.
What follows is a question in this regard, and my response.
Hello - Stew Smith, I am now 6 weeks out from shipping with a contract to BUDS and feel like I am in great shape and ready. I have gotten up to running 40 miles a week, swimming with fins a ton, dialing in my PT, and have received certifications in SCUBA and first aid. But I am still concerned about drown proofing -- in particular the floating portion and treading water. I am really lean so I sink like a brick. Do you have any recommendations for this? Thanks for your time. Joshua
Joshua, it sounds like you are as ready as one can be. Your issue is very common among the type of people who get into BUD/S. Being fit with lean muscle mass and low body fat makes floating and treading a gut-check. Be prepared by integrating treading more into your workouts. The good news is that there are exercises you can do to make these events easier. Consider the following:
Tread with no hands. Practice treading water and floating with no hands as often as you can. Mix it into your normal workout every day. In our workouts, we "rest with treading" in between 100-200m swim sets. The way to do that is set up a workout of a 1:1 ratio of swimming to tread times. This means that if it takes you 3 minutes to swim 200m, then you tread for 3 minutes.
Post-run recovery tread. After a long run, a great way to recover is to tread. And tread with no hands to work the hips and legs in all angles the hips will allow. Do scissor kicks, breast stroke kicks, little flutter kicks, and egg beater kicks (more of an alternating breast stroke kick). I have provided the following video links for your reference: tread, eggbeater kick.
Use your lungs. Individuals that are super lean and high in muscle mass need extra help. You have two balloons in your chest called lungs -- keep them filled with air while treading / floating. As an example of how to train your lungs, we recently did a tread / float session for 30 minutes with a group and taught them to do the following:
1 - Inhale and hold your breath for 5 seconds while treading or floating.
2 - Quickly exhale while kicking harder, as you tend to sink when the air in your lungs leaves.
3 - Quickly inhale and you will feel a more natural float for those 5-6 seconds, allowing you to kick less.
During the drown-proofing float, keeping air in your lungs in the key. Bend forward slightly so that your upper back / neck is on the surface.
You really have to think of these events as vertical swimming. If I were to say, "Swim for 10 minutes," you would have no issues. But the idea of treading for 10 minutes mentally challenges many of you. Know about that mental block going in. Knowing that treading is something you should mentally prepare for and it is going to be a gut check will, help you when you start to get winded from "just treading."
Embrace the suck of treading and mentally be prepared to put out.
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