Do you want to learn how to swim better?

stop watchAre you a swimmer or a triathlete or a Masters swimmer and wish you could learn how to swim a little faster and with a lot less effort?
And are you sick of reading articles about “ten things you can do right now to improve your swimming” which then ask you for money??
Well, here they are – “ten things you can do right now to improve your swimming” – for free!
Breathe!

Of all the things you can do to improve your swimming, the simplest thing – breathing – is by far the most important and the most effective.
There are three Golden Rules when it comes to breathing and swimming:
Never hold your breath when you swim – it creates tension and tightness – the enemies of effective swimming.
Never have your face in the water without air in your lungs – it creates fear and panic (and thereby tension and tightness).
Change your rate of exhaling based on the number of strokes you take. So if you breathe every two strokes, you need to exhale powerfully through your nose and mouth and time it so that just as your last bubble of breath leaves your lips your head turns to inhale. If you breathe every three, four, five or more strokes, slow down your rate of exhaling so that… just as your last bubble of breath leaves your lips your head turns to inhale.

Stretch your ankles, hips and shoulders;
Stretching is so important in swimming. It might decrease your injury risk. It might help you overcome any current injuries. But one thing stretching will do is to help you get into the right position in the water without excess energy or effort.

The Entry – Exit myth;
One of the most common myths in swimming is that you develop longer strokes by ensuring your hand entry is as far as possible out in front of your body and that your exit – where your hand exits the water, (in fly, back and free) should be way down past your hips. Like most myths, this is completely wrong!
Distance per stroke is not the distance from hand entry to hand exit: it is how effectively between entry and exit that you actually apply force to the water. In fact, the best way to increase your distance per stroke is to learn how to “feel” the water more effectively and in doing so learn to better apply propulsive force – power and pressure – to the water while you are swimming.

Relax more: don’t try harder;
This is another vitally important swimming tip. You can’t swim faster but trying harder. When you were a little kid, your parents yelled “C’mon grit your teeth, clench your fists and try harder”. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. The faster you want to swim, the more relaxed you have to be. Tension is the enemy of speed. When you need to go faster, take a deep breath, relax more and just move your arms and legs a little faster. One more time…the faster you want to swim, the more relaxed you have to be.

Head and Hips: The Perfect Pair.
The relationship between your head and your hips is critical in swimming. If your head is up, your hips will drop down lower in the water making for a poor swimming body position. Swim the way you walk! That is, with your head and hips in the same line as if you were standing or walking normally. Look at the bottom of the pool, keep your hips (backside) level with the surface of the water and from there anything is possible.

Keep your hands “soft” and feel the water;
I’ve seen a lot of drills over the years supposed to improve “feel” of the water. The good old “fist clenched” drill, thousands of sculling drills and countless variations of workouts with paddles all designed to help swimmers develop better feel of the water. And you know what…none of them work any better than just remembering this……”soft-hands”. Keeping your hands “soft” allows you to feel the water and once you can feel the water, you can learn how, when and where to apply force and power to it…and bang!!!!! your swimming improves.

Kick a little faster;
The reason most people don’t get much from their kick is that they try to kick too “big”. Move your feet fast, keep your kicks relatively small – i.e. no deeper or wider than your own hips and don’t allow your heels or toes to come out of the water. And relax…someone once said, “the faster you want to swim, the more relaxed you have to be”. You can’t kick faster by kicking harder – just relax, take a deep breath and move your feet faster.

Keep your head movements small;
Your head is there for thinking – not swimming. That’s what your arms and legs are for. Your arms and legs are designed for movement – move them. But keep your head still or if you have to move it, keep your head movements very small. Because your body will follow your head in the water (i.e. just like it does when you are walking), the more pronounced your head movements are, the more inefficient your body movements will be.

Start your pull slow, then accelerate your hands – and if in doubt…pull straight;
After 50 years of research into swimming motion, swimming mechanics, swimming propulsion and swimming dynamics, even the researchers are not sure how people move through the water. However, two things seem to – excuse the pun – hold water. Firstly, when you start to pull, (with your hands “soft”) start slowly. Give yourself time and the opportunity to feel the water and how, when and where to apply force and power. Then gradually accelerate your hands throughout the stroke. Secondly, forget about complicated pull patterns and “S” shapes etc. just pull backwards in a straight line in fly, back and free (breast is a little different).

Don’t think! Just swim.
And the final tip…..don’t think…just swim. There is a lot of stuff written about swimming – about “hand entry angles” and “rotational axis” etc. etc. It ain’t rocket science. Get in there and swim. Focus on your breathing. Stay relaxed. Keep your hands soft. Kick your feet fast. Keep your head and hips in the one line……and believe or not, you will probably swim very, very well. The rest is just the icing on the cake.

There they are – the Ten Things You Can Do Right Now to Improve your Swimming. Well, what are you waiting for?????

Wayne Goldsmith