December 15, 2017

Go With The Flow

Late Season Triathlon Racing

I generally swim two to three times a week early in the morning. When I do, I find it’s hard NOT to look at the form of other swimmers in the lanes around me. Yes, I’m a coach but I try not to give advice unless it’s asked for.

Just this week I was watching a guy that was swimming “angry.” He was thrashing at the water like he was mad at it or something. He did pay me a nice compliment, however. He said I swim like Michael Phelps.

I thanked him for his nice compliment but thought to myself about the flaws in my swim stroke. We all have them.
My swim workouts consist of some laps where I swim easy and some hard. During the easy laps I’m concentrating on one element of my form. The one element I always think about is how “fluid” I am – in other words, am I “going with the flow”?

If you’ll look at the strokes of the really good swimmers, like Kevin Koskella, the TriSwimCoach guy, he’s as smooth and fluid as you’ll ever see. Even when he’s really cranking he’s very fluid.

The reason for that is the good swimmers know that you won’t win a battle against the water so they swim with the water. Makes sense, doesn’t it? But what does that mean?

Some people think that good swimmers have amazing upper body strength and if you’re strong you can swim faster. While upper body strength is important, it isn’t the secret to fast swimming, proper form is. Heck, when I compete I’ve probably got the skinniest arms of any guy in my age group, but when I race I’m usually among the top guys.

How do you become fluid? Let me give you two tips here.

First, your strokes should be long . . . as long as you can make them. When you extend your arm to take a stroke, really stretch it out there. If you do, you’ll also find that this stretch also helps your body roll gently from side to side. Pretend as if each stroke were the last just before you are going to touch the wall, but the wall is just 6” out of reach. That will help you really get the extension you need.

Second, proper arm position is critical to a good, fluid stroke. As soon as you’re ready for the “catch” phase of your stroke (where you pull back) you should lift your elbow. This allows your hand and your forearm to “catch” a larger volume of water. Imagine swimming in just 12” of water and how you would have to take “shallow” strokes to avoid hitting the bottom of the pool. You’d have to lift your elbow, wouldn’t you?

Applying these two simple tips will help you swim smoother, and faster, if you’ll practice.

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