October 19, 2017

Triathlon Swim Series, Part 1: Feeling the Water

To the disappointment of many, I don’t think you need drills or a bunch of accessories to be a fast swimmer. I know how much you love to repeat those drills every week but I wonder how much they really help.

I also question the sense kick boards, pull buoys, paddles, snorkels and all the other swim junk and if they really help you. We refer to them as “swim crack” because people get hooked on them and think they can’t live without them.

When it comes down to it, swimming isn’t all that complex. When you break it down to its simplest elements you’ll see what I mean. In this series of articles I’ll address each of the primary elements to show you just how easy it is.

Yes, I know, this sounds like one of those infomercials where the guy who’s a concert pianist is going to teach you how to play perfectly in three easy lessons. Being a fair swimmer myself perhaps a good swim stroke comes naturally to me . . . but in fact it hasn’t.

I swam competitively from the ages of seven to 17. In all that time none of my swim coaches talked to us about our form. We just did what we thought we were supposed to do. And like a lot of other kids, I developed problems in my shoulders because we were swimming “flat” in the water (no body rotation). I’ve had surgery on my left shoulder and my right could use it as well.

Since that time I’ve had some swim coaching and two different philosophies have emerged and another I never tried (credited to the YMCA). Having been a student of the freestyle swim stroke I’ve come to my own conclusions which I’ll share with you in the next several editions of the newsletter.

The first thing I want you to try is to “feel” how you’re swimming. Be conscious of everything you’re doing in the water. For example, in the pool just this morning, I was swimming next to a guy whose hand entry went from the surface of the water and dove straight down to the bottom of the pool. In essence he was slowing himself down by doing this because his entire hand and arm were blocking his forward progress.

The elements you should be thinking about while you’re swimming are the following:

  • What is my body doing? Am I flat in the water or is my body gently rocking from side-to-side like I might do in a canoe? Your body will move faster through the water on your side than flat in the water.
  • What are my arms doing? Where are they entering the water? How deep are they going? What position are my arms when I “catch” the water? How far back are they going before I start my stroke? Your arm position can make all the difference in your speed.
  • Where is my head? Is my head still or is it moving? Where your head goes your body will go. If you’re moving it up and down your body will follow.
  • What are my legs and feet doing? How much of your speed is coming from your legs?

Next week we’ll delve into one of these elements and help you get faster immediately.

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