Wednesday, December 19, 2007

How To Swim Like A Fish

In swimming, seeing is believing

As someone who learnt to swim at the age of 4, swimming feels pretty second nature to me. But 30 years on, I’m still learning how to swim like a fish.

One of the best ways to develop good technique is to watch elite swimmers. There are plenty of swimming events to use as reference. When you watch the best swimmers, you begin to notice what works. Even in a lane with 8 swimmers, slight variations in technique separate the fastest swimmers from the slowest. The fitness levels and strength of elite swimmers is negligibly different – well, that’s arguable – but the point is technique is all important.

Coaches often make the mistake of commenting on a swimmer’s stroke, repeating themselves ad nauseum. There’s a very simple solution: make a video recording of yourself swimming in the pool. Not just one length, 10. Swim them hard, and watch how your stroke falls apart as the arms get tired. When you watch yourself swim, it’s not necessary to say anything about the stroke because defects are immediately obvious.

That said, here are a couple of pointers to bear in mind while swimming. This is not only important for amateur or masters swimmers, even the best swimmers need to maintain a mental memory (as opposed to muscle memory) of good swimming form:

- Visualize that you’re pulling yourself up a waterfall. Limbs projecting off a straight line, or wobbling legs, are going to be in the way.
- Stretch your stroke, making sure the length of each stroke is full – entering in a straight line with the line of the body, and pulling past the hips.
- Roll the hips and shoulders with the head when breathing – this allows for a long stroke, and puts less of the body in the way of the water.
- Remember that the hand and forearm form a paddle together, not just the hand.
- Concentrate on gliding with the arms, and feeling the water – finding the best pressure when pulling the water. This often means the arms maintaining right hands to the direction the body is moving.

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