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4 Ways to Improve Your Swim Technique

2016/7/21 10:45:54

This time of year is when many triathletes are either winding down their offseason or ramping up their base period. The early base period often includes a focus on getting back into the endurance groove and gradually increasing both mileage and yardage.

It can also be an excellent time to work on technique. That is certainly the case with swimming, where technique is arguably the most important of any of the three triathlon legs.

For most triathletes, the offseason was spent maintaining a certain level of fitness, or in some cases rehabbing sore muscles and joints from major fall races.

The months ahead will feature increasing speed and intensity, which means that if you are going to spend some time working on swim technique and form, now is the time to do it.

More: 3 Workouts to Improve Your Swim

For beginner triathletes, you might be ready to embark on your first-ever training plan. Either way, you likely have a window where the goal is simply to add time in the pool, and that can be an excellent time to build the right skills for this race season.

Here are four things you can focus on this spring as you hit the pool:

Learn to Breathe Bilaterally

Most swimmers naturally prefer breathing to one side over the other. Bilateral breathing means you can breathe on alternating sides, or every third stroke. Even if you don't always use it, it's a handy skill to have come race day. Bilateral breathing allows you to switch sides with ease if you ever find yourself trying to sight buoys on the "wrong" side of your body, or catch a breath if there is a lot of commotion on your natural breathing side.

Breathing in an open-water swim is different than breathing in a lap pool. While there is no substitute for open-water swimming when it comes to getting race-ready, you can use the lap pool to develop some key bilateral breathing skills that will transfer to the rivers, lakes and oceans.

More:Tips to Learn Bilateral Breathing

Practice the Perfect Breath

While it's important to breathe bilaterally, the very act of taking a breath is one that requires some practice, and this time of year is a great time to re-learn how to do that. The perfect breathing head motion will hardly disrupt your momentum while allowing you to get all of the air you need.

Here are a couple things to remember: First, you should strive to take your breath from the small concave dip of air that is created by your swim motion. Doing this will help you avoid lifting your head too high while swimming. One way to practice this is to always keep your lower goggle underwater whenever you take a breath.

Second, you should look slightly back, but not too far, when you breathe. This helps keep your head in alignment.

More:4 Steps to Easy Breathing in Freestyle

Work on Your Stroke Form

We all develop bad habits when we swim, and it can be hard to correct them later in the season when you are focusing on speed and intensity. Now is a great time to work on your body positioning and stroke.

It all starts with your head, so be sure that your head and neck are relaxed, and that you are tilting your head slightly forward as you swim. Doing so makes you more streamlined and has a positive domino effect on the positioning of your neck and spine. 

Be sure to do a nice, smooth S-shaped stroke that is long and complete. Many triathletes who have short, hard pulls would be better-served to have longer pulls that are more relaxed, as this creates maximum momentum and efficiency.

More:10 Elements of the Perfect Freestyle Stroke

Join a Masters Swim Program

Masters swim groups are organized classes of swimmers who get together regularly to swim under the instruction of a coach. A common Masters setup might be 10 swimmers of varying ability with one coach. 

While there is some structure to the workout, much of it will be focused on getting your yardage in while getting tips on form and technique. A Masters swim can be a great place to get tips on technique while providing the benefit of a group workout.

You don't have to commit for a long period of time—a typical Masters class runs for about a month, during which time there are usually eight classes. Most health clubs and YMCAs offer a Masters swimming program.

More:Everything You Wanted to Know About Masters Swimming

Focusing on your swim technique now can shave valuable time off your next triathlon and leave you with more energy for the bike and run.

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