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4 Lessons From a Swim Clinic

2016/7/21 10:47:41

Did you teach yourself to swim freestyle? Maybe you picked up tips from friends or at the local pool. You can swim enough laps to call it a workout and you can even get through the first leg of your local triathlon, but are you swimming efficiently? Probably not.

Freestyle is not just about rotating your arms and kicking your feet. You know this if you have trouble keeping your hips up or catching a decent breath. Swimmers that make it look effortless know where to pierce the water with their hands, how to get full extension, how much to rotate on each side, when to breathe, and more.

So, why can't you swim like that? Here are four lessons I learned at a recent Total Immersion swim clinic that might help you, too.

#1: Proper Swim Mechanics Comes Before Speed

Most new swimmers think they can speed up with a faster arm rotation and a speedier flutter kick. When actually, the first thing you should do to improve your speed is improve your swimming form. Proper form helps you use all your energy to propel yourself forward instead of wasting energy as you fight to stay afloat.

#2: Your Actions May Be Counterproductive

It's true: Certain elements of your stroke might be slowing you down instead of propelling you forward.

One of the most common counterproductive actions is pushing the water away from you at the front end of the stroke. After the fingers enter the water, some swimmers reach forward into a full arm extension. During this extension, the fingertips and palm bend slightly upward, pushing against the water instead of slicing through it.
The kick is another place you might be creating more drag than propulsion. Total Immersion teaches the two-beat kick. This is one kick per stroke that works in conjunction with the opposite arm.

It's all about timing: Total Immersion coach Jan Javier compares it to swinging your arms when walking. Try swinging the right arm forward as you step forward with your right foot. It's counterproductive. In the water, you should purposefully kick the left foot as the right arm reaches forward.

#3: Video Analysis Is a Good Thing

When I heard that Javier would be doing video stroke analysis, I pictured lots of highly technical video equipment for the pool and a machine similar to a polygraph for analysis. I was surprised when all he pulled out was a point-and-shoot camera, waterproof of course.

Anyone can use a point and shoot. Buy one or borrow one. Either way, it's amazing what you can learn by watching yourself swim, especially when you can see it in slow motion.

Some of the common mistakes from our swimming clinic were:

  • Cross-over of the arms: When your hands literally cross over the middle line and enter the water on top of each other.
  • Late breathing: Each breath should be taken as the hand (opposite to the side you are breathing on) first enters the water.
  • Pushing against the water at the front end of the stroke.
  • Counterproductive kicks.

Once you know what you need to work on, watch the pros and find out how to do it right. Search for Michael Phelps or Shinji Takeuchi on YouTube and watch a few of their videos in slow motion. It's educational...and humbling.

#4: Coaches and Clinics Are Valuable Tools

You had coaches in youth sports, high school, even in college; why shouldn't you have a coach for your adult sports, too?

Think about how many drills, tips, and training methods were handed to you in scholastic sports. Self-coached athletes will typically hit a wall with their training. Coaches can help take you to the next level.

Not convinced? Here are five more reasons to hire a coach (or take a clinic):

  • They do the thinking and research for you so you can just practice.
  • They are great cheerleaders.
  • They help hold you accountable.
  • They can assess what you're doing wrong and help you fix it.
  • They have all the best secrets.


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4 Lessons From a Swim Clinic

Did you teach yourself to swim freestyle? Maybe you picked up tips from friends or at the local pool

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