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With Michael Phelps rewriting Olympic history over the last three Olympic swim meets, many people have decided they would like to learn to swim easier and swim faster. Most approach this challenge by using the age old adage of swim coaches everywhere, which is to simply continue to work hard and eventually something will work out for the swimmer. Unfortunately for this approach, while working maybe ten percent of the time, does not work for the vast majority of people.
Swimming is almost always approached as an aerobic sport, which it is to a large extent, and thus the training for it tends to mirror the training of long distance runners, with a tri-fold goal: Train the muscles to withstand the exhaustion of long distances, train the mind to withstand the boredom and pain, and train the heart and lungs to withstand the effort for that period of time. But taking a different approach to learning to swim easier and faster at the very beginning of the training will allow you much greater gains in much less time and with much less frustration and pain.
Swimming should be approached much the same way martial arts is approached: technique is everything, and then once you learn the correct technique, doing it over and over again in the correct manner as the pressure increases, will eventually get you to your goal. So let’s take a look at the technique rules for swimming:
The first thing that you have to realize is that the vast majority of people swim incorrectly. They swim ‘up hill’. Their heads are high, hips lower than their heads, and their feet even lower. This causes the subconscious feeling akin to trying to run up hill on ice in an environment where you cannot breathe. This causes panic, which causes you to raise your head higher, which causes the hips and legs to drop lower, and this just continues to make it harder. Teach yourself to get comfortable in the water with your head perfectly in line with your spine, with your lungs pressing in to the water, which counter balances your hips and legs and brings them to the surface. You should get comfortable pushing your lungs down into the water on your front, your back, and on each side.
The second thing is to realize that hydrodynamics are important. Longer boats go faster than shorter boats. So you have to work to keep your body long, and in one continuous line, from fingertip to toes. Keeping your hands out in front of your body for longer periods of time help you glide more, and keep you from slowing down.
Finally, realize that your hips are the source of your power in the swimming stroke, not the arms or hands. Hands are the absolute last thing you should worry about in the water. They are only important once the rest is taken care of. Your hands should only be ready to grab and hold on to the water when you rotate your hips from side to side. If you use all these tips, then you can get away with going faster with much less effort, because you won’t need to kick or pull, all you have to do is move your hips to each side and put the rest of your body in a position to take advantage of it. Swimming easier, swimming faster, then becomes a reality, since you are swimming smarter, not harder.