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.