Dance With the Water–Part 1

Here's a question to ponder: What one thing do you need to swim, besides yourself?

Yes, the question is very simple and not a trick question. The answer is water! So many athletes struggle with their swimming because they don't really consider the water.

When poor swimmers show up to the pool or begin to think about their swimming, they only take themselves into account, almost ignoring the water. Ignoring the water is like trying to dance alone to a song meant for couples. Swimming is all about the interaction of the human body and water, so we must better understand the water and what it is telling us before we can better assess our own movements within the act of swimming.

Have you ever been swimming and nothing felt right? You struggle to find your rhythm and your stroke doesn't feel smooth. Then all of sudden, you find your groove and swimming feels so much easier. It's like you can hold the rhythm forever.

Nearly everyone has had this happen to them if they've been swimming for any significant length of time. When this happened to you, did the water change what it was doing? No, of course not. It was doing the same thing the whole time.

What changed in those moments was your perception of and reaction to the cues from the water. The interaction of you and the water suddenly smoothed out. In that moment you were "dancing" with the water.

If you understand the need to interact and dance with the water, then here is another question to ponder: In the dance of swimming, who leads and who follows? The answer may surprise you. The water leads! You must follow the lead of the water.

If your timing with the water and your stroke is off, it's because you are not following the lead of the water. The water determines when you can take the next stroke or begin the next movement, not you. You must wait for the signals the water gives.

Have you ever seen a dance couple who can move quickly and impressively? You can see the female follow the lead of the male, almost as though she knows exactly what he will do next. They know and understand the cues to look for. They can anticipate the next movement and pick up on the smallest cue to keep the rhythm and speed of the movement quick. But when you watch them, it flows without any mistakes.

This is the same in the water. The swimmer must dance with the water, waiting for the cue before beginning the next set of movements and progressing through the water. The better a swimmer is, the better they pick up on these cues and can keep their turnover fast and effective.

So what are the cues swimmers need to learn to pick up on from the water?

Over the next few weeks I will share some of the cues which are greatly overlooked by poor and beginning swimmers, and share some of the videos of drills you can find in my swim skill training plans to help learn these. These drills help teach recognition of the cues from the water, as well as develop skills and speed within the water.

Part 2 explains a drill that works on improving stroke count, speed and efficiency. Other articles will include curious things like tennis balls and rolling-over, which are all included in the plans to help you learn how to "dance" with the water.

If you're struggling to learn the "dance" of swimming, check out our section on swimming techniques, tips, and more and then sign up for a swimming event.

Jim Vance is a USAT Level 2 and Elite Coach for TrainingBible Coaching, and a professional triathlete. Questions or comments can be sent to You can also follow his writings and training advice at his coaching blog,

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