I’ve already written quite a few “how to” posts on swimming. Here are the links to a few of them:
That being said, I recently helped a friend with swimming lessons and realized that the difficulties she was having are pretty common things I see in the pool in new swimmers. They are most definitely fixable with hard work and practice, so don’t feel discouraged that “swimming is too hard.”
The first roadblock is breathing improperly. Breathing is crucial because if you do it wrong, you’re going to throw your body out of alignment mid-stroke and most likely end up sputtering and thrashing around.
- Exhale under the water, or just before you break the surface to inhale. Don’t make the common mistake of exhaling the second you go under the water. Hold your breath for a few strokes, exhale, and then break the surface and inhale quickly, turning back into the water.
- When doing the Freestyle stroke, keep your head down while you are swimming. Do not lift your head up out of the water and look forward. That will throw everything off.
- When it’s time to breath, you rotate your whole body to the side, gracefully, then you breath and turn back down. Check out the video HERE demonstrating it. You only turn your head to breath. Period. As you can see in the below photo, when breathing you are NOT lifting your head above the water:
Tip on correcting this: practice with a kickboard. Hold onto the kickboard and kick with your feet, practicing your breathing. Do this for as many laps as you need to in order to get into the habit of breathing gracefully to the side.
The second roadblock is improper arm strokes. I see this one a lot at the pool and I think it’s a pretty common mistake.
- Don’t be a splasher. If you’re doing Freestyle the impulse is to make the stroke a wide, sweeping stroke where your arms are completely straight. This is not the case. If you are doing it this way you probably notice a lot of splashing and slapping with your hands. You will also notice that you don’t have much strength in yours arms.
- With proper swimming technique, your arm is bent at an angle and your hand slices downward into the water at an angle, NOT slapping onto the surface of the water or pulling with a straight arm.
The third roadblock is thrashing with the legs. Wasting too much energy kicking incorrectly will just tire you out.
- Swimming is mostly upper body work. Your feet should be essentially drafting behind you. You need to find your power in your arms, shoulders and back to propel yourself through the water.
- The flutter kick is a small, graceful kick NOT a big, thrashing mess of kicks. It should be just under the surface of the water without tons of splashing. Lots of splashing = wasted energy that can be better used.
- Kick with your feet and your hips NOT your knees.
Here is a video of the proper way to flutter kick:
As you can see, it’s a very simple kick.
Finally, one tip for mastering Freestyle and conquering these mistakes: know other strokes. I suggest the Breaststroke as an alternative stroke to switch to in between sessions of Freestyle. It will help you catch your breath, get your heart rate back to normal and renew your energy to switch back to Freestyle.
QUESTION: What is the hardest part for you about swimming?