swimming tips

Holiday Gift Guide: Swimmers

Holiday Gift Guide: Swimmers

It’s that season! The season of shopping. If you’re like me and hate big crowds– avoiding Black Friday like I’ll get the Bubonic Plague if I go–head to the internets! I love Amazon shopping.

If you have a swimmer in your life, or want to become one yourself, here are some great gift ideas to start out with.

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Swimming Buoy–I love my buoy! It’s a great tool to have for swimming laps. It helps develop your upper body AND it can give your lower body a rest after some hard laps.

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Swimming Paddles— These are also great for developing upper body strength. The paddles are also wonderful tools for beginners learning how to freestyle. Wearing paddles helps you improve your form (and stop slapping your hands into the water).

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Swimming Cap–I never swim without my cap. It protects my hair from the chlorine damage and keeps my hair out of my eyes. It’s so useful for people with long hair!

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Swimming Goggles–They really do make the experience so much nicer. I see people swimming laps in the pool without them and they just look miserable. I don’t know how they do it without goggles.

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Nose Clips–I never swim without mine!

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Swimming Flippers–Some people really love swimming with fins and a snorkel. Give it a try if you want to. Make sure your ankles are pretty strong before using flippers or you could experience some discomfort.

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Swimming Drills–This book intrigues me. I haven’t read it yet but I kinda want it for myself! I do my own drills in the pool. I have a base routine and then make up drills for myself. But if you’re a newbie and not sure what to do, having a guide is a good idea.

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Lap Computer–This thing looks cool. “The Pool-Mate will record and display lap count, time, average strokes per lap, speed, distance, calories and efficiency. The computer has enough memory to store and recall up to 400 sessions, and will record the same data for individual sets within a session (up to 99 sets) so you can evaluate performance changes across a session.” Dear Santa: I kinda want this! 🙂

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Anti-Fog Spray–I hate it when my goggles fog up!

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Swimsuit–Having a good swim suit makes a world of difference. Make sure you get one that will last. Those cheapy ones you can buy in most department stores will not last long for a lap swimmer. Soon they will be faded, stretched out and maybe even see-through!

As you can see there are TONS of really great gifts out there for the swimmer in your life and they will be forever grateful for new toys to play with in the pool. Happy shopping!

QUESTION: What’s your favorite swimming item?

The Hard Parts of Swimming

I’ve already written quite a few “how to” posts on swimming. Here are the links to a few of them:

Lap Swimming Etiquette

Swimming Tips for Beginners

How to Swim Freestyle

How to Swim Breaststroke

So You Want to Be a Swimmer

My Favorite Swimming Gear

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:


Here is a short video demonstrating how to breathe while doing the Freestyle:

 

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?