Swimming is a full-body workout that is a really great way of keeping fit, getting in some daily exercise and rehabilitation after injury. Swimming has long been part of a lot of training plans for years and we think it’s a great idea to get your technique sorted so you can go further for longer.
Being able to swim better will help with your training for running and obviously for triathlons, which is why we’ve put together some of the top tips from some of the very best swimmers around.
Check the timetable at your local swimming pool
This one may seem obvious, but ensuring you’re at your pool at the right times can make the difference between a re-energising swimming session and a frustrating splash about sandwiched between a kids’ class and water polo practice.
Find out what lanes are reserved for what and go when you’re most likely to be able to focus and enjoy yourself
Invest in shaded goggles for outdoor swimming
Those blessed with a nearby outdoor pool to exercise in should invest in a pair of shaded goggles. Not only do they keep chlorine out of your eyes, but they also act as sunglasses and protect your eyes from the sun. Make sure you also invest in some demisting fluid to use on your goggles before swimming to keep your vision crystal clear
Warm up properly and glide first
When you enter the water, you’ll need to warm your body up first. If you dive in and start swimming straight away, you’ll end up getting sore muscles and this will lead to more injuries. Gliding into the water and making sure your body is fully ready before you start doing the lengths you set out to do will inevitably help with your recovery as well.
Having a body that is warmed up properly also helps you not get too tired too quickly and helps you swim at a more moderated pace as you’re not trying to get the muscles warm quickly.
Don’t lift your head up too high
Swimmers often have a habit of looking ahead of them, as it is natural to want to see what is in front of them. However, if you do this, you are more likely to drag your hips and feet down and this will cause you to slow down and potentially drop in the water. By keeping your head in line with the rest of your body, you’ll be more streamlined, and you won’t have to kick as hard to keep everything up. If you are always looking ahead, you can always get neck strain, which can cause long-term pain and issues in the future.
Keep arms tight and like anchors
One of our favourite ways of remembering to anchor our arms when swimming is to imagine your hand is a shovel and the water is sand. Using this technique of digging in, your hands should be broad and flat. Don’t let your hands flop and become curved as this will cause you to drag the water behind you slowing you down. Anchoring your arm in the water and pushing your body over it, is one way of thinking about it too.
Having this as a technique is important to not get exhausted and maintain your pace for much longer.
Push your chest down
Getting good balance for freestyle swimming is not difficult but often swimmers forget that to stay balanced, you must dip your chest down a little – or ‘press the buoy’ – this will keep your legs up and make sure your body is always horizontal.
Pushing your chest down a little will create a little seesaw motion so your legs and hips automatically move upwards.
Plenty of swimmers should learn this technique, particularly those who want to compete in triathlons as it will make your swimming much better and help you to work on other areas of your swimming stroke.
Exhale when in the water
When swimming freestyle, you need to exhale the whole time your face is in the water to completely empty your lungs for when you turn on your side to take a breath. This is mainly because you will stay more relaxed than if you held your breath the entire time, your face is underwater and there isn’t really time to exhale and inhale enough when your mouth is above water.
Remember that your head should be looking down when in the water to help keep everything streamlined. Exhaling in the water will also help keep your head down as you’ll want to naturally expel the water below you rather than ahead.
On the subject of breathing…
Don’t lift your head to breathe
Lifting your head forward before turning out of the water to breathe is a big no! It’ll cause your hips and legs to drop and slow you down. When rolling to the side, turn your head just a little bit further until your mouth leaves the water.
Ideally, your head should be turned enough so that one eye is above water, and one eye is below the water line. It will take time and a lot of practice, so better start now. As well as helping with breathing, again it won’t strain your neck when your head is above water.
Recovering arm shouldn’t be too far forward
When you pull your arm out of the water for recovery, don’t extend it all the way. If you do, it drops into the water and this will not only cause unnecessary turbulence in the water and additional drag, but it also can cause swimmer’s shoulder which is shoulder impingement and tendonitis which is very painful and can be a long road to recover from. Slide your hand in the water earlier when your arm is around halfway extended and then extend it when it’s underwater, this will help with the power and give you less tension in your shoulder.
We hope these tips and tricks will help you with your swimming technique, triathlons are a favourite at UK Fitness, and we want all swimmers to be able to get the right technique to help them even if they swim for fun and to help with exercise. With proper training and the right exercise programme, you will undoubtedly become a better swimmer, and this will only help with any other training you have to do i.e., for running, triathlons or even recovery sessions after injury.
To see more blogs on fitness and exercise tips, head over to our main blog here.