Back to the Basics

Setting the Pace with Coach Tim
by Coach Tim Waud

Now that Summer Nationals are over, it’s time to get back into the water and get ready for a new year of swimming fast.  After a couple of weeks out of the water, I like to start training with some basic swimming skills.  Instead of ramping up the yardage, it’s best to work on drills, improve swimming technique and then begin training hard.  Remember to be mindful when you swim.  Mindfulness is defined as the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present moment, which can be developed through the practice of meditation and other training.

“No matter how strong and fit you are, if you don’t have the proper technique, then you won’t go fast.” —Sanuj Srivastava

  1. Breathing
    An often overlooked basic skill in swimming is the ability to time your breaths. If you’re not comfortable breathing while swimming, you’ll struggle to make streamlined, coordinated movements. The basic idea involves breathing out through both nose and mouth when your head is underwater, then lift your head to the side, taking a full breath before plunging your face back down under the surface.  In his book “Swimming: Steps to Success,” David G. Thomas suggests practicing this motion while holding onto the side of the pool with your arms outstretched.
  2. Gliding
    Gliding through the water is a basic skill to master before you even consider kicking and paddling, according to swimming instructor Ian Cross, speaking to “The Guardian.” Gliding helps you to get used to the sensation of moving through the water headfirst. Try gently pushing off the side wall of the pool with your arms stretched out in front of your head.  Keep your head face-down in the water and glide until you slow down.
  3. Enter the Water with Your Fingers First
    Your hand should cut through the water first and then your elbow should follow.
    Many people don’t bend their arm enough. This means the arm is straight when it enters the water, and therefore the hand and elbow enter the water at the same time.  When your hand is straight, you are not able to pull the water efficiently.
  4. Place Your Hand in the Center
    Your hand should not cross the center-line
    and it should not be too much to the outside. In fact, it should be right in line with your shoulder. If your hand crosses the center-line, you will zigzag from left to right.
  5. Reach as Far as You Can With Your Arm
    When your hand enters the water, you need to glide, stretch, and reach as far as you can. You can gain a few inches for every stroke, which would make a huge difference over the course of a swimming race or triathlon.
  6. Rotate Your Body
    By rotating your body, you can reach much farther with your hands and you can use a lot more strength when pulling the water. By rotating, instead of only using your shoulder, you also use your lats muscles, pectorals, and core. It will also prevent many shoulder injuries.
  7. Raise Your Elbows High
    By raising your elbows high, your hands will enter the water with the proper angle and you will be able to pull water efficiently because your entire forearm will pull water. This also reduces the drag in the water.
  8. Keep Your Hand Loose
    By keeping your hand loose, you maximize the area your hand takes in the water. Don’t keep your fingers tightly pressed together because your arm will be contracted and you will lose energy.
  9. Modify Your Kicking Cadence Depending on the Distance
    For a sprint, such as 50m, 100m, or 200m, you should kick as much as you can because the event is short and you don’t need to manage your energy. For a longer event, like a 5km or 10km open water swim or an Ironman, you should kick less because you need to conserve energy. In those cases, keep a two-beat kick, which means you do one kick for every stroke.

These 9 basic swimming skills were found in an article written by Sanuj Srivastava on the website:

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