Swimming can be a beautiful and mindful workout that will get you fit and in shape in no-time. But if you're not in the know about the basics of a good freestyle stroke, chances are you struggle through the water lap after lap. If this sounds familiar and you are ready to become a real swimmer, read on my friend!
If you've ever been to a pool you have seen the swimmers who make freestyle look effortless. Stroke after stroke, lap after lap and they're not even out of breath!
How do they do it? And even more important, how can you do this?
I am going to be honest with you here, this is not something that will happen overnight. A beautiful and effortless freestyle stroke takes lots and lots of practice and knowledge on what makes a good freestyle. I'm about to give you some of the knowledge (happy days!), but the 'lots and lots of practice' is up to you.
Alright, let's dive in (pardon the pun!)
1. Get those legs up
The first thing to think about when jumping in the pool is have a streamlined body position in the water. The higher up in the water you can be, the least drag you are creating and the easier it will be to move forward. Sounds good, but how?
Practice kicking with your arms next to you and/or in front of you and think about leaning forward. Press your head down, look straight down the bottom of the pool and lean down on your chest. This will help you to get and keep your legs up while swimming. Dragging the legs is the most common issue I see with swimmers and is easily fixed by focussing on the tips mentioned above.
Realise that when you lift your head this will cause for your legs to be pushed down. This counts when breathing as well! Try to roll to your side to take a breath instead of lifting your head up.
2. Make most out of each stroke
Most people can swim a little distance fast, but only few can swim a long distance at a steady pace. The difference between the 2 lies in the efficiency of each stroke. Think about making most out of each stroke, or getting to the other end of the pool in the least strokes possible. Sounds good, but how?
You lengthen your stroke by making yourself as long as possible. Rotate your body to reach out just that little bit extra and pull your stroke all the way back until your arm is straight next to your thigh. In a 25 meter pool you should aim for 20 strokes to get to the other side, in a 50 meter pool this would be 40 strokes.
3. Kicking easy and effective
If you're super out of breath after 1 lap chances are you are kicking too much. Kicking takes a lot of energy out of you, so by slowing it down you'll notice an instant change in your breathing. Sounds good, but how?
Kick from your hips, you should feel your quads and glutes work when kicking. Kicking does not come from bending your knees. Think about kicking up and downwards and keeping the kicks small, pretend to kick inside a bucket.
Ankle flexibility plays a big role in an effective kick so if you find that you cannot touch the floor with your big toe when stretching out your foot (like ballerina feet but laying down on the floor) you will benefit from ankle stretching exercises to help you with your kicking.
4. Calm your farm and breath!
The swimmers who make swimming look easy are relaxed and calm when moving through the water. When you are calm you can take deeper breaths and more oxygen in your body will make swimming easier. Sounds good, but how?
Staying or getting calm and relaxed comes from controlled and slow breathing. If you find yourself gasping for air half down the lap just stop, have break, take a few deep and slow breaths and continue your lap.
The other issue that will get you tense and stressed is the overthinking of what's to come. There is no point stressing about the next 10 laps, just stay in the moment, think about the stroke you're doing right now and you will instantly feel a lot calmer.
Being tense also causes shallow breathing. The calmer you are the deeper you can breath and we need that oxygen all the way down in your belly! You can practice belly breathing by just laying on your back and placing one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. When breathing in focus on pushing your chest up first, followed by your belly.
Why am I giving away these golden tips?
It's my goal to get everyone to swim their way to happiness! I know the amazing effects swimming has on people's fitness, health and mental state and It's my passion to get more people to get into swimming to reach their (fitness) goals.
Usually by giving people these 4 basic tips it will give them the confidence to jump in the pool and start swimming. It doesn't matter where and how, just jump in and feel how swimming can change your life too.