Swimming strokes should create the least possible water resistance; there should be a minimum of splashing so that forward motion is smooth and not jerky.
The stroke most commonly used to attain speed is the crawl
- You may think you know how to swim the crawl because you learned many years ago, but are you doing it right? Do your hands trace an "S" pattern through the water? Do you kick from the hips, not the knees? Can you breathe on alternate sides? What about the other strokes? The point is, swimming is a skill that involves hand entry, catch, pull, exit and recovery, plus kicking and breathing! A few lessons can really make a big difference in how you benefit.
- Don't just dive in the pool and start swimming. First, take a few minutes to fully stretch your arms and shoulders, chest, lower back and legs. And have a plan for your workout. Just swimming lap and after lap, mile after mile, is not a smart way to build strength or endurance.
- Try interval training to perk up your workouts and boost your fitness. You can choose from many plans and schemes, but basically, break down that mile you usually swim into a series of wind sprints, followed by brief rests. To get started, swim five lengths as fast as you can, then rest 15 seconds, then swim another five lengths ... Keep resting and repeating until you've done 10 sets. Make a game of it. Alternate easy lengths with fast lengths. Be aware of working your muscles against the resistance of the water. Be playful. Have fun.
- Swimming is only one way to get fit in the pool. More and more, people are doing deep-water workouts to build strength, boost endurance and rehabilitate after injury. The secret to success is a buoyancy vest that keeps you suspended in deep water as you run, walk, kick, twist, imitate cross-country skiing, etc. Exercising in water gives you 12 times the resistance of exercising on land, so be careful not to overdo it. But try it! It's a great workout.
- Swim fins, hand mitts, paddles, and kickboards are all ways to make your swim workouts more fun and challenging. You can even swim to music these days, with a specially designed radio that fits into a waterproof bag. The idea is to be creative, keep improving and enjoy your workout.
- Always swim with a buddy - never alone.
- Know your swimming limits and stay within them. Don't try to keep up with a stronger swimmer and keep an eye on weaker swimmers.
- Alcohol and swimming don't mix. Alcohol impairs your judgment, balance and coordination. It affects your swimming and diving skills and reduces your body's ability to stay warm.
- Swim in supervised areas only.
- Watch out for the dangerous "toos" - too tired, too cold, too far from safety, too much sun.
- Do not chew gum or eat while swimming. You could easily choke.
- Obey "No Diving" signs which indicate the area is unsafe for headfirst entries. Always enter the water feet first if you don't know the depth. In addition, learn the correct way to dive from a qualified instructor
- Play catch up. Catch up is the king of swimming drills. Kicking strongly, with arms outstretched in a long streamlined shape, pull with one arm and recover fully. Once you have finished one complete arm cycle, start with the other arm for a complete cycle. Swim the length like this, one arm at a time, then swim a length normal front crawl, then rest and repeat.
- For the breaststrokers, swim two leg kicks for every one arm pull. Try to concentrate on the following pattern: kick pull kick, pause, kick pull kick, pause. Remember to stretch out with the arms during the pause.
- Once in a while, have fun by forgetting about style and getting stuck into some all out sprints. Do four lengths as fast as possible with as much rest as you like after each length until you feel ready to go again. Really go for it! It will make your ‘normal’ swimming feel so much easier.
- There is no need to embarrass yourself with a fancy flip turn that goes wrong. A touch turn is just as good. As you touch the end, the secret is to keep your eyes fixed on the wall in front of you as you bring your knees up sharply to your chest. When your feet hit the wall, make that tight arrow shape as you push off for the next length.
Tips to develop your swimming
Here is our simple guide to help you improve your swimming.
- Start and finish each session with a smile on your face.
- There are two important principles that apply to everyone in the world who swims in water.
- Water is 80 times more dense than air, so being stronger in the water will not necessarily help. Being streamlined through the water is the single biggest improvement you can make. Streamlining is the holy grail of all swimmers, skiers, Formula 1 cars and America’s Cup yachts.
- Swim faster than you normally do and take more rest! If you are doing more than 4-6 lengths without stopping, you are doing too much! Swim two or four lengths at a time, harder than usual, then rest.
- The reason people feel frustrated with swimming is because they don’t know how to improve. Swimming requires skill and that skill needs to be practiced.
- It appears odd, but swimming fewer lengths, with more rest, but at a slightly higher level, will have a far more beneficial impact on both technique and general fitness for the period of time you are in the water, than just swimming up and down non stop.
- Remember it’s nothing to do with how far you swim, but how well you swim.
Swimming Tips for Beginners
- Stretch out in the water and make as long a streamlined shape as you can. On all strokes, lengthen the arms, shoulders, back and point your toes. Each time you make a stroke, concentrate on stretching out the body and reaching for the end of the pool before making each arm pull. This is especially true in breaststroke.
- As an exercise, push off the wall in a tight arrow - as tight as you can - and float as far as possible in this position. Do it again and aim to go further each time you do.
- Use breathing to help you relax and bring rhythm and balance to the stroke. When you breathe on front crawl, your mouth should more or less follow your shoulder. Swim gently and breathe every two, then three, then four strokes. For a challenge, swim eight lengths continuously using this breathing pattern.
- Good front crawl and backstroke swimming starts with improving the kick. Kick from the hip, with your knees hardly flexed and your toes pointed. If you can swim 4 lengths non-stop, you’re not kicking anywhere near hard enough!
Tips for Advanced Swimmers
- Once you have mastered the catch up, add this variation: Still doing the catch up drill, as you recover each arm, touch your hip, shoulder, and head as you do so. This drill will give you the classic bent elbow recovery, which separates the super stylish from the wannabes.
- Get your hands on some Zoomers. These short flippers are fantastic for building up leg and stomach muscles, will enable you to move faster through the water and allow you to concentrate on that perfect arm action.
- Good swimming is about using the core of the body; your hips, stomach, lower back, and chest. Top swimmers roll the core of the body from one side to the other, while keeping the head fixed, as if rotating the body on a spit. When you rotate like this, you can reach further forward on each stroke and maximize your stroke efficiency.
- To practice, keep your left arm stretched out in front and your right arm by your side, and kick along strongly on your left side for a length. Keep your head locked onto the shoulder and facing down! On your second length, switch to your right side, right arm outstretched, left arm by your side. (Note: you will always be looking to the same side of the pool each length.)
- Count your strokes. In a 25m pool, if you count every arm stroke, you will see people doing 20 or 30 strokes. Good swimmers will do 10-14 strokes, so you should aim at no more than 20. Count the number of strokes you do in an average length. Now see if you can do two strokes less. Remember, efficiency is the key.
- The key to good backstroke is a still head. You should be able to balance a cup of tea on there. For this exercise, balance your goggles, or a plastic cup with some water in, on your forehead and swim slowly for five minutes.
- Finally, for those who just can’t resist it, the key to a good flip turn is to get a bit closer to the wall than you feel comfortable doing. Put your chin on your chest and curl into as tight a ball as you can as you roll over in one continuous movement. Your feet should start the push just before they touch the wall so you ‘bounce’ off the wall in that tight, streamlined shape.
Healthy Swimming Tips
- DO NOT enter the water if you have diarrhea. (People can spread germs in the water even without having an "accident.")
- DO NOT swallow the water! (Remember: it's everybody's bath water and chlorine does not kill all germs.)
- Wash your hands and bottom thoroughly with soap and water after a bowel movement or changing diapers. (Germs on hands end up everywhere, including the water.)
- Notify the lifeguard if you see fecal matter in the water or if you see persons changing diapers on tables and chairs.
- Take your child to the toilet for bathroom breaks often. (Waiting to hear "I have to go" may mean it's too late.)
- Change diapers in a bathroom, not near the pool or shore. (Germs can contaminate surfaces and objects around the water.)
- Wash your child thoroughly (especially his or her bottom) with soap and water before swimming. (Everyone has invisible amounts of fecal matter on his or her bottom that ends up in the water.)
- DO NOT count on swim diapers or pants to keep fecal matter from leaking into the water. (These products are not leak-proof. Remember to take your child to the toilet often.)
- Keep an eye on your child at all times. (Remember, kids can drown in silence.)
- Protect your child against sunburn by using a sunscreen with at least SPF 15 and both UVA and UVB protection, and be sure to re-apply it after swimming. (Even a few serious sunburns can increase the risk of getting skin cancer.)
- DO NOT allow your child to chew gum or eat while swimming or playing in the water. (Chewing or eating while swimming could cause choking).