As I left the pool today, my swimming technique became very apparent to me. When I was younger, I was a competitive swimmer and distance per stroke wasn’t as important as speed and turnover rate. Now as a triathlete, that isn’t the case. As you know, you aren’t sprinting just 100 yards and stopping, but more like 2.4 miles. To go faster you want to get any extra edge you can give yourself and distance per stroke is often overlooked by athletes. It’s with this idea that I wanted to share with you how to get more distance per stroke and gain that extra speed by not getting so tired so fast.
I will say outright that perfecting flip-turns won’t help much for open water swimming, but they are still important. Why flip turns are on this list is due to a couple of little known ways that they bring your fitness to a whole new level. The stronger you make your flip turns, the more you can strengthen other parts of your stroke that will have benefits such as taking your first stroke without breathing off the wall and kicking with a butterfly dolphin kick to get to the surface. For these reasons, be sure to practice and strengthen your flip turns.
Reach and Extend
Reaching in the swim stroke occurs after your arm drops into the water before you begin your pull and finish. The farther you reach, the more your body glides and becomes hydrodynamic in the water. Causing a streamlined effect, this body position is better for setting up for a strong pull and catch, making your pulling force increase and decreasing stroke count.
Chin to Chest
I instruct most athletes to maintain a chin to chest posture because it represents the point being made, keep your head looking down. That means staring at the oh-so famous black line and T running down the pool that as a swimmer you come to hate and love. Keeping your head position down keeps your hips from sagging behind you and raises them to again put you in a more streamlined position.
Par for a Four Stroke
Swim golf is fun to play, but it’s a swift reminder to work on your form if you have terrible technique. You can begin to fix this by restricting your breathing to every fourth or fifth stroke. The less you pause to take a breath, the faster you will be propelled forward, making you more hydrodynamic. In a nutshell, play golf and breathe less.
Picture for a moment a baby on its back gleefully kicking at the air. Compare this to most grown ups, who rarely kick unless they’re playing a game of soccer. Yes, even swimmers are notorious for not fully using the lower halves of their bodies. Kicks may only account for 3-10% of forward propulsion, but any little bit helps while you are racing towards the finish line. The lesson here is to strengthen your legs and don’t forget to kick heartily while in the water.
That’s it, folks! These five simple tips will improve your stroke technique and help your swim times drop. Incorporate these into your practice and make the local pool your BOSS.
If you want a second look at your swimming, we conduct video analysis of swimming technique.