Don’t get me wrong – I love compliments. Particularly, compliments about something I practice and work at, like swimming. A few days ago, a fellow lap swimmer stopped me to offer warm and fuzzy words about my style. He then flattered me by thinking I was six years younger than I am, and asked if I had been on the swim team in college. It was definitely nice to hear, and I even swam an extra 400 meters because I felt ready to fly away on my inflated self esteem.
However, I have to be completely honest about my crawl stroke. When I started working on it oh so many years ago, I worried less about its effectiveness, and more about looking like a smoothly synchronized swimmer. So while perhaps I manage to be almost splash free while I paddle through the water, I tend to not swim with speed, strength, or anything resembling intensity.
Knowing this makes me feel like a swimming traitor. Instead of doing as Associate Content suggests, which is considering what it takes to create speed in the water and actively attempting to actually be a better swimmer, I remain stubborn as an elephant who is chomping on peanuts and doesn’t want to move out of the way, and simply want to swim with pretty hands instead of swim fast.
But if you actually want to swim faster, and aren’t feeling as ornery as myself, here are a few suggestions:
1. Appreciate the Pause
In music, conductors often remind their orchestra’s that “the rests are just as important as the notes.” The same is true for swimming. The moments in which you are not pumping your arms, such as the glide portion of the breast stroke, are essential to improving your swim time. Elongate your body, and you’ll go faster.
2. Know Your Calculus
You gotta stroke less. But not by simply subtracting the number of strokes you graze the pool with. This is sort of a mental idea, but you want to let your body travel farther every time you stroke, and thus create the need to stroke less. You also want to “thrust” your body through the water. I do this by telling myself “try harder!” But as for the technical side of it, check out Swim-City.com, or any number of YouTube videos about swimming.
3. Get a Head
The direct placement of your head is critical, according to Mat Lubers at About.com. Keeping your head with the “eyes down” position* while swimming freestyle is the best way to keep your hips neutral, and your kick strong. However, to get the best speed, you’ll want to lift your head just a tad, so your forehead pokes out of the water, as keeping your head underwater entirely causes a lot of drag – the fancy swimmer term for things that slow you down.
Okay, swimmer friends. Go forth and good luck! If no one is complimenting your pretty hands, you very well are on the right track.
* When I taught swimming to kids, we used to say “Keep your eyes down! Watch the elephants dancing on the bottom of the pool!” Oh, swim class.