Swimming

Ways to Improve Your Freestyle Stroke.

There are a lot of people that are starting to take up swimming, especially with those who are triathletes. For some people swimming can be a very scary thing. But it doesn't have to be scary, once you have the basics down it can actually be rather enjoyable and a great way to get exercise I have been swimming my whole life, 5 years competitively I have participated in a 2 mile open swim race, and swam countless times in the ocean.


The following drills have helped me improve my stroke, and are very simple ways to make swimming a little more fun.

Slide and Glide Drill

This is the Slide and Glide drill. This drill will help extend your stroke, and help you to be more streamline in the water. Extending the reach of your stroke will help you become more effective in the water.


The drill:

1. First watch the video provided by USA Swimming. Scroll down the list and watch the video labeled SLIDE AND GLIDE.

2. This drill is very basic, start with your normal freestyle stoke.

3. When your arm is extended in front of you, try to reach a little further.

4. While your arm is extended hold and reach and count to three then proceed with your pull.


Equipment:

You can use as little or as much equipment as seen in the video. I suggest trying it with the equipment (or whatever you have), and then trying with a mix of equipment.


For example: Use the fins and paddles first, after doing the drill a few times only use the paddles, or only use the fins. It is important to mix it up and then not use any equipment at all so you can feel the differences, and how your stroke changes.

Kicking

The BIGGEST mistake when I see people swimming is in their kick. Having incorrect form while kicking can completely break your stroke, and make swimming slow, hard and painful. For me my biggest pet peeve is how people kick. This is the most important part of your stroke, and may be the most difficult thing to change. But take my word for it, it is worth the effort to get it right.


The Problem: Not all people have this problem but a lot of people do. And the problem is where your kick is originating from. Most people kick at the knees we call this bicycle kicking. This form of kicking is EVIL! DON'T DO IT! It completely breaks your stroke, destroys your streamlined form, and it is not effective, you wont go anywhere. You can have a perfect arm stroke, but if your kicking is bad it wont matter.


This is what kicking from the knees will look like. The photo on the right is how your kick should look, you need to kick from your HIPS! NOT YOUR KNEES!! I can't stress this enough.

How to fix:

1. This will take time and effort. First watch the videos on the website below. It shows you the wrong way and the right way. It also shows you what to do with your feet. Which I am not going to go into but it is important.


http://www.swimsmooth.com/kick.html


2. First, sit on the side of the pool on the edge, with only your legs in the water, and practice kicking. remember from the HIPS! KEEP THOSE LEGS STRAIGHT!!!!


3. Try getting in the water and doing it. Try doing it on a kick board, try it on your back, on your side, and stomach. Repetition is key, and you are going to have to think about it, it is a hard habit to change but it is crucial.


4. If you are having a hard time, try using fins. Fins don't work with a knee kicking, they almost force you to keep your legs straight. If the fins don't help and you need something extreme try wrapping something around the underside of your knee. I know this sounds crazy but if you have a small rod or a snorkel wrapped on your leg that prevents the knee from bending you can get a feel for how you're supposed to be kicking.


5. Repetition is key for kicking, using a kick board can really help. If you kick on our back you can also watch yourself and catch yourself if you start to use your knees again.


Breathing

Breathing technique is one of those things that everyone does differently. You are going to have to play around with it to find what is most comfortable for you. Most swim teams teach bilateral breathing. Bilateral breathing is when you breath on both sides. A basic pace of bilateral breathing is 3 strokes breathe right, 3 strokes breathe to the left. Some people just breathe to the right, (that's what I do). Some people just breathe to the left. Its personal preference. Bilateral breathing is good for distance swimming, so one arm doesn't get more tired than the other from unequal pulling. I did my 2 mile swim only breathing to the right. So if you can only breathe one way and go the distance and not get tired go for it. Personal preference.


How to do it:

Breathing can be complicated so I have provided a few great websites to help you and show what and what not to do. After looking through the websites ( at least the first one its the best one) try some of the drills I have provided.


At least look at this site it does an amazing job of teaching you how to breathe properly. http://www.swimsmooth.com/breathing.html


Here are some other good sites:

http://adventure.howstuffworks.com/outdoor-activities/triathlons/training/breathe-in-freestyle-swimming.htm


http://www.active.com/triathlon/Articles/Proper-Breathing-Technique-for-Swimming


VIDEOS:

1. Intro to Breathing


Drill:

1. Side Breathing Drill


This Youtube user has an amazing collection of videos of techniques and drills for swimming. Please watch whatever videos you need to, to help with whatever aspect of swimming you need to improve on. This user has it all.

SWIMMING VIDEO COLLECTION