Float your way to a better stroke

It sounds pretty basic, but floating can be hard. Even though it doesn’t create any forward motion by itself, it is very important when you want to improve your swimming!

The primary reason floating is important, is that it allows you to relax. The more relaxed you are, the better you float, which makes it easier to relax, etc. And that is just the beginning; easier breathing, higher level of endurance, and a more enjoyable experience are all benefits of being relaxed.

I am not the best passive floater myself (my legs sink to the bottom), so I have worked a lot on my body position in the water. Try the following exercise yourself, the next time you’re at the pool.

Kick on your side (hips vertical, the bottom arm stretched out in front of you, look straight down on the bottom, and an easy kick). Then try to lift the top arm as if making the recovery motion of swimming in slow motion. Stop when the elbow is approximately above your shoulder. What happened?

You will probably sink, which is quite normal. When you are floating, you are basically weightless, and then you lift several pounds worth of arm out of the water, creating a lot of downward pressure. However, how you sank is the key. If you are lacking core balance, you may sink to where your elbow is almost at the surface, with the hips dropping lower than your shoulders. If you are an Olympic level swimmer (or just have very good body position) you may only sink 1-2 inches, parallel to the surface.

The big difference between these two extremes, is the location of the center of gravity (let’s call it CG). The better swimmers have their CG up high in the chest, almost on the line between the shoulders, where beginners usually hide the CG somewhere in the belly region. The good news is, it is relatively easy to move your CG to a better place. Just apply a very slight pressure to your chest, and try the exercise again. Next, keep the pressure, while you also tightening the abs right below the rib cage. Did that help?

Working on a so-called basic exercise as this one, is of great importance if you want to take your swimming to the next level. Even if you are already a good swimmer, this will make you notice what a few adjustments can do to your stroke.

Let me know how it goes…


From “more is better”, to “better is better”

Many athletes have the approach to training that the more you do, the better it is. This is a truth with modifications. Most swimmers know the term “garbage yardage”, which is where you’re just going through the motions, and not really putting in a solid effort either technically or intensity wise.

I am a firm believer in quality in training, and that you can go very far with a focused effort even with limited time available. Most people have a lot of demand on their time (from family, work, social life etc.), so there is only so much time for training. So why not get the most out of it? I am not saying that you should just go full throttle every time, but that you have to be better after each session than you were before. Focus on efficiency, and getting the most out of the time that is put in.

This can be done by working on a technical detail, or doing a new personal best up that hill. However, it can also be that you are relieving some of the stress that has built up after a tough day at work, and thereby giving yourself new energy.

Set a goal before each training session, make it realistic, and then go for it. But if you have a bad day, and you can’t do the 3 miles at race pace you wanted to do, then let it go, and make sure you get something else out of the day.

Always finish your training sessions with something good technically (a perfect 25 yard freestyle, running with good posture, etc.), as your muscle memory is then allowing you the best chance of starting the next session out on a good note.