How Your Personality Might Affect Your Swimming

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Perhaps the most fascinating thing about our Swim Type system is that it highlights the link between personality and stroke style. Here are some classic personality traits you might recognise in yourself that may affect how you swim:

- You're self confident, goal driven and impatient! This is a classic trait of the Arnie / Arnette - your desire to take control and get on with things results in a short scrappy stroke with a tendency to fight the water. Work harder on land and you go faster, but work harder in the water without a good stroke technique and much of that effort goes to waste. Many Arnie / Arnettes feel frustrated about their swimming, especially when comparing themselves to other swimmers seemingly less fit but swimming much faster. By taking the time to relax a little and control what you're doing you'll develop your body roll and lengthen out your stroke. Here at Swim Smooth we jokingly call this 'taming the inner Arnie'! This driven personality will really serve you well so long as you are doing things right for your stroke and not pushing too hard.

- "Don't talk too much, just let me get on with it and swim fast!" If you feel this way when you swim then you're likely to be a Swinger. Classic Swingers are often the first on the pool deck for squad training and can't wait to get in the water and get on with it. They're well suited to distance swimming and love long sets with as little recovery as possible please! If you recognise this in yourself then try and be disciplined and take a little time out from hard swimming to do some stroke development work. You won't lose any fitness from doing so and you'll greatly benefit from some small tweaks to your stroke. Your get-on-with-it mentality is the source of the momentum and rhythm you have within your stroke which is often well suited to swimming in rough open water. When asked what they think about when swimming, Swingers rarely mention the stroke movements themselves (unlike the Overglider who thinks of nothing else!), instead they tend to focus on rhythm or use distraction methods to take their mind off the effort of swimming fast for long periods. This is a highly admirable trait and can give a real competitive advantage.

- You're analytical and enjoy working things out for yourself. Perhaps the strongest correlation of all here: nearly all engineers and mathematicians gravitate towards the Overglider stroke type! That desire to be technically correct and swim with a long stroke may have been taken a little too far and introduced a deadspot to your stroke rhythm. There are many good things about your stroke in place but developing your catch is likely to be a priority, doing so will help remove that deadspot and get you get back in touch with the natural rhythm of your stroke. Overgliders can be guilty of over-complicating the freestyle stroke by thinking about too many things at once. Of course you should look to develop your stroke technique but obsessing about this can be detrimental to your progress as a swimmer. Your dedication to analysing and trying to correct your stroke probably served you well during the early stages of your development but as you start adding more and more things to think about it becomes impossible to juggle everything at the same time and removes focus from the importance of rhythm and momentum in your stroke.

- You look to swimming for achievement and to feel good about yourself. These are fantastic reasons to swim and sum up the motivations of many Bambinos who perhaps lack natural confidence in the water. In fact when we meet a Bambino for the first time they often tell us immediately that "I'm not very good at all!". Of course we'd all like to be better swimmers than we are but sometimes this focus on what you can't do, rather than what you can, will really hold you back. Many Bambinos have been told to swim the same way as the fastest swimmers in the squad but often this is simply not appropriate, either because of body type and build or from limited swimming experience. Developing basic water confidence and breathing will serve you much better than more advanced stroke technique - which can leave you feeling quite overwhelmed and disheartened. Don't panic though! Turn your thought processes around and tackle the true areas of your swimming holding you back and you will feel a lot more positive about your stroke and your swimming as a whole.

- You need a big event to motivate you. This is a common trait of the Smooth - as a talented swimmer it can be hard to get motivated after so many years of swimming. You know you can perform at a very high level but do you have the motivation? The key for you might be to introduce some changes to your swimming, perhaps taking on a fresh challenge by racing in open water or keeping a lot of variety in your training sessions.

- You need variety to keep you interested. From the pool deck the Kicktastic is easiest type to spot with their lack of body rotation and over-kicking style. If you are a Kicktastic this style will feel 'normal' to you but use a pull buoy and it can be frustrating and confusing to lose ground to your fellow swimmers. Psychologically, Kicktastics find long training sets or repetitive drills very boring and need a variety of stimuli and focuses to keep things interesting. Bear this in mind when designing your training sets and improving your stroke - variety is the spice of life!

For coaches, the personality aspect of the Swim Type system is incredibly useful. Getting your message across clearly and concisely to a range of swimmers is of paramount importance - a 'one rule fits all' approach simply won't do this. We all learn in different ways: some from verbal instruction, some from demonstration, some from hands on doing, some from technical explanation and some from story telling. Adjusting your delivery to the personality of each swimmer will really help you engage more directly with a broader range of athletes and improve the speed and effectiveness of your coaching.

Can you see any of these character traits in yourself? Or perhaps see some correlation between personality and stroke style in your swimmers? Let us know on the comments section: here

Swim Smooth!

Tips To Improve Your Freestyle Breathing

** Stop Press: SS Head Coach Paul Newsome interviewed about our Swim Type System on Ben Greenfield's excellent podcast. Listen: here - starts at 53mins. **

Do you struggle with your breathing when swimming freestyle? Perhaps you take on water or feel like you have to crane your head up high to reach air? This year we've received more questions and forum posts about this problem than perhaps any other. It can even be a problem for advanced level swimmers when they become tired. Here's our advice:

When your head travels through the water it creates a bow-wave around it, with a slight increase in the water height in front of your head but a large drop in height as it passes your head and neck:

When we breathe in freestyle we need to keep our head as low as possible because lifting your head causes your legs to sink. Great breathing technique involves breathing into the trough by the side of your head to keep it as low as possible:

Take a close look at the shape of the bow wave and how it's dropping quite steeply as it passes your head:

The correct place to aim your mouth is into position A but swimmers who struggle with their breathing are often trying to breathe slightly forwards into position B. The bow wave isn't very deep or well formed there and it will be a real struggle to reliably take on air:

To get the position of your breathing right it may feel like you're breathing very slightly behind you - you should just be able to see your arm-pit as you do this. This will only feel like a slight adjustment - you don't want to breathe too far backwards (position C) as this will twist your body and drag your lead arm across the centre line:

The next time you swim, experiment a little with your breathing position and try and find that sweet-spot where you can reliably find the bow wave trough but not breathe too far behind you and lose your alignment in the water.

Two other quick tips: Aim to keep your lower goggle underwater when you breathe and experiment with angling your mouth towards the surface like Popeye chews his spinach:

(image taken from our DVD Boxset)

Do you struggle with your breathing when swimming? Have you tried this tip? Let us know how it works for you on the comments section: here

Swim Smooth!

Do You Ever Get Shoulder Pain When Swimming?

Research says that as many as eight out of ten swimmers suffer from some level of shoulder pain or injury during their swimming careers. If you ever get shoulder pain before or after swimming, the very first thing to check is how your hand enters into the water.

A thumb first entry, with the palm facing outwards causes internal rotation of the shoulder and impingement of the joint. This action, repeated thousands of times in training, is the leading cause of shoulder injury in swimmers:

When we're swimming we are often unaware of how our hands enter into the water so ask a friend or coach to take a look at your hand entry on both sides, particularly as you get tired when bad habits creep in. You should be entering with a near horizontal hand, with the fingertips angled slightly down to spear smoothly into the water:

This is much safer way to enter the water for your shoulders and is also better swimming technique as it immediately puts you in the right position for a great catch phase.

If you have a thumb first entry it can be a hard habit to break and will take some persistence on your part. Here's two visualisations you can use to help you get this right in your stroke:

Visualisation 1: As your arm recovers over the top of the water, imagine you are holding a briefcase in your hand. It would be very awkward to turn that hand outwards whilst holding the briefcase so lightly carry it past your head with the palm facing inwards. (Thanks to Montreal based coach Charles Couturier for this tip!)

Visualisation 2: Imagine a small fish is swimming just in front of you and you are chasing it. As your hand enters into the water try and spear the fish with a nice horizontal hand, angling your hand and fingers down into the water.

In the 1970s a thumb first entry was taught together with an S-shaped pull to give a longer pull pathway, which was believed to be more powerful. Any advantage in propulsion has since been disproved and we now understand the outward sweep at the beginning of the S shape puts a large force on the shoulder in an awkward position. Since the 1990s all elite swimmers have been taught to enter with a flat hand and pull straight backwards - it carries a much lower injury risk and it's a faster and more efficient technique:

What are your experiences of shoulder pain or injury? Is it still causing you a problem or if you are cured, how did you go about about fixing it? Let us know in the comments section here.

Swim Smooth!

Relevant link: Our website page on shoulder injury.

How To Improve Your Swimming Core Stability Without Lots Of Sit Ups!

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A quick tip this week to help you develop your core stability when you swim:

Imagine a string of elastic or licorice that is attached at the top to your rib cage and at the bottom to your pelvis. As you swim keep that elastic stretched by lifting your chest up and away from your pelvis as much as possible:

Swimming in a tall stretched position uses your core muscles in the right way as you swim, keeping you aligned and straight in the water. You don't have to be super-strong through the core to do this well, it's more about using your core muscles in the right way than outright strength. Ironically it's often the swimmers who spend a long time on dry land core-conditioning who flex the most through the middle when they swim!

Try and get in the habit of adopting this stretched position when you push-off from the wall at the beginning of every lap. Adopt a strong torpedo, stretch through your core and as you start your stroke maintain the stretch all the way down the pool.

A stable core will have you tracking straighter through the water and also develop your body rotation - both very important for an efficient freestyle stroke. It will also rotate your hips forward slightly, lifting your bum and legs higher in the water - great if you suffer from 'sinky legs syndrome'.

Stretch that elastic the next time you swim, we're confident you'll notice the difference straight away!

Swim Smooth!

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