You've probably got a favourite swimming drill, it feels natural and smooth to perform and you identify with the reason for doing it.
But equally we all have drills that we dislike that feel awkward and difficult, drills that some other swimmers can perform with ease but never click for us. Whenever you have this experience don't see it as a negative thing, look on it as a positive. All that is happening is that the drill is highlighting a weak area of your stroke technique and something you need to work on.
Here is a list of our primary drills and why you might struggle with each:
Sink Down Exercise
If you struggle to sink while exhaling then you're definitely someone who likes to hold their breath underwater. Learning to let go of the air in a smooth relaxed way is key to ridding your system of CO2 as you swim and helps bring your legs up higher behind you. Work on relaxing and letting go of the air to help you sink, it may surprise you just how much air is in there!
Kick On Side / 6-1-6 / 6-3-6
The most common reason for disliking this drill is if you have poor posture, with your lead arm crossing the centre line in front of your head as you swim. Think about drawing your shoulder blades together and back during the drill to bring that lead arm straight and so become much more comfortable on your side. This improved posture also helps develop better rotation in the stroke.
Swimmers who drop their lead arm when breathing (Bambinos) may also find this drill difficult. As you rotate your head to the side to breathe during the drill, focus on keeping the lead arm held in front of you to give you support. Don't let it collapse downwards.
Sculling requires "feel for the water", meaning your ability to connect with the water at the front of the stroke. To improve your sculling make sure your elbow is higher than your wrist, and your wrist is higher than your fingertips as you perform the drill (the hands may feel lower in the water than you expect to achieve that). Move your hands in and out, angled so that you feel the water's pressure on your palm at all times - it's a bit like mixing hot and cold water in the bath! See sculling in action here.
If you have poor rotation in the stroke you will find Doggy Paddle difficult, or just as commonly you could be pressing down on the water in front of your head with a straight arm. As you perform the drill think about "reaching and rolling", rotating your hips on every stroke and pulling through underwater to around your belly button. Also work on bending your elbow in front of your head so that you can press the water backwards (with your hand facing the wall behind you) instead of downwards. Keep that lead hand constantly in motion either extending, catching the water or pressing backwards. As in your full freestyle the movements should be smooth and fluid - never pausing!
This is quite a tricky drill that is all about developing your rhythm and timing. If you have any dead-spots or pauses in the stroke this drill will feel very difficult, as it will if you press the water downwards with a straight arm during the catch. Try working on improving your Doggy Paddle and then return to Unco to feel the improvement. More information on the Unco drill is here.
Another advanced level drill that highlights any weaknesses in your rhythm and timing. If you struggle with waterpolo remember it's a high-effort exercise (nearly sprinting!) and you need to keep a really strong rhythm going. Less advanced swimmer can use a larger pull-buoy during the drill focusing on maintaining a strong tempo, getting into the stroke quickly at the front.
The irony here is that it is the drills we find hard that we need to persist with and work on improving. The drills you find easy and enjoy are useful for stroke maintenance but not so important to move you forwards.