Thursday, August 27, 2009

5 Classic Misconceptions About Freestyle Swimming

Here are 5 commonly held misconceptions about the freestyle stroke. Don’t fall foul of these or you’ll seriously hold back your swimming:

•    Misconception 1: "The freestyle stroke needs to be as long as possible – longer is always more efficient."
A long stroke is a good thing up to a point, but an *overly* long stroke leads to dead spots and pauses that ruin your rhythm and timing. This normally happens with swimmers who have done technique work focusing on gliding. These dead spots cause you to decelerate between strokes, which makes you less efficient because you need to accelerate your whole body again on the next stroke.
Our advice: To make yourself as efficient as possible you need to find the right stroke length and stroke rate (strokes per minute) for you as an individual. Find out more:

•    Misconception 2: "As a triathlete I don’t have to work on my kick."
As a triathlete you’re not looking for propulsion from your kick but you still need to work on it. This is because poor kicking technique causes lots of drag. Also, for advanced swimmers, the timing of your kick assists your arm stroke propulsive power.
Our advice: If you want to swim faster don’t neglect your kick, keep some structured kick technique work in your sessions. Find out more:

•    Misconception 3: "I can’t breathe bilaterally – it’s too long between strokes."
Swim Smooth believe anyone can breathe bilaterally. If you can’t there are three possibilities of what’s preventing you from doing so:
a) If you’re a novice swimmer, your stroke rate could be so slow it really is too long between breaths. To fix this, work on increasing your stroke rate a touch.
b) It could be that you’re not exhaling effectively into the water. This is critical because breathing out late builds up CO2 in your lungs and makes things feel very anaerobic (like a sprint activity).
c) If you struggle to breathe to one particular side it could be because you don't rotate well enough to that side.
For our advice on fixing these issues see:

•    Misconception 4: "My head position should be low, looking straight down at the bottom of the pool."
For some swimmers -- yes. For many swimmers -- no. Head position is a very individual thing and you can use it as a tuning knob to help your swimming. If you are very lean and have sinky legs then a lower head position will suit you. If you have an effective kick and excellent body position then a higher head position might suit you better – otherwise when swimming in a wetsuit you may feel so buoyant that you’re kicking air! A higher head position is always better in open water for sighting and viewing under the water – if you have the body position to cope with it.
Our advice: Experiment with different head positions and see what works best for you, you may be surprised!

•    Misconception 5: "I don’t need to do fitness training for swimming – I’ll get it from bike and run training."
Unfortunately fitness doesn’t work like that. Much of our aerobic system lies in the specific muscles we are using and it needs training in those muscles. Neglect your fitness work and you’ll never get close to your swimming potential.
Our advice: When training for swimming you should think of it like bike or run training, you need long steady swims and mid-length harder swims. Vary this mix through the year and introduce harder race-pace swimming as the season approaches. That’s the Swim Smooth recipe for swimming fitness!
And don’t forget, if you have questions or discussion points surrounding these issues or anything else to do with your swimming, then you’re very welcome to ask them on our forum:

Swim Smooth!

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