Friday, April 17, 2015

What If You Can't Swim Freestyle Continuously

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If you're new to swimming freestyle you might be suffering from a very common problem - you feel like you can swim the stroke more or less but you have no stamina, needing to stop and get your breath back every 25m or 50m.

Many many swimmers struggle at this point and it can be really discouraging. It can take a lot of persistence to break through this barrier but the good news is that once you can swim further than 50m without stopping you'll quickly move on to swimming many hundreds (or even thousands) of meters without a break.

The first thing to appreciate is that whilst swimming technique is very important (which we talk about a lot on this blog), so to is swimming fitness. You can be as fit as you like in land based sports but if you don't have fitness specific to swimming you will struggle, even with great stroke technique. It's the combination of technique AND swim fitness that makes a great pool swimmer.

Believe in your dreams! This time last year Marietta couldn't swim 25m without
stopping, yesterday she swam 1000m in Lake Como. 

Below are some tips on the fitness side of learning to swim freestyle - you don't have to be an elite athlete to swim continuous laps but you do need to develop a basic level of fitness. Many strong swimmers forget they have this basic level of fitness and might say swimming is all about technique but we need to make sure that yours is in place - it's so important!

So keep working on your stroke technique using all the advice Swim Smooth offers you (don't forget exhaling in the water and kicking gently with a nice straight leg) but make sure you are giving your swim fitness the attention it deserves too.

Here's our tips:

- If at all possible swim at least three times a week and perform as much freestyle as you can in those sessions.

- Don't start too fast! If you're feeling a little anxious in the water then it's very easy to push off and start swimming too fast for your level of fitness, meaning you are effectively sprinting without realising it. Try and relax, and find an easy rhythm to your stroke - you should be swimming at a steady pace, not racing to the other end to get it over with as soon as possible.

- Be determined! Unfortunately fitness improvements don't happen overnight, your fitness improves slowly and incrementally over time, normally in such small steps we're not aware of it. However, if we stop swimming we start to lose that fitness again so not only do you need to be determined over a long period of time but you need to be consistent over that period too.

- Once you feel you are improving try and break the habit of stopping every length for a rest - after a while this becomes more psychological than physical! Try keeping it going for another half length or so, and then another full length - stay relaxed and you may be surprised what you can do. It's key to keep pushing yourself out of your comfort zone!

- If possible get together with some friends or other people you meet at the pool and swim together. You will push each other along and you'll be less likely to miss a swim. If they are actually slightly better than you then don't be put off but see that as a good thing, they can help pull you along and you'll definitely learn something from them.

- After swimming you may feel your arms are so heavy you can barely lift them - don't worry this is perfectly normal and a good sign you're promoting those fitness improvements. You may feel like your arms aren't strong enough but that isn't the case, you are just limited by your aerobic fitness in those muscles and that's why you're feeling sore after. No problem, just recover for a day or two and get going again next swim.

- Keep a log! One of the most motivating and revealing things you can do is keep a training log, simply recording each session, what you did and how you felt. If you record some of your swimming times and distances (no matter how slow or short!) you'll start to see your progress over time which is very motivating. Plus you'll start to see the big picture of your training - have you been consistent or have you actually missed more sessions than you thought?

So there we go, focusing on your stroke technique when you're learning freestyle is vital but don't neglect the fitness side too. Improved fitness means you can swim further but it also means you can hold your stroke technique for longer - critical for swimming those smooth continuous laps of freestyle!

Swim Smooth!

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