In the last article 'Swim Better - Part 1: Stay Relaxed' we looked at the importance of being patient and relaxed in the water. This time, you'll learn how to glide through the water, so your stroke becomes sustainable and you can swim all day!Will learning to glide help you?
To find out if you need to glide more, count your strokes. Each hand entry counts as a single stroke. How many strokes do you take per 25m when you are cruising?
- 20-24 > Gliding will help you to travel a bit further with each stroke.
- 25-29 > Gliding will give you time each stroke to rest as you are surging forward.
- 30+ > Windmill arms! Gliding will help you most of all.
This article will help you to understand WHY you're not gliding and WHAT you need to do to learn the skill and incorporate it into your stroke.
Why won't my body just glide through the water?
Reason 1: You have lost your Balance
When you stand on land, there's a vertical line from your feet up through your spine and up to the top of your head. Standing up and looking forward is a comfortable position.
Swimming is totally different! To be streamlined in the water, your spine line needs to be horizontal with your eyes looking straight down, so you can stay balanced and avoid massive drag. Most swimmers lift their head to look forwards which means hips and legs sinking down behind.
Terry Laughlin, the founder of TI refers to this as 'swimming uphill'. Even if you are only out of balance by 5 degrees it will still slow you down.
Reason 2: Your Timing is off
On a bike you must keep your legs turning to move forward. Stop working and you start to slow down.
If you apply this to swimming you get a stroke which is WORK-WORK-WORK-WORK so there is no recovery time and certainly no glide! The best rhythm for distance swimming is less like cycling and more like rowing with a clear contrast between the power phase and the recovery phase.
When you are swimming it feels more like WORK-GLIIIIIDE…WORK-GLIIIIIDE. It is possible to glide so far that your body slows right down in the water. However, once you learn how to glide then you can fine tune it so that you glide 'just the right distance'.
What position and timing do you need to glide effortlessly?
1. Push and glide from the wall. Do it several times and experiment to see what gives you the longest glide.
2. Look straight down at the bottom of the pool. Feel the length through your neck and let your head be heavy like a coconut.
3. Don't take my word for it. Try the opposite. Push off looking forward to the end of the pool and see how far you get that way. Did your hips sink? Could you feel the drag? How did your distance compare? Now go back to looking straight down and feel the difference! When I teach this exercise it is usually 100% obvious to the swimmer that looking straight down gives a longer glide.
4. Now add a gentle kick and extend your arms out in front of your shoulders with relaxed hands - just like Superman! Keep your kick quiet, hang your head and relax into the support of the water.
5. Now swim a length and see how it feels. Can you feel the relaxed glide? Are you still hanging your head and looking straight down? Try a length looking forward to experience the contrast and then go back to a streamlined position so you can feel the difference.
6. Focus on a 'patient front arm' so that your front hand waits outstretched in the gliding position. Don't move it back until the recovery hand is level with your ear. This will help you to feel the glide phase.
7. Notice how much easier it feels. Count your strokes again. Has it changed?NEXT TIME - Generating Power
The next article will teach you how to use your whole body to generate power. You will learn how to engage your hips and core to be more dynamic in your stroke. Stay tuned!