Almost everyone fears the swim, and for good reason. You can coast on the bike. You can walk on the run. But if you’re out in a lake or the ocean and stop swimming, bad things happen. So, first off, if you feel overwhelmed as you swim, flip over on your back and settle your mind. We’ll talk about mental preparation for the swim in a later post, but taking a minute to settle your mind will help you continue. Let’s talk about getting started on the swim.
I’ve posted on my instagram several times about the swim. It’s the one discipline you can’t fight and push and get better. It takes detailed analysis and understanding of how to move your body through the water. It takes reps and reps and reps of drills to bring that form into alignment because swimming is form over everything. When starting out on the swim, take at least one workout per week to focus on drills. Include sculling, doggie paddle, finger tip drag, fist swim as some of the drills which help get a “feel” for the water.
“Feeling” the water is such an abstract notion. Traditionally, the swim stroke has three phases: catch, pull, recovery. I add a fourth: finish. The finish is the last 10% or so of the pull that brings your hand to your hip and out of the water to start the recovery. You “feel” the water the most during the pull and finish. It takes time to really understand what that means. When I started Ironman training and having to swim these long 500, 800, 1000 yard reps I started to really understand how to feel the water. Hop in the pool and stand in the water. Put your arm in and pull it behind you along your side. Can you can feel the resistance of the water against your arm? That resistance is what we’re trying to feel during the pull phase of the swim stroke. Getting that same feeling as you swim is crucial. You should feel the resistance along your elbow, forearm, and hand through the pull phase of the stroke until your hand reaches your hip and comes out of the water to start the recovery. Feeling that as long as you can during the pull will help propel you forward through the water.
If you’re interested in coaching or a swim stroke analysis, visit this coaching services link and choose one of the packages. Getting a handle on how to improve your swim stroke will help take the fear out of the swim.