For anyone who wants to work up a sweat, get their heart racing and fire up every muscle in their body without the risk of joint injury, swimming is one of the best workouts out there. But, as with any sport or exercise, there’s more to the practice of swimming than simply donning a suit and jumping in the water – there are rules and techniques that should be adhered to for maximum benefit.
For those new to the sport, starting with a swimming lesson is recommended. This is where you’ll learn the basics – how to float, the correct body positioning in the water, kicking on both your front and back and more. Then comes the development of technique, which is where you’ll start working on full strokes and the finer points of how to swim efficiently.
A big fear of many beginners is putting their face in the water, and it can take some time to get used to this. However, if you can take the plunge and spend some time practising this in the shallows, it will really help speed up the learning process as it’ll be no big deal come your first trip to the pool!
Once in the pool, it’s a good idea to wear a swim cap. This is not just for style reasons, but it also helps to prevent hair from getting in the way of your strokes and makes it easier to keep up with your instructor.
It’s important to remember that when you’re swimming, it’s a race against the clock as much as it is against your opponents, so don’t forget to breathe. This is important for maintaining efficiency as you’ll be able to propel yourself forward with the least amount of energy and will allow you to sustain your efforts over longer distances.
In the early stages of freestyle and breaststroke, it’s common for swimmers to shape their hands into a cup with their fingers tightly pulled in. However, this can cause the hand to use too much power as you try to push the water away with each stroke. Instead, a better method is to think of your hands as a fin, keeping them slightly scooped so you can move more water with each stroke and get more propulsion for your effort.
Another important tip is to avoid over-exerting yourself, particularly if you’re still developing your fitness levels. This can lead to unnecessary fatigue in a short space of time and, if done frequently or for long periods, could even lead to shoulder tension.
As with any new skill, consistency is key to developing quickly. If you can manage to get two lessons a week (or more) in the pool, it will naturally make you progress a lot quicker than someone who only gets one a week. This is because skills compound on each other – the more you practise, the more efficient and comfortable you’ll become in the water.