[quote=“rocky raccoon”]So I’ve been visiting the community pool lately to try and stay in shape. It closes around 10:30pm so been getting there around 9:30 when it’s a little less crowded.
For long term health, I would have to say that swimming is right up there near the top. But one thing that bothers me is that after I do 300 meters (50m then rest, 50 then rest, etc) my form really goes bad. I feel like a drunk dolphin flapping around in the water.
I don’t know how many swimmers are on here, but curious to know: how do you know if you have good form when you swim freestyle? What can I do to try improve my endurance?
Just looking for some tips if there are any people that also swim for exercise.[/quote]
I used to be a lifeguard for a few years and a qualified swimming instructor, although I didn’t maintain my qualification with regular courses.
The two greatest tips I could offer when swimming any style are 1st breathing and 2nd keep the bubbles down to a minimum.
Breathing is absolute key for endurance exercise of any type, but swimming especially as your stroke depends on when and where you need air. I haven’t watched the Olympics for a few years and I was surprised to see this time that unlike years ago, swimmers tend to now breath more often than they used to. You see front crawl demands that your face always be down in the water to maintain a good streamline angle, and turning the head to breath disturbs that angle and slows you down, so breathing was often done once every two strokes, but I guess it must have been proven to be more efficient over specific distances to breath on every stroke. Power versus drag in this case.
Without getting too much into things, first slow your stroke right down and learn it properly. when powering forwards keep your neck straight and your face in the water, the top of your head should be almost submerged. The more buoyant your upper body shoulder area is however and/or the heavier your legs will cause your head to rise out of the water. This can be cured by tilting your head down further, and taking in a little less air to begin with (remember this is keeping things slow to get your stroke right before you go full out thrashing).
When extending your arm out in front before your hand enters the water, angle your palm slightly so that your thumb enters the water first. This minimizes the air trapped under your hand when submerged and makes your stroke more efficient. As I said in the beginning, keep your bubbles down to a minimum as they cause a large amount of drag.
Once your hand is in the water, cup it very slightly, turn it in so your palm is angled towards your toes and push your hand through the length of your chest, down an imaginary centre line. Once your hand is down to the last third of its stroke it is almost completely out of power and so straighten it out and with your elbow at around 100% exit your arm elbow first out of the water, hand trailing little finger out first, thumb last. Your hand coming out sideways obviously offers less drag.
The trick to front crawl is to not loose your momentum causing you to loose your inertia in the water. You must also not build up a wake in front of your body by lifting your head. Your head must turn sideways as your arm on the same side exits the water elbow first. At this point there will be a very narrow opening on the water’s surface where the water level actually drops slightly in the space between your head and your protruding shoulder. take a very quick breath and then head down again in the water.
Your breathing out can be done over the course of your stroke through your nose, but don’t expel all of your air or you will loose your good flat buoyancy angle. This is why I said the key to good swimming is good breathing. People often end up burning themselves out because they speed up their stroke to get in more breaths, but the speed up actually requires more air than they get between strokes, so they end up stopping.
Legs and feet:
Toes pointed down like a Swan Lake ballet dancer, legs straight allowing about five degree flex at the knees. Think of how a sea diver looks with flippers, you are aiming for the same effect. Your legs will be high in the water to keep a straight body position, but don’t allow your feet to keep bringing down lots of air from outside the water. You are trying to keep the bubble number down, so flip water not air. Some air will be dragged into the water by the water and that’s inevitable, but as long as you keep the bubbles in mind. It’s all about bubbles!
Just like cycling up a hill, start off slowly and let your heart and lungs find a comfortable rhythm over lets say five minutes of warm up. Once you feel that breathing is easy, speed up your stroke, very little at first until your heart and lungs speed up and you can control your rhythm. Keep each quicker speed going for at least thirty seconds by which time the additional oxygen demand will have sped your heart and lungs up and you can go about adjusting your speed once more.
You should be aiming for consistency, not speed. Stopping every fifty meters and panting a lot is telling you as you have quite accurately recognized that your stroke is not correct and your speed is too great for your system to manage. Better than stopping every several meters is to slow everything right down until you can maintain a good rhythm first. Remember you are aiming to increase your fitness, not outstrip everyone else. Speed will increase over time, trust me, but get the foundation right first. fits and spurts, blasting then stopping will shock your heart, and its not good in the long term.
A little unrelated but useful info:
Many lifeguards and hard core swimmers overtime report of poor breathing conditions. Asthma is not uncommon in long term lifeguards as the chlorine in the pool may eventually take its toll on the breathing system and cause allergic reactions. Swimming in public pools can also be very harsh on the hair and can even turn it green over prolonged periods. There are many specialized shampoos on the market which claim to eliminate the chlorine from the hair and according to users it does work.
Likewise chlorine being a bleach kills your swimming garments, so rinse them thoroughly after soaking with normal tap water, but this explains how they can become thinner and less elasticated over time.
Chlorine is a very nasty substance, and if you feel it is too strong in your local pool, then report it or change pools. Its one of the reasons I will not go swimming in Taiwan public pools. That, and I’m afraid I’m very bored of swimming.