Better swimming – It’s all in your head!

Many swimmers, even quite experienced ones instinctively fight gravity to avoid sinking when they swim. We witness a kind of “survival’ stroke action, which is unsustainable over longer distances.

This “fight’ can be identified by a high head position, low hips and even lower legs. The resulting sloped body position causing a drag effect. Very tiring drag!

In contrast to this, when we achieve a balanced state in the water, we provide ourselves with physical control and mental calm. When we learn to relax, our bodies sink into the support of the water – not unlike the feeling of weightlessness.

How can you achieve a balanced body in the water?

Think of an old fashioned weighing scale, equal mass on each side, giving us balanced plates. Take a weight from one side and we get imbalance. One plate up, one plate down.

Check out this video:

How many times do I hear the comment “my legs just sink when I swim, I have to kick them so hard to keep them up, then I get out of breath”

It’s what is happening at the other end that needs attention. When your head is high, or you’re looking forwards, your legs are likely to sink. It’s an action re-action thing – Newton’s 3rd law, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction (that has a negative effect on my swimming!! Hmmm!)

And then. when your legs sink, your brain tells you to kick them to keep them up. Which in turn, sends our oxygen consumption and heart rate through the roof! Not so good!

Have you ever had the feeling that you’re swimming uphill, hauling your body mass through the water? Just like the video clip?

Neutral spine

When we walk around during the day or sit (correctly) with good posture our spine is said to be in a “neutral’ position. This is exactly what we need to do when we swim.

Can you imagine what you would feel like if you walked around all day, with your eyes looking up, your neck extended back? Yet this is what most of us do when we swim. Ouch!

Just let it go! Let go of that tense neck position and let your gaze release down to the bottom of the pool, feel the crown of your head leading the way through the water, not your forehead.

Try this “Push Off” drill

Push off from the side of the pool, arms relaxed and in front of your shoulders. Kick your legs, try to keep moving. Hold your head with the water line on your forehead, looking forwards, arms stay out in front. Stand up calmly before your breath runs out.

How does it feel?

Repeat. But this time, after a few meters, drop your head, release your neck, let it go, look down, don’t force – just release it.

What sensations do you feel in your body? Which position feels better?

Finally, push off again, arms relaxed and in front of your shoulders, with a neutral relaxed spine, gaze down. Kick gently. Repeat several times so that your brain is rewired to this new position.

How did our swimmer in the video go?

Check out his progress after we did some work on balance and other key TI elements.


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