5 Easily correctable mistakes made by novice swimmers
If you’re looking to start exercising, but don’t fancy the monotony of the gym, swimming can be an excellent alternative. Because swimmers use their entire bodies, it’s an excellent form of exercise for core stability, muscular endurance and aesthetics. Once you become advanced, you might even want to have a go at cold water swimming which is becoming increasingly popular in the UK. Avoid these common mistakes for novice swimmers and you’ll be flying down the lanes like Michael Phelps in no time!
1 – Improper breathing technique
One of the most difficult things to get your head around (literally) is how to breathe properly without negatively affecting the position of your body, which in turn slows you down. Counter-intuitively we’re told to not take our head out of the water to breathe, but this is easier said than done. However, by tucking your chin into your neck and keeping your head down, you can take a breathe of air on the same side of your arm that is temporarily out of the water. As always, practice makes perfect.
2 – Rapid strokes
It’s easy to assume that the faster you perform the stroke, the quicker your body will propel through the water, but this is false. If you don’t take the time to perform the stroke properly, you aren’t leveraging the full propulsive force of your muscles. Always aim to perform the stroke with a full extension of your limbs and aim for quality first. Once you’ve mastered the fundamentals, then you can think about going as fast as possible.
3 – Improper hip positioning
Remember that in order to generate the maximum propulsion from your legs, you need the kick to come from your hips. This can be difficult to get your head around. Most novice swimmers keep their hips straight and power forward using their upper body and legs, but this is inefficient. Instead, your hips should rotate through every movement for maximum velocity. If you concentrate on keeping your legs straight, this will automatically force your body to start kicking from the hips, which is the proper movement.
4 – Not pacing yourself
For any endurance based sport pacing yourself is key. Even if you’re swimming for recreation rather than competition, you need to learn how to pace yourself in order to make the most from your session in the pool. To use an analogy from running, aim to be Mo Farah rather than Usain Bolt. In a 100 meter spring Bolt will win every time, but the longer the race goes, the more Mo Farah will pull ahead. Swimming requires endurance, so don’t empty your petrol tank on the first lap.
5 – High head position
As we covered in point 1, head position is crucial when timing your breathing, but it also plays a major factor in streamlining your body which is essential if you want to reach the highest speeds possible. Most novice swimmers hold their heads too high, looking directly forward, which is undesirable. Swimming coach Hannah Caldas covers this particular topic in a highly informative article. She states:
“First you should be looking down. This will be easily accomplished by keeping your neck relaxed, ensuring proper head and spine alignment, which in turn will help your body remain as horizontal as possible.” She goes on to say: “Fixing the head will improve a number of other key points in body position leading you to swim faster and more efficiently, providing a more enjoyable swimming experience.”