Have you ever imagined how it would feel starting your first IRONMAN swim? Lined up with your swim cap on and snugly in a zipped wetsuit, and probably checking your goggles nervously several times. A large crowd of people around as you wait for the gunshot signal so that the rolling begins. You are stretching out, swinging your arms, hopping up and down with motivation. That energy is usually intense. In fact, even professional athletes will experience elevated heart rates and hormones firing in anticipation.
To many people, the swim is much scary with a lot of tension. As a coach, you would want your athletes to feel confident of getting through the swim and lowering excess physical and emotional stress to save energy for the entire day. In other words, poise, buoyancy, and self-assurance should take control of the swim.
Swimming is a work process that involves many things, from technique and form to fitness and confidence. In other words, there is no magic pill that can move you from one point to another. According to Karen Burbella, winner of the fastest female swim split during the USAT Nationals in 2015 and former Division 1 swimmer, there are 3 ways to improve your swim efficiency and form.
1. Head position
Most triathletes tend to lift their heads too high to breathe, causing the hips to sink. Instead, the swimmer should tilt their chin with one goggle out of the water while the other underwater.
Besides, swimmers take a lot of time looking forward, watching out the buoy rather than making a careful motion to sight and then turn the head and eyes back down. So, be sure to sight for about 8 to 10 strokes and then concentrate on your body position. Try this by choosing a spot to sight before you start swimming.
Moreover, lift your eyes rapidly and efficiently, spot a target, and get back to a better form while looking at the bottom of the pool. Try to breathe after every third, fourth, and fifth stroke while sight practicing. But, be sure not to get tempted to stare at the swimmer’s feet in front of you the whole swim practice, as this could make you lift your head. By looking at the pool’s base, you can get a better balance, and arm movement since the neck won’t restrict shoulder movement when tight.
2. Body position
The ability to position your body perfectly influences every aspect of swimming. As we all know, the spine is linked to the head, ribs, and hip region. Therefore, it is essential to understand how these three parts align and lengthen the spine. Consider trying side kicking drills while in the pool for better body positioning.
What’s more, practice breathing by turning your head well enough to get air and maintain your body position. Keep the underwater arm above against your ear, skull lightly using the other hand while keeping the other arm beside your body. Plus, rollover your head to take a breath and keep half of your head submerged. Use fins to help you with this or a kickboard held by the arm underwater.
3. Ankle flexibility
Basically, kicking your feet flexed will force you to go backward. In such a case, kicking acts as a barrier to the swimmer. Plantarflexors and dorsiflexors are the two major muscle groups found in an ankle. The latter raises the ankle upwards while the former (calf muscles) points the ankle downwards. Therefore, they both are essential for your swimming.
Try rolling the calves, flexing and directing the feet with stretch bands, perform heel rising and dropping on a stair. Additionally, use a balance board to stand at an angle in dorsiflexion to help focus on and build up mobility and range in your ankles. Fins can allow you to use this technique as you swim but be mindful of your ankles’ range of motion.
When it comes to being a more efficient and fast swimmer, there’s a lot to do as an adult triathlete. All you need to do is focus on the basics and limit the number of new things to learn. More importantly, your swimming efficiency and form can hold you back from performing better. So, take your time to learn the apt way to swim, and the results on your race day will showcase your efforts.