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Tim Carlson enlists the help of coach Earl Walton in becoming a better, more efficient swimmer.

Posted in Blog, News, Triathlon.

September 27th, 2013

Swimming Tips for a Beginner

I have recently embarked on a new venture: learning how to swim.

Don’t get me wrong, if you threw me in a pool I wouldn’t drown. But I’ve never learned proper form and breathing technique. Two or three laps has typically left me gripping the side of the pool and wheezing for minutes. So I’ve decided to dive right in (pun-intended!) and take some lessons to finally learn how to be efficient in the water.

A triathlon may be in my future, but I have a different near-term goal: I’d love to be able to try a game of water polo. I know I’ve got a lot of work to do before I actually attempt a game, but I’m up for the challenge.

For starters, I’ve enlisted the help of Tailwind Endurance’s own Earl Walton, who gave me my first one-on-one swim lesson. Earl has been coaching triathletes for over 10 years, so I know I’m in good hands. I had a few questions that Earl had great answers to:

What makes swimming a great sport?
“It’s a low impact workout and cardiovascular challenge that puts so many people out of their comfort zone,” he said. “And just look at the bodies on those Olympians! Imagine how much more attractive Michael Conlon would be if he were a swimmer?”

How is swimming a good addition to your cross-training routine?
“It’s a mental challenge relating to technique and the learning of a new sport,” Walton said. “This can be a great break from the pounding and miles from cycling and running.”

We all know it’s a good idea to warm up before any exercise, but how should beginners warm up for a swim?
“Jog to the pool. Your heart rate goes up, you warm the body and your breathing is better when you enter,” he said. “Plus you are warm and can stop complaining about the ‘cold water’.”

What else should beginners keep in mind when starting out?
“Start in your comfort zone. Love the pull buoy? Swim for 10 minutes with the pull buoy. Love the fins? Strap them on.”

In terms of my own lesson, one of the things Earl emphasized was focusing on streamlining my body in order to reduce drag. He also told me that when I kicked I looked like a cowboy riding a horse, and that I needed to keep my legs straighter.

Here are a few other practical tips I found helpful:

  • Keep your eyes focused on something when you turn to breathe, it will give you more confidence.
  • Practice kicking by doing a lap on your back, using only your legs to propel you. Kick with straight legs, as if you’re trying to flick the water towards the surface with your feet.
  • When breathing, don’t lift your head out of the water too high. It will make your lower body sink and create drag.
  • When pulling, think about feeling the water with your forearms, instead of just your hands.

My water polo debut may be a few months away, but until then I’m taking Earl’s advice and getting in the pool any chance I get.

What are some of your favorite tips for how to swim better?

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