First, let me start by explaining some of the base benefits of swimming over other sports. Swimming is a full body workout, strengthening your heart and muscles while increasing your flexibility and endurance. Swimming is great for a cross-training workout, meaning that the endurance built up during swim training is transferable to other activities such as running, whereas the reverse is not true. Swimming is also weight bearing, so is great for injury recovery or getting back into sports after a long time-out.
Equipment for Beginners
Swimming is a cheap sport to keep up, but as with anything can become very expensive if you are going to chase brand names or equipment that may aid you in taking 0.03 of a second off your length time.
To start with, all you will need is a pair of comfortable goggles that are suitable for your face/head shape and a swimming suit. Personally, I suggest well-fitted swimming gear as it reduces drag such as â€śjammersâ€ť for men or a one-piece costume for women. A kickboard will help massively with perfecting your timing and body position and later can help build endurance and strength.
Tips for Your First Swim
As with all sports, the only way to get better at it is by doing it. Donâ€™t expect to develop your endurance and technique overnight. It takes time and patience and the desire to improve. Failing to start at the beginning is the number one mistake I have come across when coaching. DO NOT throw yourself straight in at the deep end â€“ sink or swim is not the attitude to have. The number of children and adults I have had to spend countless hours teaching to not be terrified of the pool is a result of the old school thinking of throwing them in and they will swim.
Start off by treading water and getting yourself comfortable in the water. The ability to tread water safely can make you feel much more secure as you can always go back to this if you find yourself exhausted or accidentally taking on water mid-way through a stroke.
The most important thing when learning to swim is a key phrase used by most â€“ if not all â€“ swimming coaches, â€śBLABTâ€ť which translates as Body position, Legs, Arms, Breathing and Timing.
Your body position is key to how well you will float and move through the water. The basic principle is to try to have as much of your body in a horizontal position as close to the surface as possible. Once you can easily float on your front and back you will find that you use less effort dragging dead weight through the water and notice a better overall swim.
Try swimming during the quieter times to avoid busy lane rage. Lane rage is caused by the misuse of lane etiquette. To avoid this, practice swimming out of lanes if possible and if not, follow the guidelines on lane boards and stay at a pace that is suitable for your ability.
The Main Strokes
There are various stroke types in swimming used for several different purposes but for now, I will stick to the four main strokes.
This is often the preferred stroke for seasoned swimmers as it is fast and efficient. It uses an alternating arm movement with an above water recovery and a continuous leg kick. It is important to remember when doing both front and back crawl that the kick does not come from the knee but begins from the hip and uses the thighs to straighten the knees. It is not a cycling motion but a kicking motion, somewhat like kicking a ball.
This is often the stroke preferred by beginners as it is possible to swim comfortably with the face clear of the water although this is an incorrect technique. Breaststroke has both arms performing a half-circular arm movement simultaneously underwater in front of the swimmer. The arm recovery happens under water. The legs simultaneously perform a whip kick. With the full body going into a streamline position for a glide.
This can also be quite an easy stroke for beginners to learn as it requires no real breathing technique to start. The body position is very similar to front crawl sharing an above water recovery with a parallel and continuous kick. One of the major difficulties â€“ or should we say concerns â€“ for beginners is the fact they cannot see where they are going while swimming the back crawl and this can lead to the swimmer either over extending the neck to attempt to look in the direction of travel or to look over the shoulder. This is when the correct use of the back crawl flags is important to avoid colliding with the poolside.
Butterfly uses a symmetrical arm stroke with an above water arm recovery. The stroke uses a wave-like body undulation and a dolphin kick. Personally, Iâ€™d say by far the hardest stroke to teach due to it requiring masses of physical exertion when compared to the other strokes as well as more flexibility and rhythm. One of the key difficulties with learning butterfly is the fact that front crawl, back crawl, and breaststroke can all be swum easily, even with some major technical flaws as many people will overcome these issues with brute strength, this is not possible for butterfly.
Of course, as a swimming coach myself, Iâ€™d always suggest taking on some swimming lessons at your local pool. After a few lessons with a decent coach, you will notice a drastic change in your ability and confidence. Do not worry about feeling awkward or silly as everyone must start somewhere, no one will be judging you as they will all be more concerned about their own swimming. Group lessons are a great way to learn in a fun and relaxed environment, or, if you are a bit on the shy side, you can always take on a 1-1 lesson.
Overall swimming is a great way to stay fit and socialize all without having to break the bank on fancy equipment.