People always talk about having a runner’s high but most will never talk about having a swimmer’s high. Perhaps there isn’t one, but if you ever experience what I describe and what I feel, it can trump and surpass the best of a runner’s high. When you have it and feel it, it is the greatest feeling in the world. It’s not just a sensation or a happy feeling in your head like a runner’s high can be, it’s a high that encompasses your whole body and mind. In the water you only have two main senses that are at work, eyesight and touch. Your body has to heighten those senses for better control. You feel one hundred-fold the power of drag on your body than you do just running through air. Because you are “weightless”, in the sport of swimming all you really have to rely on is how well you float and create momentum. You don’t need to be super ripped or super lean because it doesn’t matter. If you can run a sub 5 minute mile or bike a 40k TT in under an hour it has very little relevance to how one can move effortlessly through the water. Most of the best swimmers around do not appear physically like the best runners or cyclists at all. Swimming is simple, it’s all about floating. In all the swim lessons I do the first thing I do for people is teach them how to float, I mean truly float. Most people think they know how to float but they really don’t. To truly float you need to let yourself go, don’t think about staying right on top of the water. Let your arms sink or float where they may and let your legs do what they do which is sink –come on they’re pure muscle– that’s what they will do! Feel your body in the water and then let your senses be heightened, it’s quiet, it’s peaceful and you are floating, you won’t drown. As long as you let yourself relax and float you will not sink to the bottom. You will not drown!
Once you get floating down, then all you need to do at this point is add some propulsion with a kick then bring the arms into the mix. Kicking is a huge part of better swimming even though your kick is only about 15% of your propulsion through the water. Your kick has to be efficient; otherwise it works against your momentum. Most of the people I work with tend to have a kick that does not work in sync with their arms. Look at it this way, when you run or walk on land your legs do all the work while your arms follow them but they do it naturally. In water it is the exact opposite. Your arms are the primary source of movement and generate the most propulsion. Your legs are there to follow the arms. But if you don’t have a good shallow efficient kick this working together cannot happen.
This is why there are people whose legs sink or who kick too much and it causes their arms to have inefficient power in the pull. The body can only put the power emphasis into one major body group and if the legs take over then the arms become the secondary, not the primary. So get in the pool and learn how to float first then start to do lots and lots of kicking. I don’t mean kicking with fins either. Fins just delay the learning curve of proper kicking efficiency. Get a good long kickboard and kick length after length in the pool. Soon your kick will become better and better. When your kick becomes better and more efficient then your swimming form will gain leaps and bounds. Your speed and endurance will triple. I could spend hours and hours going over proper technique and how to do this and how to do that, but honestly I hate typing and I don’t think TriEdge wants this to be a super long and boring article. The most important thing I want to get across today, in this article, is how great and wonderful swimming can be. Make it your own world. Take the quietness to heart and listen to your body and your breath underwater. If you truly listen and feel yourself in the water you to will be able to feel yourself getting faster with less effort than ever before. Think about your stroke and how your body feels as it travels through the resistant water. Soon you too will feel that swimmer’s high. I don’t ever understand why people say that swimming is so boring. To me it will never be boring because I am in my own underwater world and the only thing I am thinking about is my stroke and my body moving through this great world of my OWN!!
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Heath Thurston has been swimming competitively since the age of 5 and has coached for over ten years. He loves watching as others finally grasp proper swim technique, he continually strives to improve his own technique and teaching methods. He started doing triathlons in 2001 and was instantly hooked. He fulfilled his dream of becoming a pro triathelete in the summer of 2006. He loves everything triathlon and looks forward to what this season holds. Heath is a swim/triathlon coach and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.