Swimming has become a popular discipline in CrossFit competitions. It is also a great way how you can work on your endurance and improve your lung capacity without stressing the joints of your body. In addition, it is a great active recovery tool that can release sore muscles after our difficult WODs. Many CrossFitters are scared of swimming when it appears in CrossFit competitions, therefore I am going to give you three tips that will help you swim more efficiently.
- Body position – water has almost thousand times higher density than air, therefore it is important to swim in a position that will have as little resistance as possible. Try to keep your body straight and tight, so that your hips and legs are hidden behind a “window” created by your shoulders. Tighten your core similar to the hollow rock position and avoid overextending your lower back. Another common mistake can be sinking legs. It happens when your legs are not floating in the same line as your body but they get in front of your body. It is like swimming uphill. You can avoid this by laying more on your chest without sinking your head deeper into the water. Imagine, that your chest is a bouy that you are laying on (it is very close to reality, because your lungs full of air make you float). Your head stays neutral and your eyes should be looking straight down at the bottom.
- Breathing – This is the most common problem with beginner swimmers that are afraid of water. Every inhale is followed by immediate continuous exhale. Exhale long and calmly right after your face gets back into water. You can practice this on the edge of the pool – you breathe in, put your head into the water and concentrate on a calm exhale so that you are producing a continuous stream of small bubbles. This exercise is also good as a warm up before swimming. Definitely try to avoid holding your breath which results in getting you out of breath. Try to hold your breath while running and you will see how bad you will feel. You should breathe out so that you fully empty your lungs. This way the air will get back in more easily with the next inhale.
- Kicking – Majority of beginner swimmers start kicking with a high frequency after pushing off the wall of the pool. There are large muscle groups on our legs and aggressive kicking uses a lot of oxygen. It is also proven that kicking itself contributes to the forward motion only by a few percent. Therefore, kicking is used only to prevent your legs from sinking. It does not come from your knees but from your hips. Try to relax your ankles and imagine that there is one big fin from your knees down. Also, try to keep your feet close while swimming freestyle, do not kick to the sides. You can even occasionally make contact between your ankles to make sure that you are kicking in a correct position.
Choose one of these tips and try to focus on it every time you are in the pool. Once you can comfortably add it to your swimming style, you can choose another tip to focus on. Try not to do all three tips at the same time, because you will not be able to do any of them correctly. You will see that once you make all three points automatic, it will be much easier to swim.