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Friday, January 22, 2010

Smooth Freestyle Swimming

This little animation has been making the rounds for the last few months.

Mr. Smooth!

He's a virtual swimmer who is supposed to represent smooth and near-perfect form. There's some debate to the perfection of Mr. Smooth, but he's so much closer than me I'll call him "good enough"!

Of course, being virtual, he doesn't have to worry about sinking, breathing, or having his butt handed to him by the 14-year-old girls from the local synchronized swim team (don't ask).

I'm too slow to really give people swim advice, but I do know a few things I've done wrong over the years. Hopefully they spark something in perfecting your own swimming technique!

My Mistakes
  • Looking forward - you'd think looking where you're going would be a good thing, but no. It has a tendency to lift your head, which sinks your feet. Swimming "downhill" is preferable, looking straight down. (Of course in a triathlon, you need to occasionally sight to make sure you're on course, but that's an exception!)
  • Over-reaching - this is one I just realized the other day... I've been reaching so far forward, I'm twisting my body, and my hand is crossing the center line. This blog post has a great summary of the problem and picture. The solution is quite simply to keep your arm's reach in line with your shoulder, and be careful not to over-rotate when breathing.
  • Pushing down - When you start your stroke, it's important that you bend your elbow and push the water back, not down. If you push down, your head pops up (much like in "looking forward") and your feet sink - bad. This tendency is especially strong when taking a breath. Check out Mr. Smooth - the palm of his hand is perpendicular to the water surface, facing directly behind him, for his entire stroke... awesome.

The real take-away from Mr. Smooth is just how flat and clam his body is when he's swimming. It looks effortless (and of course, being a fictional swimmer, it is!). He is just laying on the water, stroking forward with a gentle kick... it's hard to be that comfortable in real life, but with the animation it's a little easier to visiualize.

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