The proper technique used to swim long distances effectively isn’t a natural, intuitive motion, and many say there isn’t one proper technique at all. There are many books available on the subject; one popular style is called Total Immersion, created by a swimming coach named Terry Laughlin. It focuses on streamlining your body and reducing drag by minimizing the number of strokes taken per pool length, with the focus on a long stroke with an accompanying glide. While I believe it’s a great resource for beginners, you should keep in mind that such a technique may need to be modified for open water swimming in a frenzied crowd of hundreds of other splashing athletes. In such a scenario, you will necessarily take shorter, choppier strokes. I spent the first few months of my swim training focusing on “gliding” in between each stroke like a sleek sailboat in an America’s Cup race. I soon realized that my body was closer in shape to a hollowed-out log canoe than a slippery sailboat, and that my imagined gliding motion was just me slowing to a near-stop in between each stroke. I started to eliminate this glide and focus on taking strong, steady strokes, and my times dropped substantially.
While reading books and watching swimming videos can be helpful, there is no substitute for putting in yards in the pool. You may want to take a one-time class or private instruction session to get the basics technique down first before you spend too much time thrashing around.
If you are just starting out swimming, keep in mind that there are three mistakes commonly made by novice swimmers:
- Lifting the head, resulting in the legs dropping far below the water surface, causing drag
- Not rotating the body from side to side. Your bully button should be pointing towards the side wall of the pool at the end of each stroke.
- Kicking from the knee instead of the hip. Your legs should stay relatively straight, with flexible ankles.
Focus on rectifying these issues and the rest will, with practice, fall into place.
Next: Pool Swimming