Stop Fighting the Water! Part 1

I was prompted to write this series after talking to my co-worker Sarah who is an avid masters swimmer and most importantly a breaststroker like myself. Sarah went into the weekend dreading her upcoming 200 yard Breaststroke because the past weekend she had swum an extremely painful race where she had gone out hard and really tightened up towards the end of the race.

Going into the race this weekend, her coach and I both gave her some tips. Sarah swam her race on Sunday and to her surprise and elation, she swam eight seconds faster than the week before and established a new best time. But the biggest change was how the race felt. Sarah was shocked by how much easier it felt.

What did Sarah change between Week 1 and Week 2? To put it simply, she stopped “fighting the water!”

Power, force, propulsion are important in swimming, but reducing drag and resistance is equally as important. Sarah reduced drag and resistance in her second race. What did Sarah specifically change in her race between the two races?

Two very small things:

  1. She focused on gliding for a two-count between each stroke in breaststroke. This helped Sarah get her hips up and lengthened her distance per stroke.
  2. Sarah tried swimming more lightly, with less power for the first 100 of the race. This helped her focus on swimming smoothly and more efficiently.

Sarah found that she swam much more efficiently when she focused on gliding and pulling more lightly. She kept her body much higher in the water by gliding for a longer time between each stroke and reduced her drag further by resisting the urge to power herself through the water with each stroke.

A few small changes focused on swimming more efficiently resulted in a substantial improvement for Sarah. Sarah’s swim is a great example of how reducing drag by swimming smoothly through the water can substantially improve a swimmer’s speed without any improvement in strength, endurance, or physiology.

I will continue the “Stop Fighting the Water!” series in the coming weeks, examining specific concepts. There are great examples in each stroke and I’ll try to touch on a variety of examples dealing with both kick and pull.

- Paul