Swimming efficiency does not improve by swimming laps. Repeating inefficiencies lap after lap simply strengthens whatever habits have already been established.

Being a more efficient swimmer begins with breaking away from old habits and replacing them with new, more efficient ones.

But swimming a whole stroke differently is a near impossibility.

One effective way to accomplish habit change is to break down that habit (in this case a whole stroke) into its component parts – body position, arms, legs, breathing and coordination. There are drills that can help to make each more efficient.

Without going into specific stroke details, there are lower body drills to use. You can kick on your stomach, on your back, on your side or vertically. You can kick with arms at your side, both arms extended, or with one arm up and the other arm down at your side.

You can even hold on to the wall.

Using the upper body alone, you can perform drills using both arms, alternating arms, or just one arm.

For me, single-arm swimming is the go-to drill for crawl, back crawl and butterfly stroking.

Even this breaks down into having the non-stroking arm extended or at the side.

Single-arm swimming is usually coordinated with kicking, alternating right arm and left arm laps so that the swimmer faces the same wall in both directions.

It is much easier to swim one-arm butterfly than to use both arms.

For front and back crawls, one-arm swimming helps to rotate the body onto one side, facilitating recovery and breathing.

One-arm swimming drills can be varied, swimming two strokes or three strokes on one side and switching to the other side for an equal number. For butterfly, you can swim a 1-1-1 drill (one arm, then the other, then both) or 2-2-2.

A great breaststroke drill is double-kicking, two kicks with each arm stroke, which forces the swimmer to hold arms extended after the first kick. This improves coordination by emphasizing the gliding aspect of an efficient stroke.

By now you can see that drills are limited only by one’s creativity, imagination and purpose.

For me, more than half of each swim workout is spent on drills. They certainly can eliminate the boredom of full-stroke swimming lap after lap.

Best of all, they focus the swimmer on just one or two aspects of a stroke at a time in the quest for greater efficiency.

Dr. Bob Colyer of Bluffton is an actively retired college professor and coach who has recently published “Swim Better: A Guide to Greater Efficiency for Swimmers & Instructors,” directly primarily to non-competitors. bobcolyer@yahoo.com