In last month’s column, written in early May, I confessed my own inadequacies after viewing the first-ever video of my strokes. It prompted a three-month self-improvement project to reach the level of excellence toward which my book and these columns are directed.
I am pleased to have succeeded.
My progress and success are due to several precepts that I have repeated throughout these columns over the past few years:
1. Efficiency begins with an effective push-off. Use both legs against the wall after lining up the body to make the least resistance and get the most distance from your effort.
2. You can’t swim better by swimming laps. After each push-off, swim just a single stroke cycle for the most distance possible. Keep repeating, then progress to two cycles, but no more.
3. Fundamentally, stroking is moving your body past your hand (and arm), not vice versa. Thus, to optimize propulsion, your hand must continually press against non-moving water for the longest and most effective stroke.
4. As I quote Samuel Johnson, “What we hope ever to do with ease, we must learn first to do with diligence.” My improved strokes have become consistent, but they have yet to reach the level of being unconsciously so. To continue to progress, I must be sure to maintain my focus.
All this self-validation means very little unless it transfers. My experience has to help swimmers learn how to help themselves and others.
My teaching rules apply equally to all strokes:
1. The new stroke has to be (or at least feel) different from the old, inefficient habit.
2. The emphasis has to be on quality over quantity.
Becoming a more efficient swimmer can be done, regardless of age and experience. It is a process that requires patience, taking one step at a time. It cannot be accomplished just by swimming laps.
All that lap swimming does is further cement the undesirable habits that the swimmer is attempting to overcome.
Anyone, whether a beginner or a decades-long swimmer, can become more efficient in the water by understanding the fundamentals and following just the two rules above.
No one is too old to get better, especially if the swimmer expects to continue in the pool for the rest of his or her life.
That is why I prefer to say that I don’t teach swimming so much as I teach efficiency of aquatic locomotion.
Dr. Bob Colyer of Bluffton is an actively retired college professor, coach and author of “Swim Better: A Guide to Greater Efficiency for Swimmers & Instructors,” directed primarily to non-competitors. firstname.lastname@example.org