View Full Version : Too slow - need better position for speed

January 16th, 2005, 05:12 PM
I love swimming but I am not very fast! My problem is that when I swim freestyle my lower torso - I am female (bottom,hips) sinks and I feel like a boat that cannot get up onto a plane...if you know what I mean. I have tried kicking faster but I am more into long distance swimming and this gets too tiring.

Is there a better way to postion my body in the water when swimming freestyle so as to get the rear bits floating higher?

January 16th, 2005, 05:56 PM
First thing is to do is relax.

The idea is to not kick faster, but arch the lower back a bit more. Possibly use a pull buoy between the thighs and just pull with your arms. Get the sensations of your bum/legs being up in the water rather than using the pulling as a drill set. Note how the back/stomach feel with the pull buoy and try to mimic the same position with swimming the whole stroke.

Also try working on your "core" which is a fancy way of saying get your stomach and back muscles in shape. This will help with the legs and bum coming up in the water.

This may sound silly, but how about some side stroke drills with an elongated reach and glide? As the legs come together in the scissor kick have them as close to the surface of the water as possible as well as the whole side of the body. This could be a good way to get a feel for the water and will help with the technique of the freestyle.

January 16th, 2005, 05:57 PM
You need to push down on your "buoy," the chest/front area, by pushing down, the legs and hips will tend to float, and also look down at the floor at 90 degrees and not forward, if you look forward, your legs will tend to sink and if you look downwards, it will float.

Here's an article by Terry Laughlin, who is the founder of TI
************************************************** **
No More Sinking Feeling
Better Swimming Starts with Balance

by Terry Laughlin

If one moment at Total Immersion workshops can be described as an epiphany, it's when our students first realize they can float – effortlessly supported by the water – just by changing their body position. That sensation, produced by a drill simple enough to be mastered in 10 minutes, is so transforming that one workshop grad emailed me: "I've been swimming twice a day since the workshop because I'm afraid I'll forget how it feels to be balanced. Every time I get in I pray, 'please, please, feel like it did last time.' I've never felt anything like it; I'm literally just floating along!"

That sense of ease and comfort is transforming for swimmers who have struggled for years without ever feeling good. That's why balance is the skill that must be learned by every would-be swimmer before attempting anything more advanced.

Few swimmers understand this because poor balance doesn't have so serious a penalty in the water as on land. Rather than a painful fall and instant lesson, we start doing laps any way we can and simply get tired faster from the extra drag. Our reaction to that is "I need to get in better shape." But balance can rapidly transform a struggling swimmer into a fluent one because it improves every part of the stroke.

1. Balance keeps you horizontal and slippery. Imagine kicking with a board angled slightly upward. The increased drag would make kicking a lot harder. Now imagine how much drag your whole body can create when positioned at a similar angle. If you're not perfectly horizontal, it's a lot more work to move yourself forward than if you are horizontal.

2. Balance saves you from wasting energy fighting "that sinking feeling." Let's clear up one thing right now: Your body is supposed to sink. Novice swimmers spend upwards of 90 percent of their energy just trying to keep from sinking. A "survival stroke" not only squanders energy, but also keeps your arms and legs so busy pressing down (to keep you up) that they have no opportunity to propel you forward. As soon as you learn to sink in a horizontal position instead of fighting to stay on top, you eliminate needless tension, gain flow and ease, and save energy for propulsion.

3. Balance frees you to be fluent. The unbalanced swimmer is often trapped in a cycle of frantic movement. He responds to the feeling of sinking by churning his arms more. The faster he churns, the shorter his strokes become, and the more strokes he has to take to maintain speed. Eventually, he's flailing frantically just to keep moving. As soon as you master balance, you escape the trap. You move at the same speed with a far more leisurely stroke, find a more natural body rhythm, and even swim in calmer water.

Getting Your Balance
Balance means being "effortlessly horizontal" in the water. It's possible to achieve a horizontal position by kicking hard, skipping breaths, or using your arms for support. But effortless balance – minimal kicking, breathing at will, and with "weightless" arms – is achieved by redistributing your body mass to create equilibrium. The way to do it is fairly simple, but because virtually everything about water balance is non-instinctive, it takes a somewhat exacting process to make it a habit. Here are the elements.

"Hide" Your Head
Years ago, I stressed the importance of leaning on your chest or "buoy." That's still important, but additional years of teaching have shown me that head position is actually more essential. Simply getting the head in a neutral (aligned-with-the-spine) position eliminates about 70% of the balance problems for students in our workshops. When you do it right, it should feel as if:

a thin film of water could flow over the back of your head at any time
you're looking directly at the bottom between breaths, using peripheral vision to peek just a bit forward
you're leading with the top of your head, rather than with your nose
your hips and legs feel much lighter and are riding noticeably higher.
Hiding your head doesn't mean burying it or pressing it down. It simply means holding it in a neutral position, the way you hold it when you're not swimming. When I'm coaching, I want to see a tiny sliver of the back of your head showing above the surface whenever you're not breathing, or a thin film of water flowing over it. Ask a friend to watch as you swim and drill to let you know how much is showing.

Swim "Downhill"
We may no longer emphasize this as much as previously, but for many triathletes who are quite lean or have weak kicks or rigid ankles, leaning on your chest remains very helpful. Hiding your head should make your balance much better, but if you still feel your hips and legs sinking, then lean on your chest, too. How much? Press in until you feel the water pushing you back out. Press in until you feel as if your hips are light, as if the water is simply carrying you.

Reach with a "Weightless" Arm
The best indicator that you are truly balanced is the sensation of having a "weightless" arm. With poor balance, or a high head position, you have to use your arms to try to keep from sinking. A balanced swimmer should feel is if the extending arm is weightless, just floating effortlessly forward, until you choose to make your catch and begin stroking.

Drill with Total Patience
The most important advice I give to those who are particularly "balance challenged" is to do less swimming. Until you have at least the basics of balance, you will almost certainly "practice struggle" while doing whole-stroke swimming. So take all the time necessary to patiently practice basic balance drills until effortless support begins to feel natural.

Use the Fistglove® Stroke Trainer
One of the simplest and quickest ways to develop balance is to wear fistgloves® for 50 percent or more of your pool time, both drilling and swimming. These black latex "mittens" make it impossible to use your arm as a support lever or to muscle your way through the water. They force you to use your torso for balance and support and encourage you to use much more finesse while swimming. Soon, a weightless arm is your only option. For more information on fistgloves®, visit www.totalimmersion.net and check issue #9 of the online newsletter Total Swim.

Terry Laughlin (Totalswimm@aol.com) is founder and director of Total Immersion Swimming, the world's foremost swimming-improvement program. Based in New Paltz, he is also the author of the new book Triathlon Swimming Made Easy from which this was excerpted.

January 16th, 2005, 06:20 PM
awesome advice guys - thank you so much! Now I can't wait to get to the pool to try it all out.

January 16th, 2005, 06:24 PM
Try doing some balance drills and the will eventually help you keep you backside up all the time. I had the same problem a little while ago, but after I did the balance drills, my sprint times dropped a lot. One drill that I like, is start out on your stomach with your arms at your side. Then find your balance, meaning that the top of you backside, shoulder blades, and a small sliver of your head should be out of the water. Then kick with your arms still at your side. When you need to breath just lift your head straight up, you'll sink, then just get back in balance. When you feel comfortable with this, and can immediately find your balance, try it with your hands over your head, and then finally add in your arms.(Fitness Swimming by Emmett Hines). This feels really strange at first like you are exposing yourself to the world, and in a way your are, but when you add back in your arms, then it feels a lot smoother and your legs stay up.