Summer is here and of course so is the swimming. Before jumping into the swimming pool, it is important to know how to swim. By knowing at the basics of swimming (especially breathing) you will feel more confident and safer in the water.

Freestyle swimming stroke

Freestyle is a fantastic stroke. When you are competent at the stroke it’s easy, fluid, smooth and fast. If you only swim breast stroke at the moment you’ll find it feels completely different – freestyle is much more flowing. You know how awkward it is if you try and walk really quickly? Freestyle is like breaking into a run – it’s a great feeling!

Learning freestyle presents some challenges, the most obvious of which is how to adapt to breathing in a face down position. Many novice freestylers have some anxiety about putting their faces in the water whilst swimming. Don’t worry, that’s entirely normal – what you need to do is learn the freestyle stroke and meet these challenges.

  • Get help from a buddy – if you know a competent swimmer you trust, it will help a lot to have them in the water with you. We call them a swimming ‘buddy’. Having a buddy in the water with you is reassuring. They can remind you of what you need to be doing and they can point out where you are making good progress with your stroke technique. They can also hold you in specific positions whilst you get a feel for them.
  • Develop a feel for the water – water is an alien environment to us; something we’re not used to. Start off by simply learning how your body moves and feels in the water – it’s so important. At first you don’t even need to try and float. Practise sculling in shallow water to develop a feel for the water. Stand in the shallow end with your hands in the water and start to move your hands and arms around gently. Think about using your hands like paddles. Push against the water and feel the pressure on your palms – this is the beginning of something called ‘feel for the water’ that is very important to swimming technique. As you get used to this, try crouching down in the water and let it take some of your weight, all the time continuing to move your hands and arms. Do this for about 5 minutes. You should start every swimming session with this exercise.
  • Blow bubbles – not many people know this, but the most important skill in freestyle is to be able to exhale freely into the water. Most people instinctively hold their breath when their face is in the water. This will make the stroke much tougher. When you are swimming freestyle all exhalation should be into the water, so when you turn your head to breathe you only need to inhale. This is the secret of breathing in freestyle. Holding your breath adds to feelings of anxiety and makes you more stressed. Instead, develop a new habit of exhaling into the water – this will relax you, just like breathing techniques in yoga. Start in the shallow end and practise putting your face in the water and simply hum through your mouth or nose to create a long steady stream of bubbles. Feel like you are sighing. As you get used to this you can develop things by crouching or sitting down to sink lower into the water. A buddy can be useful here to give you some support. If you become so relaxed that you start to feel yourself sinking this is great thing – it shows that you are building a good degree of confidence in the water.

These few easy steps will put you onto the track to becoming a confident swimmer and allow you to feel more at ease in the water.

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