Unlike many other sports, swimming is heavily dependent upon proper technique. You can muscle your way through a bike ride or a run, but muscling through the swim without good technique will probably have the reverse effect and slow you down.
Following are some updated techniques for effective and fast swimming.
The first important aspect of proper swimming is buoyancy. To keep your lower body (especially the butt) as high in the water as possible, swim with your head facing down at about a 45 degree angle. Looking forward raises your head and causes your legs to drop down in the water. Instead, look down and feel like your swimming downhill.
Next, learn and practice the 5 basic steps of the swim stroke:
1. The entry. Your hands should enter the water finger tips first with a flat hand at shoulder width or wider. The chest is broad at the front, and there is no shoulder rotation. The hand stays shallow, about 6 inches below the surface of the water.
2. The catch. At the bottom of the entry, when your arm is at full extension, drop your finger tips and raise your elbow (not your wrist). Your forearm and hand form a straight line. The elbow will be at or very close to the surface of the water. Exhale slowly and continuously while your face is in the water. Keep your lips relaxed as you exhale from your mouth and nose.
3. The pull – or insweep, begins early and in shallow water. Keeping your elbow high, pull back with your hand almost at the side of the body; like a “crab walk”. Exert most of your power at the start of the pull.
4. The finish. Continue the pull until your arm is fully extended at your side and your hand is approximately at mid-thigh. There is a slight hip twist or rotation as your thumb goes by the thigh. Hyper-extend your wrist as your finger tips exit the water. Don’t flick you wrists, just allow your hand to exit the water smoothly.
5. The recovery. As your hand exits the water, keep your elbow high, arm relaxed, and easily move your hand forward with your fingers low near the water surface. When your hand is past your forehead, the recovery is finished, and the entry begins. Inhale during this phase of the stroke.
A proper kick will give you balance, buoyancy, as well as some propulsion through the water. Kick from the hips, not the knees, and flex your ankles with each kick beat. Maintain a steady cadence.