Why do we want balanced swimming? One, we want to swim straight. Two, we want to use both sides of our body, all of our muscles. Three, we want to avoid injury. If you are swimming using one side of your body more than the other, one arm more than the other, you are going to have trouble going straight. Although while swimming in the pool you are able to see where you are going and therefore make adjustments, this does not necessarily mean you are swimming balanced. Unless you are swimming balanced, you may be going straight but you will be less efficient. If you are swimming unbalanced in an open water swim it will be difficult to stay on course. Furthermore, putting more stress on just one side of your body can lead to injury.
How do we stay balanced while swimming? Breathing to both sides or alternate breathing helps to keep you balanced. You can breathe on the odd numbered strokes, 3, 5, 7. This will seem awkward at first but after a week or two it will become second nature. You can also use a pattern where you breathe X number of times to the right and then breathe X times to the left. Breathe ½ lap to the right, then ½ lap to the left. Additionally, whether you breathe to one side or both, breathing too early in the stroke can also throw you off balance. Rather than breathing as your hand enters the water, wait for the hand opposite of your breathing side to enter the water and begin the catch while your “breathing side” hand is recovering over the water before taking your breath.
Here are a couple of drills to encourage balanced swimming:
Triple switch: Start with 3 strokes. After the 3rdstroke roll to that side and do 5 kicks, then do 3 more strokes and do the 5 kicks on the other side. When you are doing this drill focus on keeping you head straight and your elbow high under water.
½ Catch UP: As you are swimming, hesitate when your lead hand is out in front in the catch position and your other hand is recovering out of the water near your head. When you are doing this drill focus on keeping your head straight and rotating your hips.
3 Right 3 Left: Swim 3 strokes with your right arm and then 3 strokes with your left arm. The arm that is not pulling should be at your side. This is a difficult drill. If you are not a good kicker you might want to try doing this drill with fins. You want to go through the whole pull pattern and maintain a high elbow during this drill.
The best way to swim better is to keep swimming. Always do some technique work and swim smart. If you have any questions please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want more information about the Santa Barbara Swim Club or the Santa Barbara Masters Swim Club go to our website www.sbswim.net
The Santa Barbara Masters Swim Club is planning on starting a Tue/Thurs 10am technique class and workout. If you would be interested in this workout please contact me.