What swim style do we teach? When a new client enquires about our lessons we often get asked this question. There is an assumption that coaches should follow one of a few talked about styles.
FC Swimming STYLE – ‘Dan, what style of swimming do you teach? Is it the abc method or the xyz?’ I don’t actually teach a style. We never have at SFT. I look at your range of motion, your imperfections, strengths and weaknesses and start to improve your swimming technique. Whatever that technique might be. Good, bad or having just learned to swim, we all perform the mechanics of a swimming style. You might not feel it is pretty but at any level our style can always be improved. Most are surprised when we show Olympians performing drills at workshops. For an elite swimmer, it might be possible within the full stroke FC movement to make corrections but it is not easy. Breaking things down with drills can help, restricting bad habits or encouraging correct movements can help both in the classical sense and the more off beat. Making use of swim toys creatively can help, the pool deck and even other swimmers*. Depending on your ability and current faults a few lengths to show us what is happening and we can then construct a process to help you improve.
*E.g. I love this idea from Goswim to stop the backstroke arms from crossing over with a hard leg workout. Great thinking of how you can restrict a bad habit and encourage stronger legs as you push the static swimmer.
I was taught to swim at a young age and then had several coaches during stints at my local Swim Club, Millfield School and Ohio University. All pool based long distance FC where economy of movement is precious as you save any energy you can, rather than waste with stroke imperfections. After moving to Triathlon 20yrs ago this Summer it has been a long period of trial and error, racing and learning to see what works well in Openwater. In addition to this trial & error, I have taken coaching qualifications with the ASA, ASCA, the BTF, the World Open Water Swim Association and read up on what the Australians are doing at the Institute of Sport. I am not convinced any one school of thought has all the answers.
What is a style? the moment someone starts to mould you to their favoured style, the method they learned or developed then making your unique style faster is no longer the focus. You might not fit their 10step plan. I prefer to talk about a coaching approach, a logical sequence of steps to take but again this is not always possible. From my work with the London Disability Swim Club there is no one fixed style that suits all and no one way to deliver it even if there was, as we all learn at different rates in different ways. One way to help illustrate this is to think of each body part having some strict rules to adhere to in order to swim faster i.e. to lower drag and increase propulsion. No one won gold at the Olympics with their toes continually pointing the bottom of the pool or pushing water palm down to the bottom of the pool.Then there are some guidelines that need to be played with & manipulated to work out how best they might apply to you. Breathing pattern, stroke rate, kicks to arm cycles and head position to name a few.
The following examples outline more of the process and the detail we need to consider to really help a swimmer individually. We look to lower drag and increase propulsion via the obvious but then we need to start working harder to identify the less obvious. This dawned on me years ago helping one of our Cerebral Palsy swimmers who could not create an ideal fingertip to elbow pulling blade as his wrist was stuck at 90deg. His propulsion was limited but by entering into the water further ahead he could minimize his drag. As rotation reduced so his reach reduced and more of the back of the hand ploughed into the water. With a little more extension over the surface of the water he could just about place his fingertips in first and start to pull. This helped reinforce the idea that all swimmers are different and unique and should be coached as such.
How to improve? Follow the golden rules regarding reducing your profile in the water while maximizing propulsion for the lowest energy cost. Experiment in the grey areas that are specific to you as the swimmer. Kicks per Arm cycle; Tempo of Arm Pull; Head Position; Breathing to One Side, Both Sides. Be familiar with a longer extension of the arm in front if the water is flowing with you, shorter if against. Be adaptable. Your swimming style needs teaching points and if these are too rigid it’s not going to fit you because you are not a robot you cannot repeat exact swimming movements one hundred percent. Similar degrees at joints, same amount of pressure applied through the hand, same speed of left/right arm & hand shapes are all aims to be worked towards in order to keep you at your straightest in Openwater but impossible to be 100% repeatable. Whereas compared to a pedal, tracking the same path each revolution a swim stroke will vary with each revolution. Even at an elite level due to the chaotic medium that water is, an accurate & exact repetition is not going to be repeatable. A well-rounded Swim coach with a good swimming background will understand the mechanics of all that is needed and will know that 1 to 10 steps are not going to work. We may need to travel through steps 1 to 7 then hit a stumbling block and pause travelling out to 7 A to7B to 7C and then continuing with step eight. The Swim for Tri style is your style enhanced and made better, travelling through various routes to lower drag, increase propulsion and work with your specific physiology.