How can I learn better swimming?


Do you remember being a kid?

I do , I am riding my BMX for the first time without training wheels. Until now it was safe, the bike always kicked back when I tried to tilt over to far, the training wheels bent at ninety degrees proof as my dad removed them. No matter what dad told me, drew pictures of, even demonstrating how to ride the bike the only way I was going to be able to learn was to try it myself and see what happened. The time was now, “pedal, pedal, pedal” he encouraged as he pushed me along then releasing the seat. The wind in my face, the cracks in the footpath whizzing by, the wobble of the seat the shaky handlebars, ahhh crash. That happened a few times, next time I would do something different. How many attempts it took I really don’t remember but I got it. I was riding like the big kids were, two wheeled, footloose and free.

Swimming is the same, no matter what you see being done, what you read, what someone tells to do, unless you get in and try it for yourself you can’t really know how it feels. It’s funny and sad that as we become adults that through schooling, conforming to rules and standards, becoming more intellectual we forget the child within. Looking back at being a kid the most learning happened in the first 10 years of life.  As babies shoving things into your mouth to relate to objects. Toddlers touching hot stoves to see what happens, as 5 year olds climbing tables, trees, benches anything.  There was no questions or contemplations, we learnt by doing, trying, experimenting.

As an adult when we try something new we want to know what is going to happen, how do we do it perfectly the first time, why we do it this way or that and how will I look while I do it? I am fully aware of the different ways people learn, kinesthetically, visually, verbally and so on. The biggest breakthroughs in a person swimming that I witness when coaching is when that person feels safe to revisit that child. What does that mean?  When the environment supports you being in your body, in the sensations, in the feelings.

I can tell you to get more streamlined when swimming, that you need to hang your head or your hand, even demonstrate what I want to see. Until you play with these things yourself and feel how it makes you slip through the water instead of dragging through it, you will never experience how good being streamlined can feel.

I get one swimmer ask me why are we doing this, what degrees do I hang my hand, can you show me again what you mean?   In the meantime another swimmer is trying it, feeling it, experimenting with it, being it. By the end of the session that swimmer has realized a big breakthrough it what being streamlined feels like and translates to in their swimming. The original swimmer is still working it out, sure they’re in the water but they are also outside their body and in their head. wondering why they  haven’t had the same “light bulb” moment.

Similar to learning to ride my BMX, I didn’t get it right the first time, or second, I did keep trying, kept experimenting and I got it. Those crashes didn’t always give me the perfect result, but they weren’t a waste. In fact they taught me what I was doing well and what I needed to change so I wouldn’t crash next time.  So when I got it I knew why, I knew how, I felt what perfect was, I didn’t need to ask.

I invite you next time before you next jump into the pool to visualize a similar experience from your childhood. Hope in the pool as that kid and experiment with your swimming. You just might be surprised what your learn.

Article by Bare Fish swimming coach Ben Wearing

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