Have you ever wondered how the “Big Fish” swimmers do it? Michael Phelps, Sheila Taormina, Andy Potts, and Janet Evans- all amazing swimmers that appear to make the job look easy once they hit the waves. How do they do it? Do they have gills, webbed feet, or fins? Maybe some dimension of their bodies contribute to skill, but really it’s simpler than you think. To become the Big Fish, you need to understand the following process:
“Build the Boat and Install the Engine”
Build the Boat
Think of your body as a vessel in the water. No matter what shape or size you are, you will want to be near the surface and able to move forward with the least amount of drag possible. To decrease drag with the body, consider the following focal points:
- Be Balanced: Your head, hips, and heals should be balanced while you swim. Water can then pass beneath you vs. against you.
- Be Lean: Try to rotate while you swim in an effort to decrease your surface area moving forward. Become the speed boat vs the barge.
Install the Engine
Your arms and legs are the two primary means of propulsion in freestyle. Both use the process of creating grip, leverage, and lift/load on the water. To understand this process, consider the following focal points:
- Arms: Think of them as paddles that you plunge into the water and grip water ahead of you. The more surface area you use on your arms the better. Think hand, forearm, biceps, and lats. When done right, you will create leverage on the water, recruit strong core muscles, and lift yourself forward. This process is estimated to create 80-90% means of propulsion, so very important to do it right!
- Legs: Think of them as paddles that more or less push you forward with each down and up beat. This process is estimated to create 10-15% means of propulsion (20-30% if you are a printer or getting chased by a shark!). The kick provides a more profound effect in helping a swimmer rotate, stay aligned, and balanced.
Easy peasy, right!? So putting it all together takes patience and practice just like any other desired skill with the exception that when learning to swim, oxygen is taken away. Panic and fear can be immediate concerns for most aspiring fish. To evolve properly I recommend the following steps:
- Get Comfortable in the Water: Remember how the kids do it. Have fun. Take a water aerobics class. Go splash around at the local YMCA. Go under water, do bobs, float on your back, and go off the diving board. Spend a couple weeks doing this, it helps to build a better learning mindset.
- Get Fit in the Water: The more time you spend in the water moving, the better! If you can swim a couple laps each time, great! Build from there with whatever stroke you have. All movement counts including dog paddle, breast stroke, side stroke, and freestyle of course. You will get fit and comfortable no matter what the choice.
- Learn the Proper Skills: Hire a coach or take a class to fine tune what you are building. Make sure your boat floats right and your engine is maximizing its potential. Using the internet and books are a great tools as well. Just make sure you are applying them right.
Ultimately, becoming the “Big Fish” comes down to being brave, diving in, and getting the work done. Day in and day out, Big Fish solidify their boats and amp up their engines. So, become friends with that black line on the bottom of the pool and embrace those waves. Your fins await you!
Sign up for our swim technique classes beginning in January of 2018 to help you become that “Big Fish!”