Why ‘Swim Easy’?

Why ‘Swim Easy’?

In all sports, technique is designed for optimum effectiveness. “The right way is the easy way and the easy way is the right way.” It’s about getting the best performance with the least use or “waste” of energy.

Swimming is a very technical sport. The human body is designed to run, jump, etc. but its not designed to swim. I like comparing swimming to snow skiing, which sounds surprising, but in both we have limited vision through goggles, we have cold and above all, anxiety. Anxiety comes from the “fight – flight” part of our brain and its involuntary, you can’t help it!

In swimming we are driven to aquaplane upwards for a bunch of reasons. “Its warm up there, it’s cold down there! There are sharks down there and salvation is up there!” says our primal brain. In skiing we want to lean into the mountain rather than lean into the valley, “its death down there!”

These paradoxes reduce performance and retard learning.

Solution: Swim in the water not on top of it.

We swim at the same level as we float, otherwise we waste energy. Our involuntary drive upwards not only wastes energy, it makes good technique impossible elsewhere. Yet we are driven upwards by our primal brain. We want to lift our head to breathe rather than stay low and roll to breathe. Funnily enough, the breathing part is at the bottom of our head, so were lifting the wrong part anyway!

Being intelligent we observe things. A speedboat rides high in the water. You can see a champions back uncovered by water so it must be good to aquaplane upwards. Wrong!

You haven’t got a propeller with 300 horsepower and the big bow wave of a champion keeps the water off their back, but they’re swimming at flotation depth.

Think “torpedo [or Thorpedo]” rather than “speedboat”. Submarines with the same power and displacement of a surface ship go faster.

John’s Tip for ocean swimmers

Swimming straight is always a challenge, so you lift your head to see the next buoy. Doing this engages a massive number of muscles from your neck right down to your hamstrings. So here are some tips to save energy.

  1. If you’re near someone swimming at the same speed and who is constantly looking forward, use them as a guide dog! Thank them after you’ve beaten them in the final sprint due to their fatigue.
  2. Fix a distant object as you roll to breathe; a mountain, building or even a slow moving cloud. So each time you breathe on that side get the same picture. By definition, you’re going straight. If the object is closer, adjust for your swimming speed as you advance. When rounding a buoy re-set the focus on something, even the position of the sun.