When most people picture a lap swimmer, they’re likely envisioning someone swimming the freestyle. The most commonly-recognized stroke, freestyle is also sometimes known as the front crawl. However you think of it, freestyle is a great stroke to tackle first as a beginner. You can learn many of the core fundamentals of swimming by starting with freestyle. Let us help you take your first strokes with these five tips:
Seek help from a fellow swimmer or coach.
When learning a new sport, the right instruction and coaching can often make all the difference. If you have the means, consider joining a swim team or rec group for beginners, or even seek the help from a private coach. If you’re not comfortable with a more formal setting like that, try to find a competent swimmer you trust to give you pointers or lessons.
Getting one-on-one help in the water can be invaluable as you learn to swim freestyle. Your swim buddy or coach can help point out where you need to adjust your stroke or technique, and can demonstrate the proper way to swim the stroke themselves or even hold you in the right positions.
Get a feel for the water.
Swimming isn’t a natural skill we have from birth. As a beginner, you’ll want to start by getting a feel for the water. Understand how your body moves through it, and what the resistance feels like against your palms as you use your hands like paddles. As you move your hands and arms around in the water, try crouching down at the same time, slowly allowing the water to support more and more of your body weight. These actions will allow you to get a feel for the water, which will help you as you begin to add technique to how you move in the water.
Establishing a breathing technique is an essential part of swimming any stroke, not just freestyle. Most people will instinctively hold their breath when their face is submerged in water. As a swimmer, you want to avoid holding your breath and focus instead on a pattern of inhaling and exhaling.
As you swim the freestyle, you will want to maintain a steady exhale and release your breath slowly while your face is submerged. When you turn your head to the side to breathe, you should only need to inhale, as your exhaling was all done in the water.
To start, try standing in the shallow end of the pool and place your face in the water. Practice breathing out in the water, creating a steady stream of bubbles through your nose or mouth. Imagine it as if you are sighing. Focus on remaining relaxed--a steady inhale-exhale pattern will keep your body fluid and loose. If you hold your breath as you swim, your body will tense up and your stroke will reflect this tension with a choppy, uneven motion.
As you become comfortable breathing out in the shallow water, try turning your head to the side to inhale, just as you would while swimming the freestyle. Practice this until you build enough confidence to breathe as you swim.
Break down the stroke by practicing drills.
Rather than trying to learn every aspect of freestyle all at once, break the stroke down into its different parts by practicing drills. Drills are used by all swimmers, from beginners to Olympians, to fine-tune technique and different aspects of each stroke.
Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to perfect the stroke right from the beginning, but instead practice drills to get a feel for each part of the freestyle.
- Kicking - The flutter kick is one of the main parts of the freestyle. Use a kickboard to really focus on the rhythm and propulsion of your kick. Point your toes to ensure a more hydrodynamic shape in the water as you alternate legs, moving up and down in the water. Once you have a feel for the kick, set the kick board aside and practice the kick with your arms in a streamline position. Without the kickboard, your face will now be submerged and you can practice the kick with your breathing technique.
- Pulling - The arm motion in swimming is often referred to as the pull. To start, lie on dry land and practice your freestyle arm movement. Lie on your side with your lower arm out in front of you as you practice the motion with your top arm. Lead the movement from your elbow, keep your fingers together and move your arm over your body before placing it in the “water” in front of you. Once you think you have the motion down, work on your pull in the water while using a pull buoy. This foam swim gear will keep your legs elevated without having to kick. This will allow you to focus all of your effort on your arms and improving your pull technique.You can also utilize a kickboard to practice and perfect your technique.
Boost your stroke by using fins.
Fins are a tool used by swimmers to improve different aspects of their technique. Similar to scuba flippers, fins are shorter and length and more flexible. BornToSwim offers a short fin in a variety of colors, perfect for every level of swimmer.
While some believe using fins in training is cheating, this is not the case. Many of the core fundamentals of the freestyle stroke can be learned and tweaked by using fins. The extra propulsion gained by using fins can help swimmers improve different aspects of their technique more quickly and efficiently. Fins can also be useful tools when working on drills in your freestyle training sessions. Just be sure to only use fins for portions of your workouts, and not the entire time.
Ready to get started? Use these five tips as you set out to master the freestyle, and be sure to always practice safely with a lifeguard or swim buddy present.