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Five Freestyle Tips

A new season of swimming is underway, and as is the case in many post-Olympic seasons, there should be a bevy of new swimmers flocking to their local pools this month to join their first-ever swim team.

For some, it may be their first experience swimming with a group outside of swim lessons. It can be overwhelming going from a shorter swim lesson to a longer swim practice, but all it takes is a strong focus on a couple of key skills. Here are a few freestyle tips for beginner level swimmers to start off their first season successfully!

1. It’s all about the kick! 
For any of the four strokes, efficient stroke technique starts with proper kicking. In flutter kick, that means kicking with the toes pointed, knees relatively straight and kicking from the hips, as opposed to from the knees. Proper kicking technique will not only help your body stay horizontal in the water, but it should also propel you forward. “Kicking should stabilize and propel,” said Mike Novell, head coach at Fort Collins Area Swim Team. “The better a swimmer can balance, the less the kick needs to be about stability and the more it can focus on propulsion.” 

2. Streamlines – the key to effortless speed.
Streamlining off each wall—with your hands locked together and arms squeezed tightly against the backs of your ears—is the easiest way to generate momentum in the water. If you’re just starting out on a swim team, there’s no better time to focus on perfecting your streamlines — it will help you conserve a lot of energy by eliminating a few strokes each 25, and will establish great habits for the future. “I think about being a spear thrown off the wall – straight alignment, tight and strong,” said 2012 Olympian Breeja Larson. As you become more comfortable with streamlining off each wall, try to extend how far you stay underwater; it’s never too early to start working on underwaters! “It always takes me a while to get used to holding my breath, so I try to force myself to keep a tight streamline and go father than I normally would underwater to get in shape faster,” Larson added. 

3. One goggle in, one goggle out. 
One of the most challenging skills for new swimmers to master is breathing to the side on freestyle. Why is this skill so important? When you lift your head or look forward to take a breath, it causes your lower body to sink in the water, creating a more vertical body position which in turn creates more drag. Pay extra attention to your head position when you breathe, and in drills working on side breathing, like kicking on your side or catch-up freestyle. Ideally, one of your goggles should be in the water and one out of the water when you roll to breathe. 

4. Flipturns – practice makes perfect!
Ever gotten water up your nose on a flipturn? Or missed the wall, tried to push off and realized there was nothing there? It happens to all of us, from beginners to Olympians! The best way to overcome these mistakes is to continue practicing your flipturns over and over until the timing of your flip and breathing are second nature. Think about breaking down each turn into a couple of simpler parts – the leadup, the somersault, the push-off and the breakout – and try to perfect each part. Learn from your mistakes, correct them and keep at it and you’ll have consistent flipturns in no time. 

5. Long and strong strokes.
Starting a new sport or joining a new team is very exciting – and that excitement should translate to your swimming! But, don’t let your enthusiasm to swim fast and impress your new coaches turn your stroke into a sloppy mess! Focus on distance per stroke – the distance you travel in the water with each arm pull – right from the beginning. “Focusing on distance per stroke is very important, because it allows you to get the most distance out of each stroke without using as much energy as your competitors,” said 2021 Olympic silver medalist Katie McLaughlin.