I have always loved the water. Thanks to my mum, I was introduced to swimming lessons when I was 4 years old and I progressed well as a club swimmer. I enjoyed swimming but over the years stopped going to the pool regularly. So when I decided to take up triathlon this meant I had to get back in the pool. I kid you not after one length of front crawl and I was exhausted and gasping for air.
Swimming is all about technique and regular practice. You have to get in the pool regularly, as in a minimum of three times a week, to improve and maintain it. It has taken me hours and hours both in the pool and in open water to get my swimming to a reasonable standard, and while it has paid off there is always room for improvement.
There are lots of books on swimming smooth and you can find a lot of really good explanatory films posted by pro-swimmers on youtube (this short film by Olympic Chloe Sutton one of the best ones that explains how to get a good catch and pull https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T1OY_yQBiXM&t=452s) however, ultimately I believe a swim coach is a good investment. Having someone look at your particular stroke and figure out ways to make you more efficient and faster regularly is my advice.
I have had a swim analysis in an endless pool previously which included a post session video analysis that critiqued my stroke and basically showed that I needed to improve my body position, stop my arms crossing, slow down my arm cadence, improve my kick,...and god so many other things and that was reasonably helpful. However, it is different swimming in an endless pool and if you have not swum in one before can feel a bit unnatural. I personally don’t think I would go back to an endless pool again for analysis. It was not really helpful enough.
While my swim time has improved over the last few months I felt I was not making any progress so I decided it was time for a rethink. Lucky for me there are a few excellent swim coaches in the South West and I managed to find former Olympic swimmer Jemma Lowe, who run her own swim coaching business, to spend an hour at the pool looking at my stroke. That one hour session was really helpful. She immediately identified that while my head and overall body position was fine in the water I was missing a huge part of the catch and pull to my swim stroke.
The catch and pull technique is something that has been explained to me before by swimming coaches but generally quite hard to understand. Essentially, it is all about getting a good entry point for your hand and keeping a high elbow through the pull phase as well as engaging your lats. www.swimsmooth.com has a really good explanation of this. There were many more tips given to me by Jemma, about reaching and gliding and pushing through the hip. Too many to note but essentially having a former professional swimmer look at me has helped massively. Since the session with Jemma, I have been in the pool working on specific drills that will help my technique and while it still feels a bit unnatural to swim this way I am already seeing improvements in my time. I will go back for another session soon and no doubt there will be plenty other bits for me to work on.
So my advice for anyone keen to make some improvements would be to find an experienced coach to look at your swim technique, then get some drills to correct your stroke incorporated into your pool sessions so that you can maximise swimming throughout the off season.