In this first of a three-part series we will look at the most basic errors of swimming freestyle. Today looks at what happens when you hold your head high.
It is instinctive to want to see where you are going. Mother nature has ensured that those who did not watch where they were going did not survive to pass on their genes. Unfortunately, this does not work well for swimming freestyle. When the head is high enough to allow the swimmer to look down the lane, still underwater of course, it creates a counter reaction. We all remember our high school science class: for every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction. When you lift the head up, the reaction is your hips sink. This creates a significant increase in drag as shown in figure 2, the swimmer out of balance.
This drag not only slows you down, but increases the energy required to move forward. I see many swimmers with this issue struggling with breathlessness after a single 25. They are gutting out the distance, plowing through the water. If you make this error, try instead to swim with a relaxed neck, and allow your heads to stay in line with your body, see figure 1, the swimmer in balance, looking down at the bottom of the pool, your hips will ride higher, and you will use your natural buoyancy to stay higher on the water. This will allow you to use your energy to go forward instead of staying up. This correct alignment will also allow you to maintain a sustainable pace without getting winded in only 25 yards.
Now for the hard part. I can work with a swimmer for 10 minutes and get them to put their head down but getting them to do it two weeks later is the key. While making this change is not difficult muscle memory kicks in and your head returns to its old, incorrect position. You are most likely to return to the incorrect head position each time you move you head, for example, when you breathe, and when you push off the wall. Watch a video of a swimmer working on correcting her alignment using the Body Alignment Tool. Designed to keep your body in the correct alignment, this lightweight tool can be worn during workouts for several weeks while your muscle memory is retrained. For more visit the Body Alignment Tool page
Up Next: Over Rolling the Neck