Recommended reads #
For professional advice for swimming, refer to the Swimming and Water Safety textbook by American Red Cross, which includes rich content with illustrations. Chapter 4 on hydrodynamics is a recommended read.
The "Total Immersion" book lists sensory cues for effective swimming, including:
- Hide your head. (Look straight down.)
- Swim downhill. (A counter-intuitive way to prevent sinking legs.)
- Lengthen your body. (Focus on stretching the arms and the upper body).
The benefits of swimming to physical health include development of specific muscle groups, improvement to breathing and posture, and reduction of pain caused by arthritis.
My advice #
Some non-professional advice for myself as a beginner or "pre-beginner" swimmer aggregated from my reminders are as follows.
- Avoid a blocked nose or a runny nose. Helps with blowing out as much air as possible when trying to breathe out fully while swimming.
- Avoid eating too much. Helps prevent abdominal bloating while swimming.
- Stretch arms until pressure is felt by pushing hands flat against the wall. Helps with getting the feel of the extension of arms while swimming.
- Stretch legs until pressure is felt by pushing the soles of the feet flat onto the ground. Helps prevent foot cramps while swimming.
- Do deep breathing exercises in the water. Helps with getting the feel of the rhythm of breathing while swimming.
- Freestyle kicks are big sparse non-continuous kicks with floppy tip-toeing feet and without frequent knee movement. Avoid kicking with lower feet. Kicks helps stabilize forward movement and prevent sideways drifting.
- For freestyle (front crawl) swimming, try to move forward by pulling with arms spread out and shoulder open, feeling the catch, and not rely much on propulsion by kicking with legs.
- Do not hurry or fight against the water. Let the muscles relax with smooth and slow body movements.
- Do not over-rotate before breathing. (Helps prevent water getting into lungs on rainy days at an outdoor pool.) Do not hyperventilate.
- Dry ears with tissue or blow-dryer and avoid putting on earphones or headphones. Helps prevent congestion.
As a lifeguard reminded me, never stop learning. Sounds old, I know you know. Ask different instructors for correction in body position and technique as different people tend to notice different ways that a beginner swimmer may go wrong. Get unsolicited advice for free from people who talk about other swimmers as they chat, which is sometimes helpful but sometimes annoying.
Overcome fear and anxiety. Improve body flexibility and muscle strength. Massage, yoga and dead-lifting may help. Go to the pool every day for a week to develop the familiarity with and whole body sense of being in the water.
Bar plot of frequency of my pool visits each month in 2019
Swimming levels #
After many intense coaching sessions and much self-practising, I was able to go from level 1 at the start of the year to level 4 by the end of the year 2019. However, level 4 is still unsatisfactory for sea survival. There is still a long way to go to being a proficient swimmer. Swimming ability level descriptions are provided in the following table.
Swimming ability level descriptions (Source: Melbourne University Sport program sign up form)
- Jan 2021 Added swimming ability level descriptions.
- Nov 2020 Updated bar plot generated with complete data in 2019.
- Nov 2020 Added more details to some points.
- Oct 2020 Improved phrasing in some points.
- Sep 2019 Added bar plot.