For the past four summers I have worked at a summer camp teaching kids to swim properly. In this instructable we will break down what you needed to do with your head, torso and legs in order to swim efficiently.
Keep in mind that this is for anyone who is learning to swim, If you are looking to improve your stroke check out some of the comments, they will get you well on your way.
p.s. Keep the comments coming, I'll try to use as many as I can to make this instructable the best it can be.
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Step 1: What You'll Need to Get Started.
- A body of water. (Start out some where that is bellybutton to chest level, so that if you start to feel uncomfortable you can just stand up.)
- A trained lifeguard on duty. (You should never swim without someone keeping an eye on you, especially if you aren't comfortable with water above your head.)
- a kick board or a pull float. (I'm not sure if these are the cheapest out there, this is just the first thing a Google search turned up.)
- Swim peripherals (goggles, nose plugs, fins ect. Sometimes these tools make people feel more comfortable in the water but they are by no means necessary.)
- A friend (for encouragement, and possible aid during certain steps. Your friend can take the place of your floats if you are particularly light.)
- Bathing suit. (really depends on how close you are to the friend.)
Step 2: Getting Comfortable!
Remember, I taught children to swim, so we'll be taking this nice and slow.
The first thing you need to do is get comfortable being submerged in water. Play some games whit your friend in the shallow end of the pool, go under for as long as you feel comfortable and try to open your eyes.
If at any point you feel panicked don't try to force yourself to continue. Take some deep breaths (above water) and try again when you have calmed down. This is where your friend can come in handy for a bit of encouragement.
Once you feel good enough about having your head under the water for a good deal of time, you will be ready to move on to the next step.
Step 3: Talk to the Fish. Listen to the Fish.
This step is all about learning how to do the proper breathing technique. We won't actually start moving through the water just yet.
First, take a deep breath and submerge your face into the water. The back of your head should be above the water while your face, from the ears forward, will be under.
Next, as you feel yourself running out of air, begin to exhale (talking to the fish, because, if you didn't know, fish speak in a complex language of bubbles) and simultaneously turn your head (I prefer to turn my head to the right, but that's just me). By the time your mouth is out of the water you should have gotten rid of whatever is left in your lungs.
Now that you mouth is out of the water, one of your ears will be submerged (listen to the fish). Take a deep, quick breath in and turn you head so you are once again face down in the water.
Repeat this process while standing in place until you feel comfortable doing it.
Step 4: We Don't Need Flat Palms Here.
Next we are going to look at the upper body. This includes how to shape your hands, the motion of your arms, and how to position your torso. This part of the lesson does not require you to actually start swimming, but hopefully you will be able to.
First the hands. Make sure all of your fingers are tight together, and your thumb is pressed against the side of your hand. Curve your hand slightly, as though you were holding a hand full of marbles or a small amount of water. This will help to create more pull when you are going through the water.
Pro Tip: When you take a stroke, keep your hand like it is in the picture, except there should be a slight space between the fingers. It requires more concentration, but you'll get a better pull.\
PRO Pro Tip: Once you feel comfortable enough with your stroke, you can straighten your hand, move your thumb away from your palm and relax your fingers. Unless you want to swim like the flappers.
Step 5: Windmills, Like Holland, Jah?
To practice this step, make your way to water that is a little over bellybutton deep, and bend over so your face and the front of your body are in the water. Extend both your arms, palm down, through the water in front of you, stopping just before you reach a full extension.
Step 1: Now, keeping your right hand extended, swing your left hand down under your torso following along your center line until you reach your hip (picture 1).
Step 2: When your left hand reaches your hip (palm up), pull it just out of the water, keeping your fingertips close to the surface. (picture 2).
Step 3: Extend it back to where your left hand was at the start of the step, submerging the hand as it reaches the peak of the stroke. It should now be next to your right hand.
Step 4: repeat steps 1-3 with your right hand.
Once you feel comfortable with this alternating stroke, try to tighten things up a little bit. While you start to extend your left hand as described in step 3, begin your steps for your right hand. And as you start to extend your right hand as described in step 3, begin your steps for your left hand.
Step 6: Incorporating Breathing.
Once you are comfortable with the stroke you will be ready to incorporate the breathing we learned earlier.
When your right hand is pulled down to your hip it is time to listen to the fish, crank your head to the side and take a deep breath. Turn your head back down into the water as your arm comes up above your head. As your right hand swings down your center line, talk to the fish. Repeat when needed. (I do it every stroke because I have awful lung capacity.)
Once you feel comfortable combining your breathing and your stroke you can grab a pull float and try to make a couple of laps with just your arms. The pull float sits snuggly between your inner thighs, and I like to cross my ankles to help keep it in place. You can also try to place a kick board just under your feet, though this has a somewhat awkward mounting and dismounting process.
Pro Tip! Once you get the hang of meshing it all together, try not to breath every stroke, breath every 3 at the most and you will build your back muscles evenly.
Step 7: Kicking Sans Screaming.
If you can get down the coordination of breathing during your stroke than kicking will be easy as pie.
In order to kick properly, keep your legs straight and your toes pointed, then kick. Don't stop. That's pretty much it.
Try to make a bit of a splash behind you, we always told kids the bigger the better, but that's just because they liked big splashes.
Grab your kick board and make a couple of laps using just your legs, until you are comfortable with what you are doing.
Pro Tip! Your legs require 2x as much energy as your arms, but your arms can generate 2x as much propulsion. That's why distance swimmers basically only kick enough to keep their feet floating.
Step 8: Conclusion.
I have never seen anyone just jump in a pool and quickly "get" swimming just because someone explained it to them. It's like learning to whistle (not that you need to know one to do the other) people can tell you how to do it over and over, but more than likely you are going to spend countless hours puckering your lips and blow until your dizzy with no avail. One day you'll get it, but it probably won't be one day soon.
More than anything else this will take time and practice.
And if there is something you aren't sure how to do try watching someone swimming laps. Be sure to take note of how the move their hands, arms, and how they pivot their torso. Also keep an eye on how they breathe, and their head position.
Stay safe and have fun!
P.S. You will get water in your nose.
All pro tips were taken from the comments to this section. If you would like to contribute your own pro tips please comment and I will try to make it happen.