I’ve been swimming ever since I can remember. I took lessons from the time I put my toe in the water. Swam competitively in high school, took a few years off and from about the age 28 or so have been on average about 6 months out of 12. In the last couple of years my schedule has allowed me to be more consistent and thus I have been doing more research to try to improve my stroke. For 30 years or so I would do 40 lengths or so and sometime squeeze it up to 60. Now 60 (a kilometer and a half – about a mile) is my minimum.
I’ve read a number of books over the last year or so and watched dozens of videos on YouTube and other places. I had a fairly good stroke, smooth and all but I wanted to reduce my number of strokes per length and generally make my freestyle more efficient. I’m of the philosophy that one has to duplicate something to understand it before one can have judgement. Actually, this sounds pretty logical but most don’t really get it. So, what I did was take the Total Immersion technique and just robotically went about learning it. Once I had it and understood how my body moved through the water using this system, I was able to take what I needed and make it work for me and what I wanted to achieve with my swimming.

As I mentioned there are numerous videos on Total Immersion Swimming – I did also get a copy of the book on the subject by Terry Laughlin which has a lot more useful information and more depth that one would get in a video.

Another book that I have found very useful is called ‘Shape Up!’ by Blythe Lucero. Excellent information and great workouts. She has written several books but this was the one that I found the best for my level of swimming. It has a lot of great drills that are part of the workouts. I find that if I actually do them it improves my stroke. This, along with other aspects of learning some new techniques at my age was a bit tough at first as I often tend to think I already know things and that is a definite barrier to learning. I’m read some other books – some good some bad.
One of the thing that I have found most important in training is to really take gradients. Especially at my age. When I first increased the length of my workouts I did too much too quickly and overworked my shoulders. I had to take a break. I took it back and increase very gradually. Also, pretty much every book and blog recommends recovery time. This goes for any sport and for me 3-4 times a week is plenty and gives my shoulders a rest. I sometimes would love to do more and if I really feel the need, I go and do a few miles on the bicycle.

I have also searched out some different blogs, by no means, I’m sure, all of the good ones. Some just have some good workouts and some websites have lots of marvelous, useful stroke information as well as good workouts.

For me the book Total Immersion was quite useful. It got me thinking about my freestyle and although I had a pretty smooth stroke, with this I was able to lengthen it and adjust a few things that made my stroke a whole lot more efficient.
There are a couple of different philosophies regarding what the ‘best’ stroke is. I try to take what works for me. For example I learned the ‘Total Immersion’ technique so that I knew how it felt. I’m better at distance swimming and this worked for me. Even then, once I had learned the techniques for freestyle from this Total Immersion Swimming method I then took from that what worked best for me. I do find that I have a different style for sprinting as to what I use for distance. I am using about 25% fewer strokes and for 400 or 800 meters I am doing the same or better time.

Some good references:
– this is a marvelous site. Full of all kinds of information with interactive tests and an excellent forum: http://www.swimsmooth.com
The information from this site definitely helped my stroke: http://www.totalimmersion.net/. Tons of great videos here and on YouTube.

If you like to change up your workouts this blog has different swim workouts for different levels posted most days. For me this is great – keeps it interesting. If you email you can also get questions answered:
NTC: Nation Training Center – a blog kept by Sara McLarty

Everyone is different and we are all shapes and sizes. Some techniques will work better for one person than others. As I said though, if I learn a technique – really duplicate it and then understand how it works for me – then I can have some judgement. Once I have learned that technique fully I can then take what works best for me and apply.

The websites for Canada Master Swimming and USA Masters Swimming also have a lot of useful information including times so that one can compare how they are doing to other master swimmers.

Posted by Martin Jones

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