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Master the Art of Swimming with These Tips

Some tips on the perfect form and pool etiquette will have you ready to dive into a new sport.

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

Avoid common swimming mistakes with the help of these cues. You’ll be ready to tackle a tri or master a new cross training activity!

Problem: Crossing Over.
Do This: Picture “riding the rail”—keep hands Following the side of the body to the hips like railroad tracks. And try the Elbow Pop Drill: Put one hand on a kick-board, preferably using a snorkel, then upon entry, track your arm from shoulder to hips. Pause at shoulder position to give yourself time to make sure fingertips are pointing down and elbow is lower than your shoulder.

Problem: A flat hand entry. Many swimmers also lead with the thumb, and their hands end up way outside the shoulder in an “outsweep” motion.
Do This: Adjust ever so slightly having the pinkie down so you start the stroke closer to the shoulder.

Problem: Rushing the stroke. Don’t flail your arms like an old-fashioned pinwheel, instead slow down to swim fast.
Do This: Reach Out Drill. Extend your arm forward, setting up the be-ginning of the stroke, with your hand below the elbow and elbow below shoulder. Do a two-count, then bend the elbow to start the catch.

Problem: “Riding the bike” as you kick.
Do This: Focus on a straight-leg kick, initiated from the hip not the knees. Think “crack the whip” and let the ankle flex to finish the kick.

Problem: Not properlyy finishing the stroke.
Do This: Press the hand to the hips and think kayak paddling—the paddle finishes right next to the boat and it helps align and straighten it out. The same goes for swimming. Finish strong to help your other arm set up the top of the stroke.

To view filmed demonstrations of these drills, courtesy of SwimLabs, go to

Mind Your Manners

Pay attention, beginners! (And enjoy a refresher, veterans.) A quick lowdown on lap swim etiquette.

There are countless rules that apply to swimming in the pool, but unfortunately, these rules are not written down, publicized, universal or common knowledge to the new swimmer. Here are a few of the most important rules to abide if you want to keep fellow swimmers on your good side at the local pool:

„ Share a lane with swimmers of similar ability. If there are no “slow, medium, fast” signs for self-seeded placement during solo workouts, scan the available lanes to find swimmers who look comparable to your skill level. Or just ask for permission to join that specific lane. If it’s a coached workout, go in knowing your comfortable pace for 100s so a coach can help you find your place.

Circle swim! Circle swim! Circle swim! „ This cannot be emphasized enough, especially in popular and crowded pools. Swim on the right side of the lane (in both directions), between the black line and the lane line. Do not swim directly on top of the black line. Don’t be a lane hog—swim on a single side!

„ Check for oncoming traffic. Don’t push off the wall until you’re sure everyone sees you, and be sure that no swimmers are about to turn and push off at the same time. Allow the people mid-swim to turn before you start a comfortable distance behind.

„Tap gently to pass. One polite tap on the foot of a swimmer in front means the rear swimmer would like to pass. The front swimmer has the option of continuing to swim but should move closer to the lane line or stop at the wall to allow the pass to occur. The swimmer making the pass has the obligation to pass quickly by swimming in the center of the lane and being conscious of oncoming swimmers.

Rest out of the way. „ Be aware of where you are on the wall during rest. Slide to one side of the lane to give turning swimmers enough room to complete their turn without bumping into you. Use the area on the side, or sit on the deck to put on and take off equipment.