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by Scott Bay

December 24, 2018

Whether your background is swimming or another sport, you should focus on doing this

Swimming is a difficult sport to master and to pick up again. If you haven’t been in the water for a while, you probably feel like you have some catching up to do. If you’ve come to swimming from a different sport and are using it to cross-train or are trying a triathlon, you might be wondering why swimming is taking longer for you to master than other sports. If you’ve just learned how to swim, you might think it will take you a while to be able to do what everyone else in the pool is doing.

Wherever you are on your journey, you need to remember one thing: Good swimming isn’t as much about talent as it is about concentration, effort, and the ability to unlearn.

Investigating the Mysteries

Good swimmers have often been at it for a long time and they come in all shapes, sizes, and ages. You can never judge who the best swimmers are by the way they look or the fastest by how fit they are.

So, what’s their secret?

Knowing the movements, for sure, but the ability to let go of preconceived notions about fitness, athleticism, strength, and older techniques and remain open to trying new things is key. Here’s some encouragement if you’ve recently become a swimmer or returned to the sport after a long hiatus and are feeling frustrated with your progress in the pool.

Brand new and just learned to swim?

This sport is one of the best health investments you can make. Swimming provides a great fitness lifestyle with little to no impact. But we’re terrestrial creatures—we’re used to gravity and having something to push against. The aquatic environment is different not only for that reason, but also because swimming makes you focus on where and when you breathe. The more time you spend in the water, the more comfortable you’ll become. Go to those Masters swim groups and do at least part of the workout. It doesn’t make you a quitter if you only do some of the workout—it means you’re on your way. For you the thing to unlearn is that you’re more comfortable on land.

Age-group or summer-league swimmer coming back to the pool?

You probably have fond memories of swimming with your childhood teammates, the camaraderie and special group of friends that swimming provided. You might even remember and appreciate all your coach taught you back then.

As an adult swimmer, you’ll be thrilled to discover that you can have all that again, but you’ll notice a few changes. Technique is taught differently now, so even if you’re super-comfortable in the water, you’ll want to be open to new ideas. And remember that you’re imprinting a new pattern of movement in your brain, so be patient. When you get fatigued your stroke might go running home to mama and you’ll need to continue working on unlearning the old and learning the new techniques.

Athlete from another sport?

One of the toughest mental hurdles to get over when coming to the pool is being super fit and great at one or more other sports yet being a complete novice in the water. We all start somewhere and you, the elite athlete, already have most of the fitness equation figured out. The problem you may face in the water is that all of that athleticism based on strength and power doesn’t translate directly into swimming. This sport is more technical finesse and skill and trying to overpower the water will just wear you out. The water doesn’t care how strong you are—it just gets out of the way until you’re tired. The solution is to learn good technique, practice those skills frequently, and be patient. Once you learn proper movements, your natural athleticism and strength will be of great benefit and you’ll make great speed gains with the right technique. Rushing through the process, however, just leaves you beating on the water.

Unlearning and Learning Lasts a Lifetime

Going through the unlearning process and replacing what you know or do with something new is challenging and can even be frustrating, but it’s also exciting and rewarding. Breaking out of old habits or letting go of fears or anxieties takes time. The good news is: We’re not canceling the sport any time soon and we’re one of the few sports that has a 100-year-old-plus age group. And, yes, we keep records for that age group.


  • Technique and Training


  • Stroke Technique