This article is meant to provide you solace, and motivation. My story with a stroke flaw starts with my meager upbringing as a swimmer. I’m self-taught, and a natural born analyst, so I’ve studied mine, and everyone else’s stroke endlessly in an effort to become the very best swimmer I can be. This has come to a point where I am a very successful, and efficient ultra-marathon swimmer, and am blessed to be able to assist others as a coach. I recently had a string of illnesses that left me susceptible to my reoccurring version of mono. I’m a swim addict, so I admit I’ve been swimming lately at half ability, but that brings me to my point. I have a natural stroke flaw, a slight crossover in my left hand. I’ve broke it effectively over the last couple of training seasons to have an acceptable placement just to the left of center key. This took a lot of effort, fighting my natural tendency every stroke.
In my weakened state I felt this flaw come back, and in place of fighting it, I made peace and swam out a little distance. As I did, I noticed my right side stayed a little higher in the water (yes I can feel millimeters, analyst to the core). You see, I have a fused right hip, it’s locked in place at a slight 15% forward (downward when swimming) angle, so keeping my right side high in the water is not easy. I had never thought that this stroke flaw of mine had a purpose, but it was staring me down in this moment. I swam a second time, this time purposely crossing my left over center line, and again my right side rose in the water: eureka!
Not only was my right side up, but the crossover created a natural under sweep, and with my right side being on point, I had better hip rotation than normal increasing my efficiency, and cutting drag. Additionally I centered over my core, so naturally riding higher in the water. Oh yeah, and this cause me to be a bit faster. So why the hell did I forget about all of this in an effort to clean up my stroke? It makes perfect sense that my body would react this way. It’s just physics! The answer: I wanted to get stronger, and create more balance in my stroke. Don’t get me wrong, this was the most noble of pursuits. Now, my point to all of this, is that your stroke flaw has purpose. Being a stronger swimmer will effect change, but knowing your body, and potential limitations is more important.
I would like to highlight the most common stroke flaw that I see, because chances are it’s applied to the most dominant swimmer at some point in time. I call is the “Pretty”, because it reminds me of a pose (on land) that my little girls once did when I asked them to pose pretty. On land, you would stand on your dominant leg, reach your dominant hand out slightly in the air at about 30% to the side of your head. With your opposite leg you’d flare it out to the side at the knee, again at about 30%, and look “Pretty” Heyah looking good!
In the water, this is how most people balance a breath when weak in the core. It spreads the body out, much like a skydiver, and in the same way creates resistance points. On the flip side, it allows the swimmer to balance, and take more time to breath. So if this is you; don’t get discouraged when watching the Olympics, and trying to compare yourself. Strengthen, have someone look at your stroke from time to time, so that you are not operating in a way that causes injury, and enjoy the natural benefits of stretching, balance, and strength. This will over time inevitably strengthen you, and cause change, but be patient with yourself, and find your own personal balance. Reading about swimming is not always the answer, to quote a student of mine; “The body usually knows”.
If you would like me to take a look, or operate in a virtual coaching medium, I am willing to format in that way, just let me know. This service is available and detailed on the website. Concerning the motivation for this article, your stroke flaws have a purpose: if you are a swimmer with a disability, and are trying to look like everyone else, this may not be in the cards. I’ve worked with people who have had shoulder surgery, to foot surgery, to people who have suffered a stroke, and nearly everyone, and every injury in between. Your stroke flaws have purpose; beyond weakness, but that all the more reason to battle. Find a coach that understands the physics of a limitation, and if that’s not available in your area, I’m willing to help.
To all, fight your imbalances, disabilities, and imbalance that cause pain, strength can take that pain away. Swim on, the water is a safe, and accommodating place to wage the battle and win! Much love!
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