Front crawl, or freestyle, is the fastest of the four competitive swimming strokes. Performed correctly, it also is the most efficient. Because you can swim front crawl longer, with less energy expended, it is the stroke of choice for distances and endurance swimmers. You can practice endurance swim techniques in a pool, but getting out in open water prepares you for swimming without walls or turns.
Body position determines how streamlined you are in the water. Streamlining, or reducing your profile against water's resistance, minimizes the effort you must make to move through it. The sleeker your shape, the less drag you create. Maintaining a neutral body position is ideal in endurance swimming but accomplishing it takes practice. Keep your head low so that your neck and spine form an even line, and don't lift your head to breathe. Instead, rotate your head along with your body and take a breath when your mouth breaks the surface of the water.
Endurance freestyle relies on your upper body for steady propulsion, so you can keep your kick relaxed and easy, as opposed to sprint freestyle, which calls for intense kicking. The less energy you require for the large muscles in your legs, the more efficient your stroke. Kicking from your hips and allowing the movement to pass through your legs down to your toes in one movement makes your leg movements more efficient than just kicking from your knees down.
Improving your distance per stroke helps you optimize your efficiency in the water. Distance per stroke refers to how far you travel in the water for each arm stoke. To improve your distance per stoke, rotate from one side to the other rather than swimming with a flat body position, and engage your core to initiate the rotation. Keep your body streamlined, or stretched out straight as possible.
Open Water Considerations
Open water endurance swimming presents additional challenges, such as cold temperatures and rough water. Although extending your stroke works well in the pool, taking shorter, faster strokes can be advantageous in choppy open water conditions. You avoid getting slapped by waves and also keep the cold at bay better than you do taking longer, slower strokes. Salt water's buoyancy helps you stay afloat and further reduces your need for a fast, furious kick. Breathing on both sides is important for both pool and open water, and is particularly useful in open water to help you keep sight of land and avoid breathing on the side of incoming waves.
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