Written by: Matt Fitzgerald
In the third article of Triathlete’s beginner series, senior editor Matt Fitzgerald talks about how to improve your swim stroke during a single-sport focus period.
The fastest way to improve your freestyle swim technique is to have your stroke analyzed by a qualified coach. Indeed, after plain old time in the water, stroke analysis is probably the single most indispensable tool for becoming a better swimmer. You cannot possibly self-diagnose and self-correct every single flaw in your stroke. Even Olympians rely on others for this. Masters swim coaches are great resources for stroke analysis. They can provide it both within the context of group workouts or one-on-one (sometimes for an additional fee depending on the coach).
Another good way to receive stroke analysis is by attending a weekend swim or triathlon camp, some of which even offer videotape stroke analysis. You can also do your own videotaping and send the tape to an expert coach for analysis by mail.
I myself am a good case study in the power of technique analysis. My youth sport was running, and I came to triathlon in 1997 as a weak swimmer. Over the next few years I tried to become a better swimmer basically the same way I had become a good runner, by “getting in shape” in the water-that is, by building up my yardage and working hard. But it didn’t pan out. After working harder than ever on my swim over the summer of 2003 in preparation for my first Ironman in Wisconsin, only to exit the water in 373rd place, I called coach Roch Frey in frustration and requested a video technique analysis session. Armed with the tips that came out of that session, I improved my swimming more in the next six weeks than I had in the preceding six years. In my next race, the Long Beach Triathlon, I was seventh out of the water in my wave and finished second overall.