Welcome to the pool! You have some work to do.
Why you have this problem: People who began swimming as kids have an advantage over adults who picked up the sport in their 20s or later. Experience balancing and moving in the water is the difference. Many newbies get in the pool and just start kicking their hearts out, working incredibly hard and going nowhere. But, Murray says, “That’s just not the way to begin a sport. It’s like learning how to play tennis. If you show up and try to hit the ball as hard as possible—that just doesn’t work.” You need to become efficient and reduce drag through good technique—as Murray puts it, “every newbie should become a technique geek first.”
Fix it! You will bypass a lot of trial and error if you start with a private lesson or coached group class. Don’t get frustrated if you can only swim a couple of laps before gasping for air. Rodrigues believes 10 swim sessions in three weeks is enough to create significant adaptation to the water. “After that, the body is out of the shock phase,” he says. Two of the biggest challenges for beginners are eliminating drag and rotating the body to help generate a strong pull.
» To avoid swimming “uphill,” start by getting your head in the right position. Overexaggerate dropping your chin to your chest and staring directly down at the bottom, aiming for the water line to hit you at the top of your swim cap. If your upper body is in the right position, your hips and legs will follow.
» To work on rotation and body roll, Finis makes a useful tool called the Tech Toc. It’s a tube with a ball in it, so if you swim flat it makes no noise, if you rotate it makes a clicking noise for audible feedback. As a cheaper option, use a kickboard as a pull buoy between your legs. Try to hit the water with the top of the board on each side as you swim.
» Only allow one eye out of the water when you turn your head to take a breath; this will prevent your head from lifting