The ability to streamline is incredibly important, but while swimming and coaching I’ve often seen it over looked or ignored by swimmers. I’ve even been guilty of it myself, so in this article I’ll try to explain why its important and why people tend to forget or ignore it.
First, the obvious, a good streamline off the walls is free speed. I’ve mentioned the importance of a good turn in a previous article and it’s no good having an incredibly quick turn if you push off into an ineffective streamline. When coaching I refer to it as putting on the handbrake. One of the worst things as a coach is watching your swimmer nail a turn only to push off, instantly lose speed and barely make 3m before surfacing. Now there is a debate on whether or not your arms should be just on/beyond your ears or farther back, and I’m not going to push either option. I am going to say that whichever you choose you need to ensure you are as long as possible so that your front profile is as small and narrow as possible. Once you think you have your streamline down, you should then measure and practice it. Do this by simply pushing off the wall in a streamline position, don’t kick, and see how far you get. Then make some readjustments and try it again. When you are consistently making a good distance then you can start adding in a kick. Usually at this point I have swimmers streamline and kick across the pool underwater, of course I’m coaching and swimming in a standard Irish 25m pool which is only 7-8m wide so if you’re in a larger pool simply aim for 8m off the wall (or farther within reason).
Second, the less obvious, the ability to streamline carries over to body position while swimming (the bit between the walls I mean). If you can hold your body correctly to streamline, then you can hold it correctly to ensure your high in the water.
Why do people not streamline or put effort into practicing it? I have come across a number of reasons:
Loss of focus: I’ve seen it happen to swimmers and have been guilty of it myself. As you begin to tire during a race or training session the little things begin to slip. Getting farther faster off that wall doesn’t seem as important as getting up to get a breath, or maybe you are so tired you trade speed for a rest for your legs by not pushing and kicking hard enough. The solution is to get used to focusing on working off the wall and forcing yourself to come off the walls correctly no matter how tired you are. You also need to get used to analysing your turns as you do them, if you make a mistake be aware of it instantly and make a mental note not to make it again.
Got to get swimming: this is especially prevalent in young swimmers, but also can happen to swimmers that are out of practice sprinting and racing. These swimmers are in such a rush to get swimming fast after the turn that swimming again is all they can think of. There are really three solutions for this and I recommend following through on all three. First, get used to sprinting, incorporate more sprinting and race pace work into your training. I always tell swimmers that the more practice you have sprinting, the more time you will have to think when sprinting. Second, get used to racing. The more you race the better you will get at concentrating on all of the little things while racing. Really this is only slightly different to the first solution, but only increasing your amount of races won’t work if you don’t do enough sprint/race pace training. Finally, allow yourself to stop thinking about making that target time or winning that medal and focus on what you are actually doing during the race.
I’ll do it on the day: I’ve heard this so many times as a coach and it’s probably one of the worst things you can do. Swimmers often think that it doesn’t matter if they do or don’t do something in training. When the real race is on, they will remember to do everything perfect or they promise to focus properly on doing things right. They won’t. What we do in training directly transfers to what we do in a race, especially when we are fatigued or under pressure. Training is where we form habit and the point of training is to make sure the habits we form are correct techniques. The solution is simple, treat every turn as a race turn. If you slip up, make a note of it and be determined not to do it again.
I sea swim so I don’t need to streamline: or as it’s usually put to me, there are no walls to push off in the ocean. While this is true, streamlining is a transferrable skill. If you can place and hold your body in an effective streamlined position, then you can also place and hold your body in a good position while you swim. From what I’ve seen in swimmers, those that push off the wall and are unable to hold the correct amount of tension for a streamline are also unable to hold the correct amount of tension when swimming to enable a high body position. While a wetsuit will add a lot of extra buoyancy, such a swimmer won’t get the same height in the water when wearing one as I do when I swim with one and the higher you are the less resistance you cause. There is also the fact that better streamline off the walls in the pool means you go faster, which also means you get to swim more meters in your session.
So hopefully I’ve convinced anyone reading this of the importance of streamlining off the wall and hopefully it will inspire someone to focus a little bit more on it. Check out my articles on starts, turns and the breakout if you haven’t already done so.