Courtesy of Kirsten Read
I know that some of you will complain, “golf is not a sport.” But technique, not brute strength, is the basis for a monster golf drive or a perfect pitch shot. And although the concept is simple — hit a ball with a club — it is not easy to master. The same is true for swimming — until you have the basic technique down, it doesn’t matter how strong you are or how good you are at other sports, you will be frustrated.
I researched some famous golfers’ tips for technique and success and found them to be remarkably applicable to swimming.
1. Swing Thoughts
“Whatever I am working on, I like to keep one swing thought in my head…”
— Adam Scott)
In swimming, too, it’s helpful to single out one Swim Thought at a time on which to concentrate. Some say it takes three weeks to form a new habit. That’s a lot of practicing in the pool but the time adds up if you are constantly thinking about improving a particular aspect of your stroke, whether you are warming up, performing a quality set, or just getting some needed yardage in.
“Of all the things you do before you play a golf shot setting your alignment is the most important.”
— Greg Norman
I think of proper body alignment and propulsion as the two biggest keys to swimming faster.
“A good swing thought is to keep your height. Feel tall. Like your chest stays nice and high…”
— Paula Creamer
We all need to make our bodies as long as we can to get the most out of our strokes, so good posture and extension are essential to success in swimming.
“Use the ground for leverage.”
— Sean Foley
Obviously we don’t have the ground, but leverage in swimming is crucial, so we need to rely on our good body position, rotation, catch, and feel for the water to propel ourselves forward.
“The most important part to having a powerful rotation is generating torque. You need ‘resistance’, or a foundation from which the rotation happens. This foundation is your hips.”
— Todd Keirstead
If you have ever seen someone swing at a ball or swim trying to use only their arms for power, it becomes clear that so many of our sports are really core- and hip-generated when it comes to power. Your hips, shoulders and back are vital to rotation, torque, and power in the water.
6. Balance & Tempo
“All great players have the ability to swing every club at a consistent tempo and with great balance. Rhythm and balance are linked.”
— Michael Lamanna
Whether your swimming is based upon distance per stroke or you have a fast tempo, establishing your cadence keeping it consistent is the goal.
“I focus on my facial muscles. When you get your mouth to relax, your whole body relaxes.”
— Keegan Bradley
Telling someone to relax while powering up sounds counter-intuitive, but if you can learn how to apply pressure in a controlled and relaxed manner, your swimming times will improve. Relaxing your mouth will lead to more relaxed breathing as well.
“I’m about 5 inches from being an outstanding golfer. That’s the distance from my left ear to my right.”
— Ben Crenshaw
Being physically powerful or technically proficient is only part of becoming the best you can be. If you don’t have the mental chops to train hard consistently, swim with intellect, be resilient, block out external stressors, and perform on race day, you may not reach your potential.
9. Trust The Process
“Under pressure, I do use one simple swing thought…that takes my mind off the outcome of the shot and keeps me in the process.”
— Rory McIlroy
In a swim race situation, that is the time to trust your training, technique work, and your instincts — and enjoy the race.
Kirsten competed at Brown University and then, after typical shoulder problems and burn-out caused undoubtedly by her tenure in The Distance Lane, promised herself that she would hang up her goggles for good. That promise lasted 20 years until the call was too strong to resist. Masters pool swimming soon segued into a passion for open water swimming. Masters swimming has introduced her to some of her best friends and even her husband, who kayaked for her on an strenuous and eventful blind date at the Nubble Light Challenge in York, Maine.
She is now a coach, specializing in open water for masters swimmers and triathletes.