Many people treat their swimming problems the same way they treat sickness or disease. That is, they don’t go to the doctor, they often try to diagnose the issue themselves (often without any good information other than instinct) and then either hope it goes away by just “pressing on” or take something to cover the symptoms (sound like how you usually tackle the first sign of sickness?). In swimming, the analogy is swimming poorly (struggling) and knowing it, not seeking the advice of a coach, diagnosing your own issues (again without good information) and then using things like pull buoys and paddles to mask symptoms or just working harder and hoping it goes away. Unfortunately, a good number take their self diagnosis to an extreme that would make you laugh if you took sickness or disease to the same extreme. Another way to say it is that people often misdiagnose their swimming problems as something far more chronic and irreparable than they actually are. What many people do is diagnose their swimming problems as “terminal cancer” and move on to another sport thinking all hope is lost. The less extreme people don’t move on from swimming but they resign themselves to the idea that they “just aren’t good swimmers”. Many of these people don’t even go to a “doctor” (read as “swim coach”) or even read a book or watch a video to help them diagnose it. Can you imagine if someone who had a simple and easily corrected condition (like, say, an ear infection) didn’t go to a doctor or even look up the symptoms on the internet and just assumed that they were dying and started planning the funeral? What if they went to the doctor and got diagnosed with an ear infection but only took one dose of the medication instead of all 10 and decided it wasn’t working? That would be ridiculous but it is often what I see with swimming.
There is simply no reason to do this with the technology and solutions that are available to you today as a swimmer (or aspiring swimmer). 99% of people have nothing more than the “common cold” or an “ear infection” when it comes to swimming problems. In swimming talk, I would relate the common cold to simple balance and streamlining problems. The problem is likely not that you aren’t strong enough in the upper body (which of course can be fixed as well in most cases), the problem is not that you just “sink like a rock” and there is nothing you can do about it, the problem is likely not that you are just too out of shape, and the problem is most likely not chronic and irreparable. Very few people have “swimming cancer” that cannot be remedied with the simple, holistic drugs known as balance and streamlining and a healthy dose of mindful practice. All you really need is a proper diagnosis, corrective actions, and practice.
The best part is that there are some easy options out there for getting the proper diagnosis, the proper corrective actions, and the practice methods. Here are my favorites:
1) Take a weekend workshop or get private instruction with a Total Immersion swim coach. Admittedly, this is probably your most expensive option but it is also likely your quickest way to improvement. If you are in my area, you can see my private instruction info HERE. Also, I am holding a weekend workshop at the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center at the end of June and will likely hold more there. See the details HERE
NOTE: I will admit that there are good swim coaches out there that are NOT Total Immersion coaches (I know a few in my area), but there are a lot of bad ones as well (like the one that told one of my clients that they just didn’t have enough upper body strength to swim faster and they needed to go to the gym more). So, I will keep my suggestion to Total Immersion coaches and workshops because at least there is a set standard there that I can recommend wholesale.
2) Get the Total Immersion videos and use them to diagnose your issues. This is less expensive but it is also more difficult because you may not have the experience to know if you are doing it right. You can help yourself with some of that by doing the videos with a swim buddy and watching each other swim and practice and comparing to the videos.
3) Film yourself and send it to a Total Immersion coach or post it on the Total Immersion forums. With the latest underwater video cameras costing less than $100, it is pretty feasible for just about anyone to take an underwater video and have it analyzed by a coach. Contact me by email (email@example.com) if you want to arrange to have your video analyzed.
Please don’t give up on swimming or settle for poor swimming when your condition is completely correctable.