YOU’RE PROBABLY terrified of navigating open water, drifting off course, or getting kicked in the face by an overly keen competitor. All real hazards; but experts will tell you a successful swim is mostly about technique. Figure that out, and you’ll gain the raw skill needed to avoid shiners and mouthfuls of water. Cunnama admits swim training can be a drag. Unlike running, which is as simple as leaving your home and tearing up the tarmac, it’s a lot of effort to haul yourself off to the pool and put in hours in the water. But your time in the pool will pay dividends, arming you with the tools you’ll need to conquer the shortest but most stressful leg of the race, regardless of race distance. Aim to get in at least two swims per week for around two months before race day. You want to build up to covering around 1km per session. To ready your mind for open water, schedule some practice swims in the ocean or a dam. As you swim, minimise drag with proper body position and stroke mechanics. Here’s how:
1. GLIDE WITH YOUR HEAD DOWN
Positioning your body correctly begins with your head: keep your noggin in line with your spine. If you raise or lower it, you’ll create excess drag. Rookies feel an urge to peek where they’re headed. Don’t, except when you’re sighting. To practise, use the pool’s lane line to stay straight.
2. STRAIGHTEN OUT
Avoid lateral movement by keeping your head, shoulders, hips and feet in a straight line. As you swim, imagine being stretched from both your head and your feet.
3. KEEP YOUR FEET CLOSE TOGETHER
Generate a compact kick using power from your hips, keeping your legs close together.
As your lead hand enters the water, your arm should be nearly straight. According to a recent study on fluid dynamics, this is more efficient than “sculling”, in which the arm is bent and traces an S curve while pushing water behind.
5. TIME IT RIGHT
As one arm reaches full extension in front of you, wait to pull with that arm until the other arm is just about to spear into the water. If you begin the pull before the other arm is ready to strike, your body will rotate prematurely, which kills your glide and slows forward propulsion.
6. BECOME A FALLING LEAF
As you stroke through the water, your body should open as you pull your arm overhead, and then close when you stroke through. Try to visualise your body as a falling leaf, or a boat, gently rolling from side to side in a swell.
For stroke efficiency, keep your fingers slightly spaced.