My Monday postings have been dedicated to the art of swimming and hopefully you have got a lot out of them.

Today I am going to look at the Beginner swimmer (absolute Beginner and the swimmer with a small amount of experience), and talk a little bit about how to get the most out of your training time.

  1. Get a coach: A friend or family member is not ideal as you will more than likely pick up on some of their bad habits. Ensure your coach is certified, has CPR and First aid certifications.
  2. Practice on your own: Perfect practice make perfect. Take some time between Coach led practices to work on improving the new skills you have learned.
  3. Count your strokes: A very simple way to determine how your swimming is coming along, simply count how many strokes you take per 50m, and keep this number in mind every time you swim. The goal is reduce the number of strokes you take per length.
  4. Engage the core stabilizers: I have discussed the Core and its importance during physical activity in previous posts, and by ensuring you are engaging these muscle groups, you are helping to maintain a good body position.
  5. Swim less, drill more: Repetition of poor form, reinforces the poor form, so by swimming 2 000m straight, every training session (if you are not a well conditioned and efficient swimmer), will lead to form breakdown and bad swimming habits creeping in. So do less mileage, and work more on your technical game. Here is one of my favorite drilling sequences:
    • Zip Ups
    • Stutter strokes
    • Finger glides
    • Catchup
    • 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + Stroke counting.
These 5 pointers are not only for beginner swimmers, but can, and should, be kept in mind by anyone serious about improving their swimming abilities.

The next stop is to have a look at how we apply this into a sample swimming session.

This session is not for absolute beginners, but aimed more at those who can swim, but are still working hard on improving. (BkS - Back Stroke, BrS - Breast Stroke, Fs - Freestyle)

Warm up:

Easy swimming - gettting the body and mind
ready for the session.
If you are unable to swim BkS , you can
swim BrS.

Main set:

2 X 50m
Prepares the Neuro-Muscular system
(co-ordination, Spatial awareness and
co-ordination) for the session.
1 X 50m
Use no kickboard for this set - the goal here
is to keep your head down, you hips up and
your legs active.
Stroke counting
2 X 50m
This requires you to swim each 50m with the
goal of keeping the stroke count at a certain
number for both 50's. Your score will depend
on your level of economy.
1 X 50m
Use a kickboard and try to stay away from
using fins as much as possible.

Cool down:

Repeat X 2

If you are unable to swim BrS, you can
swim BkS.
Finish with an easy swim down.

Total Distance:


Drilling should generally be done at a slow velocity, and must be, technically, as close to perfect as possible.

If at all possible, avoid using kickboards, fins and paddles - get accustomed to your body in the water - without any apparatus attached to it.

Finally - challenge yourself to become proficient in other strokes. Breast and Back stroke are great additions to your training plan, and can play a major part in helping to prevent overuse injury, and make you a stronger all round swimmer.

If you have any pointers or ideas on how to make swimming a little easier and enjoyable, feel free to post a comment on the COMMENTS page.

James Greenwood is a competitive tri and multisport athlete currently training for Ironman Canada 2009. A level 1 Triathlon Coach, he holds a post graduate degree in Exercise Science, and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA. James is also currently the resident health and fitness programs expert at, and has starred in a number of multisport specific fitness videos.
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