How to improve your swimming

Do always warm up and cool down with poolside stretches and incorporate swim-specific weights at the gym. Among the best are lateral pulldowns, bench presses, squats, calf raises and hamstring curls.

Don’t overlook aqua fitness aids – even Olympic swimmers use them. Kickboards are among the cheapest and most effective: held in the hands, they force you to work your legs harder, and held between the feet they provide a workout for the arms.

Do check the temperature of the pool you use, as it can affect your workout. Pools in health clubs have a tendency to be too warm, which can make you feel drowsy. If you aim to swim regularly, search out a pool heated to around 28C.

Don’t hold your head high out of the water when you swim. According to Steven Shaw, creator of the Shaw Method of swimming, which uses the Alexander Technique, it increases drag and resistance as well as stiffening the neck. For every inch the head is lifted, the hips sink two inches.

Do vary your stroke. Relentlessly swimming breastroke is not only boring, but will minimise your rate of improvement. Incorporate lengths of front crawl, backstroke and, if you can, butterfly to work a fuller range of muscles.

Don’t move the legs too quickly when you do front crawl. It wastes energy, Shaw says, and a slower, steadier rhythm is much more efficient if you want to swim more than a couple of lengths.

Do consider stroke improver classes. Swimming is a technical sport and if you have poor stroke technique, you will find it difficult to progress. Ask for details at your local pool or look out for the Everyday Swim campaign.

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