Front Crawl - questions and answers(swimming help)

by Gehan Wijesinghe
(Colombo, Sri Lanka)

Dear Dale,

I have exhausted myself going through all the write ups on front crawl and the video clips but still did not come across any reference to the problem I am facing in freestyle.

I am 54 years old and started swimming lessons about a year ago. However, since my coach left my area I have been dependent on the very good websites for guidance including yours.

I am very conscious of the basic requirement in swimming such as being long/tall and horizontal on water. Not lifting the head as it has an inverse relationship with the sinking hip, kicking from hip with an extended toes, continuous exhaling when the head in underwater, always try to streamline in between strokes etc.

However, I could not even complete a breadth of the pool in front crawl without feeling heaviness in my chest and the feeling that water is going up the nose and need to stand of the pool floor. If I do a dash, then I could reach the opposite wall, but panting.

However, when I used a kickboard (very worn-out one) as a pull buoy I could do the breadth and even half of the length of the pool without that discomfort in the chest. But pull buoy always puts me off balance and I become clumsy, so I have not been using a pull buoy.

Since pull buoy seems to help me I thought of buying
a wraparound type of pull buoy ( I heard that Finis make is available in Sri Lanka), which could help me to kick while wearing the wraparounds, so would encourage me to do the kicking as well.

Have you come across this problem with any swimmer and what advice could you give me please to overcome this problem (I mean without depending on pull buoys). I have been very enthusiastic about swimming at this late stage of my life, but now I have been thoroughly disappointed with my ability to continue swimming front crawl beyond a max of 5/6 strokes without stopping.

However, I could do the breaststroke without any problem.

Gehan Wijesinghe
Sri Lanka

Dear Gehan,

From what you are saying you are having a lot of trouble with your breathing when you swim the front crawl. I have come across this before and there can be several reasons for this. Without out seeing you swim it’s hard to know your exact problem. But there are various things you can try.

Firstly if you’re getting tired and your chest feels tight it’s obvious you are not breathing and the reason you feel tight around the chest is simply lack of oxygen. When you use your pull buoy you are using less oxygen because the biggest muscle in your body is the legs and they use a lot of energy. When you use the pull buoy you are using less energy by not using your legs as soon as you do you are getting tired out.

Also a pull buoy is used only for practicing your arms. It’s a float for your legs whilst you perfect your arm technique like when you use a hand float and hold it in your hands to practice your legs. This pull buoy is simply held between your legs keeps you horizontal so you are in the correct position.

How often do you breathe to the side? If you are swimming short distances and you are getting out of breath it may be that you need to breathe more often on every other stroke. Are you taking a full breath when you take a breath in? If you are not you are slowly depriving yourself of oxygen. Remember the breath need to be taken when the arm is in the beginning of the recovery position (just coming out of the water with a bent arm) just after the propulsive phase, it is taken from the side but you do mention in your question that you don’t lift your head which is good.

Also if your stroke is inefficient and you are causing drag then this will cause you to lose oxygen and burn it up more quickly. I see that you are making sure your body position is correct it is so important that you remain streamlined as much as possible. Having the head down is important to keeping the body position in a horizontal position.

Also a solution to your problem with water going up your nose is to try wearing a nose peg which attaches to your nose and pinches it to prevent water from going up it. This will help a great deal with your swimming problem.

You do seem to be very determined and seeking for advice and trying out ways of perfecting your stroke. I am sure you will soon find the answers you are looking for. It’s practice, practice, practice. As long as the practice is correct practice it. I always say practice makes permanent. In other words practice something wrong and you will permanently do it wrong but practice it correct and it will always be correct. So make sure the practice you are doing is correct and the right way you are supposed to do it because if you practice it wrong you will always do it wrong and it will be hard to break if you try to change the Way you do it.

I find it really uplifting that you are trying so hard to do this right and I do hope you will get it right. I hope I have helped you in some way. If you try my swimming tips and you still have problems please get back in touch and give me more specific details and then I can point you in the right direction. I hope you keep in touch and I can coach you through it so others can see your progress and maybe someone may learn from you if they are having similar problems.

Thanks again Gehan :) for your question.....Dale......

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Mar 07, 2012
Front Crawl - questions & answers
by: Gehan Wijesinghe

Dear Dale,

I am so grateful for taking such a lot of time in helping me with my problem. All what you say make great sense

I could give you some more details of my problem, now that you have acknowledge mine to be a problem some others may be facing.

Actually my hand entry is good (parallel to shoulders) and I strive to pull with a bent elbow and push the water behind and not down. I also breathe to my right side and try to breath each stoke and sometime at every two or three strokes.

But when I have completed about five or six strokes I get this feeling that my legs are sunk and feel the need to do six or eight beat kicks ( I don’t know exactly how many kicks I do as I do it in desperation) to bring them up. But my friends have told me that my legs are streamlined all the time. I do not understand my feeling. It could be that when I concentrate the arm actions and the breathing patterns, I may be forgetting the kicks and kick dies off. I have now arranged with a friend to video my front crawl so I could see what I actually do in the pool.

There is another thing that I need to clarify. I have been a heavy walker (speed walking) and jogging for so many years and resultantly I have fairly pumped up calf muscles and thighs. And I am about 5' 6" in height, weighing 62Kgs. So my hind quarters (hips down) could be muscular and may be sinking the moment I relax kicking. This also could be the reason. I would see this when I have the video.

One thing more, I have been trying to do the side kick or balancing drill. Though I could go below the water for some length, I have not been able to roll my head up to breath. So I may be having some basic problem.

I know it is very unfair to load you with my problems without giving you any visuals of how I do them. I am sure someone else, who has either have this problem or had this problem, could also help me.

Thank you again for your assistance.

Gehan Wijesinghe
Sri Lanka

Dear Gehan,

I'm a runner too :), I understand what you are saying about muscle in your legs. In fact this can be a problem muscles weighs heavy in the water and fat floats in the water that’s why women float well because they have more body fat than men.

It’s also a good idea to video yourself in the water. In fact I would like to see it. Then I could give you a more detailed reason why you’re having problem and I might be able to solve it for you. I was actually thinking that you could send me a video of it but you’ve already mentioned it. Great minds think alike :)....

Professional swimmers video themselves to see any faults in their stroke it’s quite a common practice.

So go to your local pool and try out what I have suggested and video the results and send them to me and ill sort you out. It will be my pleasure I don’t mind at all. That is why I created this web site in the first place is to help people :)...

Thanks for your kind comments it means a lot to me :)

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