Despite the fact that I am not a natural athlete, I actually swim remarkably fast. Not well, there’s quite a lot of spluttering, but I’m surprisingly quick – and today I decided to try and test out a trick that could make me swim even faster.
It came via a study that found swimmers who splay their fingers out swim faster than those who swim with closed hands. This goes against everything you are taught in swimming school but theory is splayed fingers create a web of water that pushes you through the pool with over 50% more force.
So I tried it. For 30 mins I went up and down the pool, fingers in, fingers wide, fingers in, fingers wide. Can’t say it made a blind bit of difference. So then I went back and looked at the study again and found that the difference in speed was just 2.5 percent – a matter of tenths of second for the average pool star – no wonder I didn’t notice anything obvious, you need a stopwatch to spot this, but when you’re an elite swimmer every millisecond can make the difference between a gold and a silver medal so I guess that’s when it matters. It definitely kept me occupied while I was going up and down the pool though.
Oh, and I actually know why I swim fast. It’s all down to my ankles. You see having flexible ankles and big feet make for faster swimmers as they act like a flipper on the end of your foot. Australian Ian Thorpe’s swimming success was in part linked to his size 17 feet. How do you know if you have flexible ankles? Sit on the floor legs outstretched and relax your ankles, the straighter the line between your shin and toes the more flexible your ankles are and the faster you’re likely to swim.
If you’re not genetically blessed though, here’s four other things you can do to try and swim faster
- Position your body in the water properly. If your feet are too low it increases resistance which slows you down. To change things push your chest and face slightly lower which immediately causes feet to lift.
- Lengthen your stroke: In front crawl this means stretching your arm out as far as possible in front of you and pulling it back past your thigh. In breaststroke, stretch forward as far as you can before your hands part to begin the pull.
- Breathe: Most people fit their breathing to their swimming speed but you should do it the other way round. In front crawl, time your stroke so when you want to inhale your arm is by your leg, then exhale with your face in the water, when the arm on your breathing side is entering the water. If you find you can only do 4-5 breaths in a row before then having to stop, you nay be exhaling too much. Stay relaxed and breathe as normally as possible.
- Wear googles: Putting your face in the water makes your body more streamlined and helps speed you up. If you normally wear glasses prescription swimming googles will change your life here. Here’s the ones I use and why I love them.
So swimmers – do you have any other tricks that have helped you swim faster that we should know about?