My mother, grandmother, and my extra strict, ex-nun of a 3rd grade homeroom teacher all admonished me for having bad posture. “Don’t slouch!” they would say with an accompanying chastising slap on the lower back. Even though “I am all grown up,” I am still criticized for my posture but this time by my swim coach (who sounds–and when my goggles fog up, looks–uncannily like my third grade teacher).
As I finished my warm up the other day, my coach turned to me and said “Don’t slouch!” The familiar shout made me instantly straighten up as I hugged the wall.
“I mean when you are swimming. When you swim your posture is horrendous.” She said and showed me a video of what I looked like. Although I thought my stroke was fine when I was swimming, when looking at the video I saw that my legs had a slight wiggle to it.
“It’s because you are slouching in the water. As you swim, instead of keeping a straight torso it is weak and therefore does not rotate on a central axis. Imagine standing tall as you swim.”
I tried and felt a world of difference. Not only did my wiggle stop, but also my stroke felt far more powerful. This change makes sense. When we run, for example, if we slouch, we not only limit out oxygen intake we also begin to move our upper body wildly, which wastes energy and moves us from side to side instead of forward. The same applies when we get in the water; without proper “swim posture,” we lose the ability to expand our lungs and begin to move wildly from side to side, which wastes a tremendous amount of precious energy and adds on time.
How important is swimming posture?
Good swim posture does not differ that much from what we should be doing all day. Focus on these three pointers the next time you are in the pool:
- Our shoulders should be back and in line (as triathletes we have a tendency to assume the aero position and curve our shoulders forward).
- Our backs too should be erect and ramrod straight. It helps to imagine a rope pulling on your head and stretching out your spine.
- Like in good running form, we should also have a slight tilt forward as if we were leaning towards the bottom of the pool or swimming down hill.
Good posture takes not only muscular endurance and core strength, which you can improve with exercises like planks and yoga, but also and most importantly it takes awareness. Especially in the later parts of a practice or set, form usually begins to fall apart, so you have to remind yourself constantly to straighten up. Fortunately, my third grade teacher is not there to slap me with a ruler when I begin to slouch.