Swimming Drunk: Tips for preventing lane swerve

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(Picture compliments of triathlon.competitor.com)

            Today is St. Paddy’s Day, which means that for the many Americans—regardless of Nationality—are imbibing in their favorite fermented beverage. Needless to say, my morning swim practice tomorrow might be a struggle. Even though a good night sleep will hopefully sober up my athletes, many unfortunately will still be swimming “drunk” and not because they were pregaming.

As I watch some of my athletes swim down the lane, they swerve left and right and therefore look like a drunk frat boy trying to get home after a raucous party. There are many causes for not being able to swim straight and its not that there is beer in their pool deck water bottle. When I break down the stroke of these athletes, here are the three most common errors that lead to lane swerve:

  1. Crossing over: Crossing the center axis of the body when you pull will propel your body to the side instead of forward. It is hard to diagnose this problem by yourself (in our mind’s eye we all swim like Andy Potts). Consequently, ask a friend or even better a knowledgeable coach to watch you swim and see if you are breaking the center of axis. If you are, try the catch up drill with a kick board or PVC pipe with each stroke go a bit wider than you think you should.
  2. Wandering feet: When some swimmers kick, their legs splay which throws off their balance and makes them veer to the side. Try to keep your to toes close together as you kick. To begin, you may want to even kick with your toes touching.
  3. Improper Breathing: Breathing independently from your body and not breathing from your core, will make your body swerve. Your body will follow wherever your head leads so if it twists to the side your body will as well. Breathing to one side can also make you imbalanced and consequently make you stray off course. Breathing with your core and keeping your head in line with the rest of your body will straighten you out.


If you find yourself swerving left and right in your lane you may need to go to swim rehab and get straightened out. With some drill work you hopefully will be able to swim a straight line.