“It is time to make you a swimmer”

Sunday, April 10 I had a swim analysis with Coach Hansen. I learned that I had lost my “catch” and I wasn’t pushing water to the back wall, I was instead pushing it to the bottom of the pool. I was creating more resistance and making it more challenging for myself to move forward, but was doing a great job of moving myself up toward the water’s surface…GRRR!!

Swim Analysis

After changing up some things and seeing some slight improvements in my time per 50 yards, I made the comment, “I’ve never been a fast swimmer; just consistent. No matter how hard I try, I almost always swim 1:50/100 yards.” BAD MISTAKE!!

Coach Hansen immediately responded with, “Well, then it is time to make you a swimmer.” What does that mean?! It means there are no more “easy” swim workouts. It means that every swim I do, I should be pushing my limits and trying to get faster and more efficient at the same time. It means that I’m dying at the end of my 25s, 50s, 100s, and 200s. It means that I’m working REALLY hard. It means that it is tough. It means it is uncomfortable.

It means I need to overcome a mental hurdle and start believing in myself in the pool. I CAN get faster in the water. I WILL get faster in the water. It will be uncomfortable and it may hurt, but it will be worth it! After all, I GET to go swim! I GET to do what I LOVE! I GET to race triathlon!

Fast forward to my swim on Wednesday, April 13th…


After finishing the 8x50s on the minute, I was so hungry! I got out of the pool, grabbed my Barnanas and sat on the edge of the pool eating and crying in my goggles. After consuming some calories, I got back in the pool and finished my workout. It was TOUGH! It was CHALLENGING! I was working SO HARD! I was supposed to see faster times…I didn’t. I was supposed to feel like I wasn’t working as hard…I didn’t. I was supposed to be working on my form…I forgot about it.

My arms were SO tired on Thursday! I was so frustrated that I spent all of my free time (which wasn’t much) watching videos of Michael Phelps and hoping for osmosis to allow his swim form to seep into my body.

Friday morning I decided to give myself a break and not focus on times while swimming. It was the perfect decision! This swim still wasn’t easy (my arms were still tired from Wednesday), but I felt much more relaxed in the pool and actually enjoyed my swim!

Fast forward again to Tuesday, April 19th…


I repeated the 2800 yard swim of 150s, 50s, and 25s at 5 am and talked to myself. I said, “I am Michael Phelps” over and over and over again throughout this swim. I did see slightly faster times, and didn’t feel like I was working nearly as hard as I did last week on this swim, but I still am not seeing the times that I was hoping for, and I’m sure my form was not getting better. The good thing about this swim…I didn’t cry in my goggles this time 🙂

My swimming continued to be on and off for the next week. Some days were better than others, but I always focused on #courageovercomfort because eventually this uncomfortableness in the water has to become comfortable and eventually I will #findfaster!

Fast forward to Sunday, May 1…

We had another swim analysis with Coach Hansen. This time, he took underwater video of our swim form, analyzed it and gave us specific things to focus on for the next week or two before we meet again. Things for me to focus on include:

  • Push my nose to the floor of the pool to bring my butt up/bring my chin toward my chest
  • Fingertips down and elbow bent throughout the catch and pull (do not let elbow drop and fingertips point to the ceiling…grrr)
  • Push water to the back wall, not my hip
I have no catch, my hand is higher than my elbow, and my chin needs to be closer to my chest.

Fast forward to Wednesday, May 4…

I found a trick to get my fingertips pointing down toward the bottom of the pool, but I still have to get my elbow high, reach forward, and get my chin tucked back toward my chest. I looped a hair tie around my wrist and middle finger on each hand to pull my fingertips toward my wrists. It seemed to work based on the videos and pictures we took. As for the reach, I feel like when I reach my arm forward this is when my elbow drops and my fingertips point up (as shown above). This may not be the case, but that is how it feels. I also found a way to get my chin closer to my chest, but didn’t seem to be doing it here:


Changing up my swim stroke is hard. It is tough. It is uncomfortable. It is difficult to know if the changes that I feel I am making are actually changing anything at all. I guess I’ll have to wait until we meet with Coach Hansen again next week! Until then, it is time to get comfortable with the uncomfortable and focus on #courageovercomfort in the water to #findfaster!

What tips do you have for me to remember to keep my nose to the floor, keep my arm in the “catch” position (elbow high/fingertips down), and push the water to the back wall?

22 thoughts on ““It is time to make you a swimmer”

  1. So, I’m a swimmer and I have a few additions that help me and people I coach…

    “Push my nose to the floor of the pool to bring my butt up/bring my chin toward my chest”
    Couple of notes on this…. pretend that your spine is a rope that goes all the way to the top of your head. You want to keep that rope TIGHT and STRAIGHTS, so that means a slightly tucked chin (not too much or the rope bends!) That will also help tighten up your core which will help with your rotation.

    To help “feel” your catch, I like these http://www.finisinc.com/forearm-fulcrum
    I have some, haven’t used them in years. LMK if you want them.

    As for the chest down, hips up – yep yep yep. So, if your hips sink, your chest goes up and you have all that water hitting your chest/stomach, which effectively acts as a barrier that you have to swim through. If you are tilted the other way (chest down, hips up) you can cut through the water easier with much less resistance. I like to think of my chest as a buoy and I’ll focus on pressing the buoy down (while keeping my “rope tight”). Your hips should pop up automatically when you do this.

    So, take-aways. Rope tight, buoy down, and ROTATE.


    1. THANK YOU!! THANK YOU!! THANK YOU!! I would love to try the forearm fulcrums. They aren’t expensive, so I’ll just order a set. We are both having a problem with our catch at our house, so it would probably be a good investment 😉

      I will definitely work on these tips! Thankfully I do have a really good rotation, so that is not something I need to focus on. I just hope I don’t lose my rotation as I start to work on the rest of these things!!

  2. My advice is to work on one thing at a time. Either your catch OR you head position.

    I am not a swim coach but for the catch issue work on having a high elbow on the recovery (above water) part of your stroke. You can use fingertip drag drills to practice this position. My coach gives me sculling and doggy paddle drills to get used to the feel of catching the water with my hands.

    I got nothing for the head position! I am a total looky-loo in the water! I am terrible about looking down!

    1. Thanks Rebecca! The fingertip drag drill will definitely become part of my drill set for a while. I’m glad one not the only one looking around in the pool 😉

  3. This is so interesting! I mostly run and cycle, but just started adding swimming into the mix – who know there was so much to think about while swimming. Ir is truly an AMAZING whole body workout. Nice work!!!

    1. It is definitely a whole body workout, and if you do it “correctly” you are so much more efficient and don’t have to fight the water as much.

  4. This was a great post with some great swimming advice–thanks! I do think that some fun swims and extra hot tub soaks are important too…so don’t forget about them 😉

  5. You and I have the exact same issues with our technique! My catch needs a lot of work, as well as my head positioning. Great tips from Erin ^^^ Right now I am working with the Masters Coach at our pool taking baby steps to focus on one thing at a time. I’ve never encountered a sport where technique is SO darn important for improvement. It’s frustrating when you put in so much time to get faster – but don’t – and it’s all an issue with technique. Practice, practice, practice.

    1. It is super frustrating!! 39 years of bad technique are making me question why I haven’t done this sooner. We’ll keep practicing and eventually we’ll get this down!! I’m glad you have a masters group to help you. Unfortunately we don’t…sigh. I am super grateful for Erin’s suggestions! We ordered the forearm fulcrums last night😉

  6. I highly recommend sculling and the “fist drill.” Sculling helps you learn how to “feel” the water on not just your hands, but also your forearms. And the fist drill takes your hand away, so you will feel the water on your forearm. The catch isn’t just about the hand position (that’s where the forearm fulcrums come in).

    Next, my coach talked to us the other day about thinking about our swim form like our running form. In running, we want that slight lean forward. It’s the same in swimming. (Just another way to think about chest down, hips up.) Be careful not to bury your head in the water though.

    Finally, in open water swimming, I’ve learned that recovery doesn’t really matter. That pains me to say after my swimming career, but it’s true. What happens under the water is what matters most because that is what is propelling you forward! Recovery only matters in that you don’t want to be straining your shoulder. If you focus on proper body rotation and shoulder mobility, then you should be fine to recover however. That said, you do want to think about leading with the elbow rather than the hand!

    I’m super excited for you. In swimming, it is amazing how just a few small tweaks can lead to huge results 🙂

    1. Thanks so much Kelsey!! There is so much to think about!! You’re right…a few small changes can lead to huge results!! Now to practice to see those huge results 😉

  7. Sounds like you are working hard!! 🙂 Keep up the good work!!
    Definitely working on one thing at a time helps. It is always going to take time too. It is hard working on your stroke in the middle of the season. I try and work on mine during the off season. I’m not saying to not work on it but it is easier to work on it when you aren’t running and biking!! 🙂

    1. I definitely agree that working on it in the off season would have been better, but we didn’t get analyzed until April, so we’ll do what we can…even when we are tired from biking and running. 😂 Thanks Leslie!!

  8. I needed to read this – just about your willingness to get in the pool and push yourself. I’ve always felt that my swim was “good enough”, but I know that I can/should work on it and really stay focused during my sets (that is a HUGE problem).
    Sounds like you are seeing progress – it can be frustrating, but you’re getting there!

    1. I’m glad to set your mind thinking about becoming better than “enough.” I have seen small steps forward, but still have a long way to go. It will be worth it when all of the uncomfortable becomes comfortable 😉

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