Free Speed.

What's the fastest and most relaxing part of your swim? Where do you get free speed? That's easy. It's on your push off from the wall. But amazingly, this is where so many people lose time and increase the difficulty of their swims.

You only need to work on three parts. First, you need to plant your feet stably on the wall, have 90 degree bend to your knees, and then push off with strength and intention. The second, and most critical cog of the whole equation, is all about technique. You must streamline your body position so that you present the smallest amount of resistance to the water and the longest body configuration you can to the water.

To do a good streamline you have to really reach with your arms. Unlike the swimmer in the (artistic) representation above you'll need to bring both arms in so close that they smash right against your ears. And both arms need to connect at the hands to present the water with a point instead of two points.

Another way to enhance your streamline is to be sure and point your toes toward the wall you just pushed off. If you don't point your toes the whole tops of your feet become water breaks and they'll quickly slow down and stop your forward motion. You should also pull in your stomach (if needed) so the water flows over straight lines.

Many of us feel as though we're standing straight and, by extension, our streamline is as straight as an arrow but.....I would invite you to stand against a convenient walls and press your whole self against it with your hands in the streamline position, pressed against the ears with hands locked high above. Can you feel how much of your body is NOT in contact with the wall?

Work with the wall and your spine until you can feel a nearly continuous contact with the wall, then you'll know you're getting closer to your optimum body position.

The third part of a good push off the wall is patience. Most people are either to anxious to get swimming or they fear running out of breathe. The optimum push off technique is to hold your glide until you decelerate to your normal swimming speed. If you were racing you'd give up some of the free rest that you get from the push off by starting an underwater dolphin kick, which continues to drive forward speed, at this point but we're just talking about fun swimming here.....

Hold that glide until you start to match your swim pace and then re-start your stroke. For maximum efficiency try to take the first stroke or two off the wall without breathing and without "picking up" your head to look around. The longer you stay in the streamline position the faster your stroke will be.

In swimming we think of the walls as free speed.  In photography we think of tripods as free speed.  With good application of good technique you'll go faster, go further and expend less energy. Seems like a good idea.

Feet planted. Strong, fast push off into a very streamlined position. The patience to take advantage of a long log curve of free speed. Hold your breath and relax. Same as with art.


  1. Love your swimming tips, Kirk. Read your blog most days but don't comment much. Thanks, Ann

  2. I just started swimming recently for aerobic and general health, but it doesn't hurt to try and be good at something if you do it often. So keep the swimming techniques coming (along with everything else!) Thanks,

  3. Love the abstract feel of this photograph.

  4. Amen. The toes-to-the-wall is really important. I've started working on my stroke geometry after building up the muscles to manage the classic windmill stroke (cup the hand and extend, lock the elbow and straight down to capture a wonderful, long column of water to push) but haven't found my beat yet: I have to make the transition slowly to work up to a S-curve to grab the water more efficiently. Not that easy! It'll take me a month to really make the transition...

    The best part: did 1500m on Saturday at 39:42. Best time ever for me, at 56, took swimming back up only 2 years ago. I've got a goal: 1500m in 30 minutes and be able to do that 5 days a week. My doctor is already annoyed with me because my blood values are better than his. :-)

    One thing that I also have to learn is the somersault return off the wall. I currently use the butterfly turn because I tend to lose orientation under water with the somersault and end up kicking at the wrong moment. But hey, it's always good to learn. :-)


Comments. If you disagree do so civilly. Be nice or see your comments fly into the void. Anonymous posters are not given special privileges or dispensation. If technology alone requires you to be anonymous your comments will likely pass through moderation if you "sign" them. A new note: Don't tell me how to write or how to blog!