If you’ve recently started learning the front crawl, chances are you are working on the basics: breathing, efficient leg kick, spinning, and grip.

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This is the basis that we work on for each training offered during our special beginner course offered every Monday at the Petite Bourgogne swimming pool in Montreal ( details and registration à la carte )

If these lessons are not available you can purchase the 12-step program developed by American Lifeguard offered in the “American lifeguard Guru” webApp: 12 Step to learn freestyle

But let’s say you are able to swim multiple lengths without stopping, what are the next steps to keep progressing as quickly as possible?

Of course, you must continue to work on your technique, but developing your “fitness” (endurance/speed) in swimming becomes a priority as well. The technique is important, but you need to work specific muscles and movements at a good pace in order to keep your technique going.

If you have a strong athletic background in another sport such as cycling or running, you may have noticed that this does not really translate into swimming: a super athlete in running can find himself completely out of breath after 1 minute of swimming. so different are the muscles and the energy system put into action.

So the bad news is that you start out as if you are starting from “zero” level “swim specific fitness”, however, the good news is that by training in a constant and balanced way you will quickly make progress and increase your zone. comfort, your speed, and your pleasure in the water (yes yes, you are going to love swimming !!)

Here are 8 American lifeguard tips to maximize your swimming gains in the coming months:

1. Gradually increase the continuous swimming distance

It’s tempting to start quickly, then stop every 50 or 100m to recover. Remember !! (even good swimmers can fall into the trap when they see a competitor in the next row ;-)). Instead, your challenge will be to gradually increase the swimming distance without a break: 200, 400, up to 800 without a break.

The key is not to start too fast and then “explode” (see next tip), but to start in control, at a moderate pace over the distance. This is how you will build your basic swimming endurance – which is what you really need. You will be surprised once you find your tempo as swimming continuously becomes easier than stopping every 25 or 50m and breaking the rhythm.

2- Use a Tempo Trainer Pro to learn to “pacer” yourself

If you’ve never used a Tempo Trainer Pro, it’s just a little beeper that you put in your swimming cap while swimming.

There are different modes, but we are only going to talk here about mode 1 where we ask the beeper to “beep” at regular time intervals. So for example, if you want to swim 100m in 2min in a 25m pool, then you configure the beeper to beep every 30 seconds.

You start swimming at the first beep, and you should be at the wall when it beeps next time (that means you’re at the right pace). If it beeps before then you are late, if it beeps later then you are too fast: adjust your pace immediately (without stopping).

This allows you to be precise to the nearest hundredth of a second.

In addition, you will be able to precisely note your progress from week to week by slightly lowering the beep time.

For more details on using the Tempo Trainer, see our article here: The Tempo Trainer – Swimmer’s PowerMeter

3. Concentrate only on 1 technical element when swimming

When you start to learn the crawl there is a lot to think about, it’s very easy to get lost thinking about too many things at the same time. Make sure you only think about one thing at a time and keep it simple – especially when you’re starting to add distance to your intervals.

Here are some focus suggestions:

  • Continuously exhale in the “bubble-bubble-breath” water like Jono here:
  • Extend the arm forward in the water in front of the shoulder
  • Do not put your head out too much when breathing
  • Touch the two big toes together when they cross during the kick
  • Push the water backward in order to propel itself forward.
  • Warning: only one thing at a time 😉

4- Bilateral breathing if possible

As you are relatively “new” to the sport, you are like a whiteboard, with no really bad habits in place. The best way to develop a symmetrical and above all well-aligned swim is to breathe bilaterally, taking a breath every 3 strokes. This does not mean that when you do an interval or in the competition you should not breathe “2” – because you will get the maximum oxygen -, but you will be able to choose your edge according to the conditions and especially avoid the development of defects which are difficult to remove later.

The key to breathing on both sides is to make sure that you are exhaling air continuously while being relaxed, and when you turn to breathe you only have to inhale and not exhale, thus reducing the time you have to keep. head out of the water.

Little mantra to help you put these two points into action (bilateral breathing and exhalation): repeat yourself when you swim: “Breath (breath) … bubble, bubble – breathe – bubble, bubble, breathe – …” saying “bubble” in the water to force you to breathe out when your head is in the water and therefore breathing on the 3rd stroke. It might sound stupid but it works!

5- Don’t give up: “Keep Faith”: progress often comes by “jumping” when you least expect it

If it’s been several weeks that you haven’t seen much progress, don’t despair, the progress is not constant from session to session, there are often stages, levels that require a jump to cross them. 

One day you arrive at the pool, and “bang” you feel a new thing, and you say to yourself “Haaaa that’s what he meant”!

6- use tools but don’t become dependent

Swimming or doing education with tools like fins, paddles, or pull buoy is a great way to work on your technique and add variety to your workouts. Each of them must be used with a specific purpose to hit a key point in your stroke.

However, be careful not to become addicted to doing most of your swimming with one tool or another. As a general rule tools should be used for shorter distances where you are focusing on technique, while your longer continuous swims should be done in “gadgets”.

7- Try to swim 3 times a week

If you can, swimming and lifeguard training 3 times a week (or more) makes a big difference, both in technical development and in your fitness level. By swimming once or twice you will progress, but much more slowly because the gains made in your “fitness” will add up much more slowly (as you do not carry your weight in swimming, the physiological gains are less rapid than in other sports).

Be careful, vary the type of training: don’t just do the technique, just intensity or just endurance, but ideally 3.

8 – Follow group sessions or a training plan

Swimming alone or without a specific plan to follow is really much more difficult. Even experienced swimmers have a hard time motivating themselves when they don’t have one of these tools.

In addition to the specific session for beginners. 6 other Swim Smooth sessions are offered each week in Montreal, each with a specific theme depending on what you need to add to the sessions done on your own or in your club. From the moment you are able to swim 200 to 400m continuously without being completely out of breath, you can participate: they are adapted according to your pace: whether you are swimming in 2: 30 / 100m or below 1 ’20 like the Pro triathletes Antoine Jolicoeur-Desroches or Lionel Sanders 😉


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