Focus on Fitness: Balance in the water |

Focus on Fitness: Balance in the water

Sam Huff/For the Steamboat Today

The second pillar of swimming is balancing on top of the water with minimal effort. If you can do this well, almost all of the energy expended by your arms and legs propels you forward through the water.

If you have not found your balance, much of that energy is used to keep your body up and is not available to help you move. This is like running with ultralight shoes vs. running with balls and chains strapped to your ankles.

These suggestions will help you improve your balance and overall swimming experience:

• Practice perfect stomach and back floats. Your head, hips and feet should be at the water's surface. You are like a teeter-totter in which your body is the lever and your lungs are the fulcrum. Keep your head low as this helps to distribute weight evenly above and below your lungs.

• Engage your core to hold your legs up.

• Practice these floats until you can maintain them indefinitely while keeping your entire body even with the surface. Find the positions that require the least amounts of energy to sustain.

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• Every person has a different body composition and floats in a slightly different way than others. Females generally have an easier time than males with body position. Males often have dense legs that like to sink, which makes back floating especially difficult. Experiment to find what works for you.

• Once you are comfortable with body position on your front and back, build upon this skill by adding pulling drills. Place a small pull buoy between your thighs and swim laps while squeezing your core so tight that your "dead" legs stay at the surface and remain perfectly straight and still. To increase the difficulty and further strengthen your core in a manner specific to swimming, get rid of the pull buoy and continue to keep your legs straight and still.

• If you exercise vertically in the water, keep your head, neck and spine perpendicular to the water's surface using core strength alone.

A body with good balance is like a boat with a sound hull. Strong and effective pulls and kicks are built off of this solid, stable platform.

Sam Huff is the aquatics director at Old Town Hot Springs.