Skills to Go From Pool to Surf
Pools, with their lane lines, standard distances, and placid water, are a far cry from lakes, rivers, and oceans. Know that your first few outings may be frustrating and possibly a tad harrowing. Here’s how to get more comfortable and proficient in open water.
Practice “alligator eyes.” Using the freestyle stroke, when one arm extends forward, pop eyes out of the water and spot the target. Avoid lifting your whole head up, which can affect body position, slowing you down.
Be comfortable breathing on both sides. You’ll want to take in air on the side opposite the way the waves are coming at you, so it’s important to be able to breathe both to the left and the right. In choppy situations, turn your head slightly higher toward the sky to ensure you catch a clean breath. Time your breath immediately before or after the sight, when most comfortable in the sequence. To strengthen the sighting movement, train your neck, upper back, and shoulder muscles, Melgaard says.
Identify your strong arm. “If your stroke is stronger on one side, you can pull yourself off course,” Melgaard says. In a pool, ask a friend to tread water 10 yards in front of you, watching you swim toward him with eyes closed a few times. He’ll be able to see if you veer to one side—a sign of strength-stroke imbalance. Strengthen the weaker side.
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