Where am I going? Who’s in front of me? How far is it to the wall? Am I going straight? Is my hand entering at the right place? Am I headed to straight to the next buoy?
There are so many reasons to look forward in freestyle, and really only a couple reasons to look down. For oneï¿½looking down keeps your body in better balance. And, twoï¿½ It allows you to go faster.
Sure, maybe thatï¿½s a tad oversimplified, but it does seem there are far more reasons to look forward than to look down. But it’s the WEIGHT of the reasons to look down that gives them far more importance.
If you’re swimming in a pool, there are really very few reasons to look up at all. If you’ve worked with your lane mates enough, they won’t be in your way at all. They’ll be out of your way prior to your finish. You’ll have left 10 seconds behind them, so you probably won’t run in to them. Everyone will be staying on his or her designated side of the lane at ALL TIMES! You’ve got a line on the bottom to help just a bit in going straight. Really, do you need to "watch" your hand enter the water? You should be feeling it.
Why Do It:
Lowering your head when you swim allows your neck to be in a more neutral position. This creates less fatigue and allows for more freedom of movement (rotation). It also puts less strain on the lower back and hips. If you look forward and have a high head position, your back will be arched when you swim, and your hips will ride low in the water. If you look down, your back and hips ride higher in the water with less effort. This simple move releases the responsibility of the arms and legs to leverage, and allows them to spend time doing more productive things…LIKE MOVING YOU FORWARD!
How To Do It:
1. First, swim a lap where you’re really looking forward. Pretend you’re on your first swim team, and your coach is telling you to keep the water level just above the eyes. Look forward enough so that you can SEE what’s in front of you, but not so high that your eyes come out of the water.
This will start to clue you in to the tension in your neck, and how an arched neck limits your rotation. Youï¿½ll also feel your hips sinking.
Do this first so you can experience HOW GOOD it feels when you lower your eyes.
2. This is the tough part. Now look down. Yep, that’s it. It doesn’t take a bunch of drills; it simply takes a readjustment in where you focus your eyes. Look directly under you while you swim.
You’ll see Dave looking just slightly forward, and this is fine, too, once you have good balance. If you’re just learning, however, you should look DIRECTLY DOWN. Overdo it just a bit and play with the head position. See where your head and eyes are when it feels like your body is rotating freely, and your hips are rising to the surface.
3. From the surface, people should notice that the water is just breaking over your head. Not like a board, but rather like a small wave. If your head is too deep, you risk exposing the shoulders to the water, and creating more resistance. Remember, everything in moderation.
How To Do It Really Well (The Fine Points):
Establish a head position thatï¿½s not too high, and not too low. The fine points of this are pretty simple. Find a position that allows you to rotate COMFORTABLY to air, and that allows you a sense of comfort by providing you with enough visual references to execute good turns and not crash into your lane mates.
Of course, in a pool, you’ll learn to use the lines, the crosses, the seams where the wall and floor meet, and many other signs that are specific to your pool. In open water, keeping your head down in-between sighting breathes, allows you to conserve more energy. Of course you’re going to have to lift your head to see where you’re going, but do you really need to do that every time you breathe?