“ Continue to think of the stroke as a whole – with the head releasing into the water, the breath flowing and the spine lengthening."
We only sell products we know from personal experience to work. We don't sell training aids like kickboards, pull buoys or certain hand paddles because we believe them generally to be detrimental to the process of swimming without stress.
But, with memories of Olympic legend Popov training with a snorkel back in the 90s, we were intrigued by the Swimmer’s Snorkel by Finis and thought we’d try one out. Not put off by Finis’s motto under the logo on the packaging, ‘Swim Hard’, Ian has tested the snorkel during recent training sessions with some surprising results.
“The Swimmer’s Snorkel is a revolutionary product that all swimmers can use to improve their technique” Pablo Morales, Three Time Olympic gold Medallist
“The Swimmer’s Snorkel allows the swimmer to isolate and concentrate on body balance, rotation and alignment by eliminating the complicated breathing motion.” Richards WQuick, Head Coach, USA Women’s Olympic Swim Team
Since this blog post, there is now also a Finis Freestyle snorkel, which seems to offer greater avoidance of the risk of taking water in through the tube. Cheryl says, 'Take away the strain. This is the snorkel you want if you're concerned at all about taking all the strain off your neck and back. You can really let your head rest, face down with this snorkel.'
As an Alexander Technique teacher, it would be easy for me to argue against any of the benefits of a swimming snorkel claimed by Finis. But I’m certainly glad I gave it a go. I’ve been using it for about 300 or 400 metres during each training session (about 25% of distance covered) and find that it really does something for my stroke. It causes me to feel, particularly after I’ve taken it off, that I’m getting hold of the water better than ever before though I can’t quite work out why.
Trusting the process of breathing through a tube takes a bit of getting used to (when swimming with fish on holiday I prefer not to bother) and it wasn’t until the second time of using that I managed to stop holding my breath! But I’m definitely a fan. In the same way that sparing use of training fins makes your kick more effective by educating the legs and feet, using the snorkel seems to improve my stroke and makes me feel, fleetingly, like Michael Phelps (so long as I don’t look at the clock)!
I find it helpful to regulate snorkel-breathing by exhaling through the mouth on one glide (as one arm enters the water and travels forward) and inhaling on the other. It is enjoyable just to allow yourself to switch from left to right like a pendulum with your neck relaxed and head and spine still, at the centre of it all.
When you take the snorkel off, can you keep a similar rhythm or does the need to rotate into the breathing position change the rhythm of your stroke? I find that my old pattern when breathing bilaterally is to think something like ‘one, two, breathe left, one, two, breathe right…’, which means I’m breaking the flow of the stroke in order to inhale, whereas the challenge is for the breathing stroke to be just another stroke with no interruption of forward direction. After using the snorkel, I remind myself to think ‘left,right, left, right…’ or ‘one, two, one two…’ so that breathing bilaterally doesn’t cause me to interrupt the flow of the stroke; the simple, brain-satisfying pleasure of switching from oneside to the other, left to right.
So to sum up my experience and advice:
Don’t think of using the snorkel as an opportunity to forget about the breathing, while you focus on the rest of the stroke.
Continue to think of the stroke as a whole – with the head releasing into the water, the breath flowing and the spine lengthening as the base from where the movement comes.
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“ We'd like to help anyone through this blog who's struggling with something swimming related: non-swimmers finding it difficult to trust the water, improvers having difficulty co-ordinating the strokes, fitness swimmers with aches and pains, swimming teachers getting nowhere with nervous pupils. There are a lot of you about and if it wasn't for you, Swimming Without Stress wouldn't exist. Feel free to comment or ask a question."Ian and Cheryl Cross - Swimming Without Stress