“ When you look forward in crawl, your neck shortens and your head goes back. So it seems impossible to swim with a free neck if constantly looking forward."
There's something to be said for looking forward in front crawl. You can see where you're going and watch the glide of your forward arm. It can help you direct yourself forwards. It's natural and often feels right. Babies look forward, with their heads going back towards their spines, when they crawl, so why can't we?
When in doubt, it's always good to go back to Alexander's four directions, the most important of which in the water is ‘neck free’.
I was working with Sue today. She likes to look forward when swimming crawl, which she’s been working on this week.
As an experiment, we did some jellyfish floats, really letting our necks relax as we looked at the pool floor. As Sue floated like this I put my hand on her back, which was softening and expanding as she gave herself to the water.
She went from here into front crawl, looking down, her intention to keep her neck relaxed and thoughts of stroke mechanics secondary. We noticed at first that she glided less and took more strokes. It's as if looking forward and tightening the neck somehow helps rotation as well as forward direction in front crawl.
When you really focus on keeping your neck free, all the things which make front crawl feel like front crawl may seem to go missing. You might be more square in the water, glide less and find yourself kicking less. It doesn’t feel quite like front crawl. But when you stop, you can be aware of the freedom of not having pulled your head back. It’s worth giving up your normal front crawl in order to achieve this.
There was a definite moment when Sue felt an urge to look forward, refused to do it and continued to the end of the pool, her habit defeated.
Having established a free neck, she explored again the possibility of rotating more and gliding, directing herself forward without looking forward, putting back the key elements of front crawl, without losing her neck.
Instead of looking at her forward arm, she watched her other arm sweeping back through the water under her body, but kept her attention out in front. Her front crawl was starting to come together and flow.
When your eyes look forward in crawl, your neck shortens and your head goes back. So it seems impossible to swim with a free neck if constantly looking forward.
Sue’s looking forward to looking down, next time she goes for a swim, and so am I.
"I had a light bulb moment this morning and felt 'I am doing the front crawl and really enjoying it, with no strain or pain anywhere.'(which there used to be). Sue
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“In these posts we want to encourage anyone who'd like things to be easier in the water. You may be a non-swimmer struggling to trust the water, an improver trying to understand how the strokes work, a recreational or fitness swimmer who tires easily, perhaps with aches and pains, or a swimming teacher looking for a different approach. Two questions running through this blog are: What is it about being in water that makes us happy and benefits our health? Where does our focus need to be, to enjoy these benefits?
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