You often hear the term “glide” when learning to swim freestyle. Many people think of the glide as a noun, meaning that it is a “thing”. The mere word conjures up thoughts of doing nothing, being static, or resting. But in reality, the glide in freestyle is an ACTIVE part of the stroke, and an important one at that. Think of the term as a VERB. Verbs mean ACTION.
When you extend your lead arm out in front, it is doing much more than setting your arm up for the catch and pull. It actually is aiding the body in maintaining it’s balance, and keeping it streamline in the water, thus preventing drag. It is important to note that you have to experiment with the angle at which you hold your arm during the glide, to find the optimal depth where your body is most balanced. Too high, and you will cause your lower body to sink. Too Low and you throw your lower body up too high, again, causing drag.
As your hand enters the water and you press forward, your body should rotate slightly to that side. Hold the arm out front as your other recovery arm starts to pass your shoulders. At the precise moment that your recovery arm causes your body to change rotation THAT is when the glide should end. At this moment you use your whole body to rotate, pull back with the front arm, and slice the other arm out front. The transfer of weight, the shift of the body, and the power of the pull all aid in propelling you forward. Perfecting the timing of the transfer takes practice, and when done correctly, you will naturally swim faster.
Depending on your stroke rake , meaning, how fast your recovery arm turns over, your glide time will vary. Katie Ledecky swims with a 1.36 second stroke. You will barely notice her glide at that speed! The average age grouper is not going to achieve anything close to what the pro’s are capable of, but we all have to start somewhere. If you hold the glide even a second or two too long, you risk falling out of balance, and you lose the ability to make full use of the power of the transfer. Out of balance means you have to do something to “right” yourself, which for most people means kicking harder, or moving your arms faster. All this will do is raise your heart beat, cause your breathing to increase, and make a lot of splashing, as you correct your position in the water.
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