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How to swim in a straight line

With so many elements to think about when swimming up and down, from preventing your legs from sinking to perfecting your breathing pattern, heading in a straight line can be a bigger feat than expected.

Nobody wants to waste time and effort zig-zagging. Everyone needs to know how to swim in a straight line. The starting point is in maintaining a good body position.

Body position

Goggles are an essential piece of kit for anyone who wishes to maintain good position. With your face in the water, keep your eyes fixed on a point down and slightly forward.

Your head should fall into line with the natural position of your spine – imagine you have a rod through it, preventing you from putting your head up any further. If your hips drop, your smooth, straight body position will be lost.

A still, well-positioned head is the key to swimming straight. If you throw your head from side to side while swimming your body will be thrown off balance and you are likely to become quite disorientated too! However, learning to the correct rhythm of breathing is notoriously difficult.

First, the stroke must be broken down into smaller parts. Olympic coach Ben Titley provides us with tips from the top.

  • When swimming freestyle, each hand should enter between your ear and shoulder. It may help to imagine a mirror reflecting your image on the bottom of the pool, with a line drawn down the centre. As your hand enters, it must not cross onto the opposing side of the body.
  • On the same vein, as you enter the ‘pull through phase’ the hand should be kept under the body, but again, you must not pull across the centre line. This will stop your body rolling from side to side to ultimately throw you off balance. If your arms keep striding forwards, and not diagonally, your body will too.
  • Using a snorkel will take breathing totally out of the stroke and you can focus on swimming in a straight line, using the bottom of the pool to guide you.
  • By placing a pull buoy in between your thighs, your legs will be taken out of the equation, decreasing resistance and drawing your hips up to the surface. It gives you a chance to focus purely on your arms. For anyone slightly more advanced, or wishing to push themselves, a pull buoy can be placed between the ankles. The core is forced to switch on given that everything in between the lungs and buoy (which like to float!) wants to sink.
  • If you have been maintaining a straight body with a snorkel, attempt it without after a while and monitor your progression.
  • To keep a still head on backstroke, use a buoy to take weight off legs and draw hips up to the surface, and do double arm backstroke. This will prevent you worrying about arm position and allow you to simply swim straight.