My sister-in-law and I are going to the beach today, but in the meantime, I thought you’d appreciate a guest post from Ryan, who is teaching me how to swim.  🙂


Hi Healthy Tipping Point readers! My name is Ryan and my blog is called Greens for Good.


After helping Caitlin with her swimming technique, she asked me to write a post with some swimming tips. I started swimming competitively when I was 7 years old, continued through high school, contemplated swimming in college but decided not to because of a shoulder injury, and switched gears by becoming a swim instructor instead. So whether you’re training for your next triathlon like Caitlin, or would like to improve your recreational swimming techniques, I hope I can help. If you have any questions following this post, please visit my contact page or email me: ryan [at] greensforgood [dot] com


There are a few important things you want to remember while swimming the most commonly known stroke: freestyle (on your stomach with arms rotating forward while kicking your feet). If you’re swimming in a triathlon or even just for exercise, this will likely be the stroke you use. Seasoned swimmers might cross-train for race events with the other three strokes (backstroke, breaststroke, and butterfly), but for our purposes, we’ll focus on freestyle.


The next time you jump in the pool, focus on one of these 4 areas at a time so that you don’t become overwhelmed. When you feel comfortable, put it all together and you should feel like you’re doing much less work to move across the pool. Proper technique = fast, energy-saving, efficient swimming.


1. How to hold your entire body:

  • Starting with your head, keep it straight out if front of you with a straight neck. Don’t tuck your chin. The water line should remain at the top of your forehead (hairline) so that you can look forward slightly if needed. 
  • Your shoulders should ride at the surface of the water as they rotate in and out of it.
  • Your hips and feet should ride slightly below the surface of the water. This might seem hard to do, but it’s important to keep it in mind because as your hips sink, your feet sink and you create a wall with the bottom of your body that your upper body has to work harder to pull through the water. If you need help with this, get a swim buoy like this one, place it between your legs, near the crotch, and you’ll quickly feel how your lower body should be positioned. If you’re using a buoy, do not try to kick (you’ll chafe). Instead, focus on your upper body techniques and enjoy not having to worry about your lower body!
  • Swim straight. Pretend there is a pole running through the center of your body that prevents you from wiggling from side to side when you’re swimming. Sometimes our rears wiggle as we go down the pool to compensate for other parts of the stroke that are being done incorrectly. If you can’t tell if you’re wiggling, ask someone to watch you.
  • While you shouldn’t move from side to side, your body should be rotating from left to right as you swim. Your entire body should rotate about 45 degrees up on the left side when you’re extending your right arm in front of you and 45 degrees up on the right side when your left arm is in front of you.


2. How to move your arms:

  • Your arms should reach out in front of you, one at a time, and rotate from the start of your stroke to the end of it. If your right arm is in front of you, your left should be half-way through the stroke rotation, in the water, by your hip.
  • Out of the water: When your arms are out of the water, your elbows should be slightly bent and your fingers should be almost perpendicular to the bottom of the pool as your arms sweep around to the front of your head. Do not straighten your arms by reaching them as high up as you can or by swinging them out of the water, straight to the side, and around to the front of your head. This is inefficient and your stroke will take a lot more time to complete.
  • Out of the water: Your hands should enter the water in front of your head when your elbow is still bent. A common mistake that beginning swimmers make is straightening their arms before their hands enter the water. Instead, enter the water with a bent elbow and rotate your body to get the full extension of your arm before pulling it back.
  • Under the water: When your arms are under the water and your hand is moving back toward your hips, keep your elbows bent and straighten just as your hand is about to exit the water. Just like when they are out of the water, you don’t want to keep them straight and reaching toward the bottom, or pulling out wide either. 
  • Under the water: When your hand enters the water, rotate your body to get a few more inches of reach, then pull your hand back and pretend your are pushing the water out from underneath your sides. Before your hands leaves the water, give them one last good push and make a slight splash when they finally exit the water by your hips.
  • Overall, keep your stroke tight and close to your body. You want to complete the rotation of your arms are quickly and efficiently as possible.


Stay tuned for another Guest Post from Ryan later in the week, which will discuss how to move your legs and how to breathe!


Are you a good swimmer?



  • Nicole @ Geek Turned Athlete January 18, 2010, 12:14 pm

    I didn’t make it on to my hs swim team when they were taking just about anyone! BUT, since triathlon training, my stroke has improved quite a bit, and I was told that I actually looked like a swimmer a few months ago. Thanks for the tips! Form is definitely key!

  • RhodeyGirl January 18, 2010, 12:17 pm

    OMG this post is amazing! Thank you Ryan & Caitlin! I need this for when we start training for the sprint triathlon this spring (it is in July). I was on my high school swim team and had natural swimming abilities, but I really can’t remember anything I learned back then except how to get rid of the smell of chlorine in my hair. Oh, and that my coach always made me swim fly bc I was one of a few who knew how. Our team was, um, second to last in the state!

  • Laura Georgina January 18, 2010, 12:19 pm

    Thank you Ryan and Caitlin! I’m a good swimmer in that I can go for a long time and though my form is OK-ish (I must have learned something during my dreaded swim classes as a kid!) I want to learn to be more streamlined and efficient in the water. This is the best explanation on freestyle arm movements I’ve come across and I’m printing it for my next swim.

    I’m really looking forward to the next topics (and wish I lived in Orlando so I could benefit from a lesson with Mermaid Ryan herself!)

  • Blake January 18, 2010, 12:20 pm

    Thanks for this… the swim is the weakest part of the tri for me.

  • Bronwyn January 18, 2010, 12:20 pm

    I love swimming. 🙂 I tend to go steady with it for a few weeks, then stop. The two things keeping me from the pool:

    time; it’s hard to get there knowing I have to change, before and after, as well as shower after the pool.

    Getting there. I have a free gym right near me, (two min walk) and running is so easy to get to… Clearly I’m just incredibly lazy about getting to my exercise. :p

    But yay for swimming!

  • Katie@ Two Lives, One Lifestyle January 18, 2010, 12:27 pm

    Thanks for this! I am a terrible swimmer and it’s actually the main reason I haven’t done a tri longer than a sprint- I’m afraid of the swim. Great tips, though I probably need to get someone to coach me IN the pool to make sure I follow them!

  • Estela @ Weekly Bite January 18, 2010, 12:29 pm

    I love this guest post! Great tips! Swimming is one of my weaknesses. I really need to work on my form. Thanks again!

  • Kelly January 18, 2010, 12:40 pm

    Such a great post. I did a sprint triathlon last summer, but I doubt my form was perfect- definitely something I need to work on.

  • Heather @ The Joyful Kitchen January 18, 2010, 12:41 pm

    i wouldn’t say i’m phenomenal, but i can swim for a little ways. i love these tips…it’ll be great for using swimming as cardio in the summer 🙂

  • Freya @ January 18, 2010, 12:42 pm

    Good tips!
    I used to swim loads and loads for a club when I was younger. I did lots again over the summer and loved it – you sure don’t forget how to swim once you’ve learnt it! And it’s such a good workout 🙂
    Good post!

  • lauren @ Eater not a runner January 18, 2010, 12:56 pm

    Great post! I love swimming 🙂

  • Gracie @ Girl Meets Health January 18, 2010, 1:05 pm

    Awesome post! Really good descriptions…I actually knew what you were talking about, haha =)

    I don’t *think* I’m a great swimmer. I’ve only done so recreationally. I was taught how to properly do the breath stroke when I was younger, but I wouldn’t say I have perfect form 😉

  • Megan @ Eat.Scrap.Run January 18, 2010, 1:18 pm

    Thanks for this post. I am just starting to train for the swimming part of my upcoming triathlon and this is GREAT information!

  • megan January 18, 2010, 1:23 pm

    great information. I’m a terrible swimmer, but I do like to do it for exercise occasionally. i don’t think I’ll ever do a triathlon (too much stress and training), but I’d like to learn to swim better anyway

  • Sarah (Running to Slow Things Down) January 18, 2010, 1:39 pm

    I’m bookmarking these tips so that I’ll have them once the summer rolls around and the ice is off the lakes. 😉 Great tips, thanks!

  • Morgan @ Healthy Happy Place January 18, 2010, 1:40 pm

    Great post! I was on a swim team for many years during my youth, and I just assumed everyone else did this to. I know i’m way wrong for thinking this, so I’m glad there are people like Ryan who can teach others!

  • Courtney January 18, 2010, 1:43 pm

    This post came just in time for me. The only New Year’s Revolution I’ve been slacking on so far is “get back in the pool” and this inspired me! I want to really improve my swimming and get ready for tri season so I can rock it out. I will be using ALL this advice!
    adventures in tri-ing

  • rosy January 18, 2010, 1:44 pm

    i looove swimming! it’s an awesome workout, but it took me a while to really tackle the front crawl. one thing that helped me a lot was focusing on the body’s rotation in the water. I can’t find where I read it, but there was an article about how the power of your stroke doesn’t come so much from “grabbing” the water, or kicking, but from rotating your body. this article says mostly the same stuff.
    good luck!

  • Katy @ These Beautiful Feet January 18, 2010, 2:39 pm

    Yay Ryan, great post. I would love to start swimming as a workout. Thanks for your tips!

  • Jessica @ How Sweet It Is January 18, 2010, 3:41 pm

    LOVE THIS!! I have always wanted to swim but haven’t been sure ‘how’ to do it and get a workout. I am heading to the nearest pool soon!

  • Amber K January 18, 2010, 4:10 pm

    I’ve never gotten into swimming. I’m allergic to chlorine, so swimming in a pool isn’t an option. And I’ve always been too grossed out to swim in a lake. The ocean is FREEZING. So I’ll stick to my bathtub! =)

  • Anne January 18, 2010, 4:21 pm

    Thank you so much for this post! I am contemplating doing a triathlon, but the swimming parts scares me. I can swim, but not freestyle…

  • Heather @ Side of Sneakers January 18, 2010, 4:22 pm

    Great tips!! I can swim pretty well, but I think it’s because I was thrown in the water at an early age! It’s a tiring workout though!

  • Mary January 18, 2010, 4:29 pm

    Swimming is the one thing that keeps me away from doing triathlons. I would LOVE to become a great swimmer…I just feel like it’s so hard…haha.

  • Lisa (bakebikeblog) January 18, 2010, 4:31 pm

    Thanks for the great tips Ryan! THey are really really helpful! 🙂 I look forward to reading your other tips soon 🙂

  • Tiffany January 18, 2010, 4:57 pm

    This post is great! My husband just started training for a sprint triathlon and we took a stab at swimming at the gym. So hard! I could definitely use some tips to get better at this. Not as easy to pick up as running or biking!

  • Chloe (Project Live Well) January 18, 2010, 5:22 pm

    That post was super useful Ryan – thanks!

    I’ve never been a huge fan of swimming but think I might give it a shot to mix things up.


  • Amy January 18, 2010, 5:43 pm

    Woohoo – great post. I tried to implement the arm techniques at practice this morning. I’m too embarassed to ask the coach if my rear is wiggling though!:) I’ll ask my husband the next time we’re at practice together. Thanks! Amy

  • Julie @savvyeats January 18, 2010, 6:01 pm

    Thanks for all the great tips. I am a terrible swimmer!

  • Wendy January 18, 2010, 6:16 pm

    I can swim, but I am VERY inefficient. I’m really looking forward to Ryan’s next guest post, esp. the breathing part. I can’t get from one end of the pool to the other without inhaling water! I have taken an adult refresher swim class (I had years of swim lessons as a kid), and I was told that runners often have a hard time with breathing while swimming b/c the rhythm is so different. Hopefully Ryan has some good tips for all us runners!

  • Jolene ( January 18, 2010, 8:12 pm

    I am not great … but my husband is, and he is going to teach me!

  • Jamie January 18, 2010, 8:43 pm

    Thanks Ryan! This is great, especially as I want to mix up my workouts with some swimming. I’d love to hear a post on your swim workouts as well!

  • MegaNerd January 19, 2010, 6:18 am

    I am a horrible swimmer… I totally flop like a fish. 😛

    Ryan, can you teach me to swim toooooo? 😀

  • Meg @ Be Fit Be Full January 19, 2010, 9:20 am

    I just forwarded this post to my husband as he needs a lot of help with swimming. We both competed in a sprint tri and he was only 1 minute faster than me because I kicked his butt in the swimming leg of the race :)I love swimming!

  • Caroline January 19, 2010, 9:44 am

    This is a great idea! I’m contemplating a sprint tri in May (my first!) but haven’t seriously swam in five years. Thanks for the guest post!

  • Sarah January 19, 2010, 10:15 am

    This is great! I am a competitive swimmer, and i think that this is great advice for beginning swimmers! Keep it up! 🙂

  • PippaPatchwork January 19, 2010, 10:33 am

    So good of you to post a swimming tutorial! I was an avid runner for a while but finally started mixing up my work outs about a year ago. Swimming is WONDERFUL but it’s definitely intimidating! I watched YouTube videos the night before my first swim–I wish I’d had this tutorial to make me feel more confident!

  • Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) January 22, 2010, 10:31 am

    I just discovered Ryan’s blog as a fellow veggie-loving vegan, and it would be great to have swim lessons from her as well!

  • Lisa January 27, 2010, 9:49 am

    I have a totally superficial question – I’ve just started taking swimming lessons and the one thing I really dislike is the chlorine in my hair. Any tips or specific shampoos that should be used to get a better clean? (I do wear a bathing cap but it still gets to me.

    • Caitlin January 27, 2010, 12:07 pm

      I’m not sure! I’ll ask Ryan.

    • Ryan @ Greens for Good January 27, 2010, 12:40 pm

      Chlorine is really tough on your hair, especially if you’re a blonde. I would use a clarifying shampoo that is specifically for removing chlorine from your hair. UltraSwim is that most commonly known brand and can be found at drug stores (or just order online, it’s like $5). After a quick Google search, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Ulta Beauty Supply has a decent offering of chlorine removing shampoos as well (

      One other tip for protecting your hair: Don’t rinse all of the conditioner out of your hair before each swim. Rinse it, but leave a little and it will help protect it. Leave-in conditioner will work too.

  • Sean September 23, 2015, 7:27 am

    Great article I’ve been swimming since I was very young and still managed to pick up a few tips from this. I like to get my training equipment for learning to swim at

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