Murray Rose in the early 60s did it as did Shane Gould and many other Australian crawlers but then it fell out of fashion in the late 70s.
“Congratulations Jason, you’re getting a gold medal,” said my coach sometime in the 80’s.
“You’re Australia’s laziest freestyler. Why can’t you have a go?”
I thought I was having (a bit) of a go, but these were the days of trying to be Mark Spitz, of S-shaped pulls, big splashy kicks and high stroke rates.
Since then, science, the genius of Ian Thorpe, Alex Popov and others have shown us there is a better way to swim.
A long, strong, straight stroke is faster and easier than plenty of short, fast strokes. When you get it, the feeling is magic. You can slide through the water easily for thousands of metres without getting exhausted.
“When you get it, the feeling is magic”
We’ve all seen a lazy freestyler, often as they cruise past us, going much faster than we are. A lazy freestyler can look slow but mysteriously speeds through the water. The water loves the lazy freestyler largely because they have worked out how to slide through the water by minimising resistance. They get extra speed from swimming well.
Not everything needs to be done totally perfectly for lazy freestyle to work. You don’t have to be a zen master of technique to be able to swim easily for miles and miles. But you do need to think about a few very important things.
Have a quick read of these ten elements of lazy freestyle:
- While it’s called lazy freestyle, your mind is active the whole time. You are managing every little movement, because they all count. You are never dreamily going through the motions without thinking. You are never leaving it up to muscle memory.
- You are putting your hand in the water at the beginning of each stroke , pushing it forward and feeling the water. This is essential. You have to love this part of the stroke and know how important it is.
- Meanwhile your other arm is pulling back powerfully, with a high elbow and a vertical forearm.
- This is when you can take a breath. When your breathing arm is passing your face and your opposite arm is stretched forward holding you up.
- Controlling your exhale is crucial or you’ll be rushing to get to your next arm stroke. If you can’t go under the water and exhale constantly and steadily for 10 seconds, that’s where to start.
- Your core muscles, your abs are powering all this. Your shoulders are rotating almost 180 degrees but your hips are fairly steady and firm.
- Your kick is narrow, not very big, it’s at the top of the water (most importantly) and is working independently of what is happening above your waist.
- You feel long, narrow, tall, strong but lean, sharp, fluid. You feel powerful but never heavy. You’re in charge, in control but also fluid and in touch with the water.
- And you are using significant strength to make it happen. But there’s more to lazy freestyle than muscles. You don’t need big muscles, you need a willingness to use what you’ve got.
- You have to love the water for the water to love you back. You have to feel the water, not smack it, you need to want to be in the water for everything to happen smoothly.