‘I can run a marathon, but swimming leaves me breathless. Why?’

Sound familiar? I get that question a lot.

Here are the 3 most common freestyle mistakes I see from adult-onset swimmers – and simple steps you can take to correct them.

1. Head position

Problem: The old saying to keep your chin up does NOT apply here. So many swimmers hold their head too high, with the waterline at their forehead. This causes all kinds of problems. Among them: sinking hips and legs.

Fix: Practice swimming with your eyes down. You should be looking at the black line at the bottom of the pool, and just slightly forward. The waterline should be at the top of your head.

2. Breathing

Problem: So, how can someone in tremendous shape, enough to even run a marathon, be left gasping for air after just one length? By not exhaling. They turn their head to breathe and inhale, blow out only a little air, and then breathe again, inhaling more than they need.

Fix: Practice blowing out ALL of your air before you breathe. You’re blowing bubbles, just like when you were a kid doing bobs in the pool. It’s fine to exhale through your nose, mouth, or both.

3. Body position

Problem: Most adults who did not learn to swim as children keep their bodies flat in the water. That leaves them with short, inefficient strokes. They appear as if they are ‘pawing’ across the pool.

Fix: Think roll and reach. In order to generate body rotation, roll onto your side as your arm enters the water and reach forward. You’ll find yourself rotating around the long axis of your spine with longer, more efficient strokes.

Check out these sites for more information behind the images shown above:

Head position


Body position


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