It’s always disappointing when struggling swimmers and non-swimmers tell me that they “aren’t built for swimming” or they “don’t have a swimmer’s body.” Balderdash!
True, they aren’t built like Olympic swimmers, but to excuse their inefficiencies by blaming their physical “deficiencies” is nonsense.
No muscles? Efficient swimmers come in all shapes and sizes. Even Olympic swimmers are not all classic mesomorphs, with strong torsos and muscular arms.
The current World Champion at 1500 meters, German Florian Wellbrock, could not be a greater contrast. He looks like an emaciated cadaver standing on the blocks, but his stroke is beautiful. For him, 1500 meters is merely a sprint. He’ll probably be favored in Tokyo.
Not tall enough? Yes, Olympic Champions Matt Grevers and Nathan Adrian are 6’8” and 6’7” (Michael Phelps is a mere 6’4”), but Kosuke Higano, arguably the best all-around swimmer today, is 5’8”.
And I coached a successful high school individual medley swimmer who was only 4’10”.
Sinker? There are those who complain they can’t float, probably falsely (see my past column on Ben Franklin’s Egg Trick). The captain of the first high school team I coached was so densely built that he truly was a sinker. Didn’t stop him.
Too fat? Not just recreational swimmers, but also many Masters competitors have some serious issues with Dunlap’s Disease (their belly “done lap” over their suit). Even so, obesity is not an issue for their swimming ability.
Too old? Swimming is a lifetime sport. I enjoy seeing how pleased 60-plus swimmers can be when their strokes become more efficient, even more than younger strugglers. My own strokes at 80-plus are more efficient now than they’ve ever been.
Not important? Drownings, both young and old, are much more frequent than they should be. Learning to swim (or swim better) at any age, young or old, saves lives. Just do it.
Most important, one does not have to compete to be an efficient swimmer. No one likes to struggle, and I’ve spent a career focused on the aspects in these columns that have nothing to do with competition. Swimming fast is a goal for some, but swimming well should be a goal for everyone. Your life could depend on it.
Swimming is not just a sport. It is a necessity. It is a life skill. No one should be a non-swimmer. Thus I repeat: Every body can swim,” given the opportunity and good instruction.
Dr. Bob Colyer of Bluffton is an actively retired college professor, coach and author of “Swim Better: A Guide to Greater Efficiency for Swimmers & Instructors,” directed primarily to non-competitors. firstname.lastname@example.org