In 1968, James E. “Doc” Counsilman – the head coach of the American swimming team at the 1964 and 1976 Olympics – was the first to describe the feeling of water as an “ambiguous quality” of athletes. Excellent swimmer but he doesn’t give a real definition. And since then, feeling water is perhaps one of the oldest swimming terms that has attracted the special attention of professionals to this day.
Initially, it was thought that the sense of water was a “mystical ability”, an advantage exclusively for outstanding swimmers, like the “feeling of the ball” of athletes playing football or the “sense of space” of athletes who need to “fly” a lot (volleyball, basketball, gymnastics). However, compared to athletes’ other superior self-sensing ability in terrestrial sports, water sensation is considered a more subtle ability of swimmers because they immerse themselves in a tactile-rich environment, where every square millimeter of the skin receives a response from the water. Therefore, experts use a lot of words to talk about swimmers who have a good feeling of water like “he and the water as one” or “she has a wonderful feeling of water”!
So, what is the sense of water? And how does it help swimmers? Let’s find out through the following article!
In fact, it must be recognized that excellent swimmers have a better sense of water than ordinary people. Watch Michael Phelps, Natalie Coughlin, Ryan Lochte, or Ian Thorpe swim. Most swimming champions are role models for great technique, not stormy power. They seem very smooth, easy, controlled and graceful. They are comfortable and gentle even when moving at world-record speeds. They have the ability to subtly sense subtle pressure changes on the surface of their body, so they know when to pull water, how to pull, what size to pull, and what direction to pull in. They intuitively understand how their bodies work underwater, and they can sense the difference between what’s working and what’s not.
However, despite recognizing the above fact, the current view is that the feeling of water is not a gift from God for talented swimmers that ordinary swimmers can also learn! In other words, the average swimmer can learn to improve his water sensation, although not to the level of Michael Phelps, it would be much better with a method. Here are some ways that can help you improve your water sensation:
Everyone likes to swim their best style and refuses to learn more swimming styles for fear of wasting time. However, learning a different style of swimming means you learn to control the water with your hands and feet in a different way, thereby increasing the feeling of the water. If you can only swim breaststroke, you can only feel the water pressure in the soles of your feet when you turn your feet on. If you practice stride swimming, you can feel how the extra leg pushes from the swinging movement of the foot.
For effective hand movements in all swimming styles, swimmers need to learn to feel the pressure of the palm water as the shape of the hand changes as it moves through the water. This is similar to when we hold our hand out the window of a running car and feel the wind pressure on our hand when we tilt the hand at different angles.
To learn how to feel this water pressure, swimmers use sculling exercises. Sculling is a technique that allows swimmers to increase their “feeling of water” by focusing on changing the tilt of the hand in the water.
Sculling is a technique that has a lot of exercises for learners to choose flexibly according to the situation, but due to limited information, this technique is also less noticeable in both swimming classes and swimming training in some countries.
And similar to paddle exercise, you can also use a lot of other drills to improve specific components of the swimming style and at the same time increase the feeling of water.
Certain exercise tools can significantly improve your water feeling. For example, if you want to improve the feeling of water in your feet, you should try using DragSox (this tool is still quite strange but you can type this keyword on Google to find out more); If you want to improve the feeling of water in your hand, we can use a finger-only fan table, also known as a half-table fan (finger paddle). The large fan tables easily make you lose the “water feeling” when you remove the fan table.
Do you ever ride a bike slowly? It is very difficult, is not it? Everyone thinks a fast pedal is difficult, but it turns out pedaling slowly is much more difficult because then you have to focus on the operation of each muscle correctly. Balance then became imperative.
Touretski – the coach of the legendary Russian super-speed swimmer Alexander Popov – is the one who offers this “super slow swim” method for his “super speed” swimming distance student! “People tend to stagger more when moving very slowly, and they have to constantly shift weight to regain balance,” Touretski explains.
The same applies in swimming pools, and when athletes can move smoothly at a very slow speed they can move more smoothly at high speed. Slow-speed exercise also helps swimmers to sharpen the “feeling of water” by helping them know when to accurately spill water with the palm of their hand and how to effectively pull the body forward.
Nothing helps you develop a better feeling of water than being underwater. Want to have a good “feeling of water” but not in the water, where to get that feeling? With the methods suggested above, you will allow your hands, feet and whole body to have plenty of time to “play” in the water with different modes of action, at different movement speeds and subject to different water pressures. That diversity helps you gradually have a subtle sense of the water pressure on each part of your body. The problem is you have to allow yourself enough time to “soak” long enough to achieve that.
In addition, have you ever experienced the feeling of “strange” when not in the water for a few days and it took a few swimming rounds to regain the feeling you wanted? Water has “turned away” with you because you did not “play close” with that water! Like far away from the heart so.
In conclusion, the feeling of water is not something too far-fetched for all swimmers. While the level may not be as good as the superstar swimmers, you will have it over time if you know-how.
Sculling a lot of water can increase the sensation of water. Swim with a deliberate focus on technology, and then there will come a time when your water and body will become one. “Knowing” will lead to “getting along.”