I wish that I had a nickel for every time someone has asked me this question. No, it is not normal to be exhausted after your swim. Many swimmers swim “flat.” When children learn to swim, they often are taught to swim with little or no hip rotation.  In order to conserve energy, you must focus on swimming on your side when swimming freestyle. You need to be balanced and streamlined.  Think like a dolphin. Dolphins are sleek and smooth in the water. The streamline position offers the least possible resistance to a current of air, water, etc.

To swim well, you also must use your core, which includes your stomach, hips, lower back and chest.  Your tummy will thank you. Rotate the core of your body from side-to-side while keeping your head straight, looking down at the bottom of the pool and reaching forward from your hip with each stroke.  You will move like a fish or dolphin.  Old school swimming taught us to reach from our shoulders; however, this causes shoulder injuries. You never want to swim flat, looking like a barge.

Practice this drill.  Did I just hear you groan? I do not know why swimmers do not like drills. Drills are the “foundation” of swimming. This drill has been around for decades and no, I did not make it up.


Long, narrow body position.

Kick on your left side with your left arm and hand extended out, palm down, and your right arm glued to your side. Do not lift your head off your arm. Your ear must stay on your bicep. I tell my students to “put their hand in their pocket.” Focus on keeping a long and narrow body position. This is a streamline position. I like to pretend that I am swimming sideways through a narrow cave.  Kick from your hips, not your knees. Legs straight. Try to do this drill without fins. Of course, fins will make this drill easier. “Try” being the operative word. Try your best to keep your right hand tight at your side “in your pocket.” Keep your head looking straight down at the bottom of the pool and your chin tucked into your left shoulder.

When you need air, roll or guide your body into a 45 degree angle.  Do not fall apart and take your hand out of your “pocket.”  Point your nose up at the sky and breathe.  After a few breaths, tuck your chin back into your shoulder, look down at the bottom of the pool and maintain a steady kicking pace.

On the second lap, switch to the right side and repeat.  Many swimmers have trouble maintaining the long and balanced body position needed for this drill and find themselves kicking harder. Relax and do not do any wild kicking. Focus on making no splashes or white water. I like to pretend I am sneaking up on someone.

When you feel comfortable with this drill, add in arm strokes.  This drill takes time. Do not get discouraged when you need air. Yes, you may “eat” it. It happens. Breathing is overrated. There, I said it. That is me coughing.  All of the yogis in the world are laughing!  If you feel overwhelmed, rollover onto your back, breathe and relax. Easy for me to say. Balancing and streamlining are the keys to swimming.

Swimming freestyle on your side may seem like a foreign concept at first but with practice you will get it. Swim efficiently and smoothly, conserving your energy. Think like a fish or dolphin. No barges allowed in the pool.

Read more about Body Roll and Rotation.