The Do's & Don'ts of Swimming

Proper stroke technique and breathing can make you a faster and stronger swimmer.
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Swimming is a low-impact cardiovascular sport that burns calories and builds strength simultaneously. Yet this sport carries a certain level of risk. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the fifth leading cause of unintentional death in the United States. Knowing how to handle yourself in a pool, lake or ocean can make you more efficient, faster and safer.

Lane Etiquette

When the pool is crowded and more than one person is swimming in a lane, there is a proper way to swim. Before entering a lane, find out if the pool dedicates lanes to specific swimming paces such as slow, medium and fast, then pick the appropriate lane for your speed. It is polite to ask the swimmers in a lane if it is OK to enter before you join them. When three or more people are in a lane, swim counterclockwise.

Stroke Technique

Good technique in swimming is essential to making it an effective workout. According to Swim Smooth, a combination of technique drills mixed with longer sets leads to the best results. In swimming, your head always leads the way and the rest of your body rotates around a center line that runs from the middle of your head straight through the rest of your body. With freestyle, focus on having your fingertips enter the water first, then press back toward your feet with your hands in a cupping motion.


Proper breathing techniques are essential when swimming. When you swim, you want to maintain rhythmic breathing in which you are constantly exhaling. Holding your breath tenses the body and increases drag. Regardless of the stroke you are swimming, make sure you have exhaled fully by the time you breathe in. Bilateral breathing is the most efficient way to swim because it helps you swim straighter. In freestyle and butterfly, the aim is to breathe every third stoke.


Never swim without a lifeguard on duty or a friend watching you. If you lack confidence swimming, sign up for lessons. Be aware of your limits and do not go into water that is deeper than you feel comfortable in. If you are swimming in open water, always keep an eye on the shoreline to ensure you don’t swim out too far. Finally, only dive into a section of a pool or lake that is clearly marked as safe to dive in.

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