Martha McCabe, a Shaklee Pure Performance Team athlete from Canada, looks every bit the two-time (2012, 2016) Games competitor as she swims laps: Every long stroke and curt kick exudes power and efficiency, and she is so sleek and swift in the water that her wake flows around her and disappears in a blink.
“Swimming is a wonderful full-body exercise,” explained Martha, whose specialty was the breaststroke. “You work on your arms, legs, core, mobility, stretching, and cardio. And it’s a great way to burn calories, get a great workout even if it’s only for 20 minutes. And whether you’re a kid or adult, you want to start out right.”
Martha’s recommendation for beginners revolves around two main areas: breathing and proper swimming motions.
“Probably the most challenging aspect for beginners is breathing, so really focus on breathing as a first priority,” she said. “You want to stay relaxed and build a consistent breathing pattern: Exhale underwater, take a small breath coming up. Always stay in control of your breathing, because it’s so easy to panic, lose control.”
She added, “Begin by controlling your breathing one pool length at a time, usually 25 meters (or whatever you can do comfortably). Then try eight lengths, all freestyle, breathing on every third stroke, and really making sure that you’re in control with your breathing pattern. Then do another eight lengths where you breathe every five strokes. Next, every seven strokes—you’re increasing the time you hold your breath, building your ability to stay in control. It may not be easy, so slowly work up to it.”
Proper motion and streamlining:
Martha’s next focus for beginners is the swimming motion, or range of motion. She explained, “With a freestyle stroke, try to really roll that shoulder as you reach forward, almost like you’re dislocating your shoulder. When you look at Michael Phelps, for example, it seems like his joints are barely connected. So, reach forward and kick three times while your arm is extended, and of course, keep your breathing under control. Slow it down at first, so you control the reach, kicks, and breathing. Reach, kick, breathe.” She added, “and always stay in control!”
Martha also emphasized body position in the water. “Really strive for a streamlined position,” she said. “To begin, simply push off the wall reaching hard toward the other end. Tuck your head between your arms, squeeze your butt, your core, and hold it. Glide, and practice maintaining that position. Any resistance is bad.”
Out of the pool:
And what’s Martha’s biggest piece of advice for beginners? “Stay active, even if it’s just 20 minutes a day—anything is better than nothing,” she emphasized. “Remember that swimming is a good activity for outside or inside; I do a lot of swimming inside in the winter. Squeezing in a workout—swimming, jogging, walking, playing basketball—that’s so good, and moving in the right direction.” She added, “Proper nutrition is critical, and meal planning is the most important part of that. I always plan some protein, such as a chicken breast, salmon, or eggs; also, veggies on half my plate and a small-carb, really simple. Shaklee Performance® Advanced Physique® 100% Grass-Fed Whey Protein in vanilla is a favorite source of protein. I can throw it into anything—water, milk, any beverage—and even add it to oatmeal in the morning.”
Beginners with an aim simply to become more fit, or to become a pro swimmer at Martha’s level, might do well to remember her advice for all their endeavors, in the pool and out of the pool: “Stay in control!”