Holding your breath
The theory on breathing has changed over the years, says McCuiston. “In the 100-free I was always taught to breathe every four strokes or fewer than that, and now if you watch the Olympic athletes, they’re taking a breath every stroke,” she says. “Even in the butterfly, they’re breathing every stroke now, which I was never taught to do, so it’s definitely an interesting shift. It makes sense, though: if you’re efficient it doesn’t slow you down, and it provides more oxygen to your body which is beneficial.”
Not listening to your body
What works for you may not necessarily work for your swim-lane neighbour. Age, body composition and swim distance will all dictate your technique. “Swimming is not one-size-fits-all. As soon as we think one way is right, another swimmer emerges to prove us wrong,” he laughs. “When you look at the top-three finishers in the 1500-metre men’s final in the last Olympics, for example, each used a different technique, because each had found what worked best for him. It’s an evolutionary time in swim-stroke research where things are changing every day.”
Sign up here to get Reader’s Digest’s favourite stories straight to your inbox!