The simple answer is "by learn to swim slow with a correct technique".
This, in turn, reduces your body's drag and increases your propulsion force.
Swimming slower rather than faster is a bit against common sense, however, it is the way to go trust me.
It is actually the hardest thing you will have to learn on your journey to effortless swimming.
Convincing swimmers to slow down and forget about how many laps they do and how fast they swim is also the hardest thing for coaches to be able to do. Most swimmers usually say "yeah right, you are crazy. Why would I swim slower?", but when they make the switch and start seeing the progress, they usually buy into this concept and are better for it.
Before you go on, I have a small exercise for you. Next time you are in the pool try the following exercise for yourself and see that I am not just pulling your leg.
While swimming your normal laps, slow down in your normal body position and stroke technique to a slow-motion like movement and see what happens to your body.
More than likely it will be very difficult for you to swim at that speed and stay afloat in the same way you are when you swim faster. This is actually one of the reasons why people do swim faster as they are compensating for the lack of a correct body position with speed.
Do you remember the young thug in the lane next to you that jumps in and suddenly starts to thrash at the water as fast as he can and stops all out of breath when he gets to the other side? Well, this is exactly what I am talking about. Besides being a very annoying nuisance in the swim lanes, he cannot keep afloat unless he thrashes around like that with his muscular body :).
There are a few reasons why we want to initially slow down.
Let's say you are learning how to tie your shoes and someone shows you at their regular speed. You will not grasp the movements.
However, if someone takes the time and shows you the movement one by one in slow-motion and even tell you to loop it and swoop it or the bunny ears poem, you are more likely to have a better start and will remember how to do it.
Then you practice it very slowly until the movements become natural. When the movement is imprinted into your motor skills you can tie your shoe in stealth speed without even thinking about it.
With swimming, it is very similar.
When you do not learn the proper streamlined body position, arm movement, head position, catch and relaxation while swimming slow, your body will produce too much drag and turbulence while you swim, thus making swimming a much harder activity then it actually is. Which in turn will make you slower as you cannot sustain speed over a long period of time.
Remember, water is much denser than air, so moving through it requires a much more streamlined and thought out movement then when you move through the air.
What I want to teach you is to save energy while swimming by streamlining your body, so you swim effortlessly and are the flower among the thorns in the pool.
Now, are you with me here or are you still thinking I am nuts.
I am not going to lie to you, slowing down and learning the proper technique and body position at a lower speed takes a lot of patience as your mind will always tempt you to go faster.
You might feel you are not exercising enough and wasting your valuable time, however, if you are serious about learning how to swim properly, more efficiently and faster, I challenge you to bear with me and slow down.
In the next articles, I will take you through a set of exercises (phases) which will help you build up your stroke and save valuable energy during your swims.
Whether you are doing laps in the pool or stroking away in the open water, the slow down approach is a must.