The Swimming/Paddling Connection
by: Cynthia Hahn
Those of us who love the water, fell in love with it early in our lives. Most of us can pinpoint a time or place where water became an important part of our well-being. For me, water has been an inborn part of my entire life. My mom was jumping off the diving board and into a backyard pool about an hour before I was born. From there, a Styrofoam bubble was strapped to my back throughout my toddler years. My brothers would toss me in the pool to watch me bob to the surface and giggle with delight. It wasn’t long after this that swimming lessons and swim team were what made me tick.
As a competitive swimmer, I learned the feel of the water. Swimmers are constantly trying to become more efficient and find the perfect catch and pull. One of the main ideas is to find the biggest surface area of our arms to provide the most resistance. The more resistance, the more power. The more power, the faster we are propelled through the water. The catch, the pull, a clean exit are all paramount to making you go fast.
Paddling became part of my life in my mid-thirties. It took me a while to understand that if I thought of a paddle as an extension of my arm, it was much like swimming. Reach out, get a good catch and accelerate the blade through the water. Use the water through the whole stroke but exit before it starts to drag you down. A crisp catch, powerful stroke, and clean exit make a paddler efficient.
The parallel between paddling and swimming makes sense. Swimmers learn to find the good water and use it to go fast, so do paddlers. Swimmers look for a good catch, a powerful stroke, and a clean exit, so do paddlers. Swimmers learn that relaxing and letting the water work with and for you is important to their efficiency, endurance, and stamina, so do paddlers.
When we look at some of the best paddlers in the world, it is not surprising to find that swimming was part of their background. Their comfort in the water and innate feel of how to get the water to work for them is the main reason. If you are trying to find a way to become a better paddler, incorporate swimming into your training regimen. If you are a swimmer looking for a great cross training activity, try paddling. Swimming and paddling are a natural fit.
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