SF's Top Swim Coaches Share Their Tips for a Better Stroke

Swimming can be one of the safest and most effective forms of cardio. Whether you are trying to lean out or to get stronger, swimming is easy on the joints, scalable to your goals and an excellent way to connect your brain, breath and body. Unlike running, spinning and rowing (all of which I love!), swimming focuses on a full range of motion of the shoulders and gets our hips and knees extended which can be just what our bodies need in today's technology-centric world. But it can be a big drag (literally) if your stroke or breath are off. 

Michael Bonella, Claire Love and Megan Nazareno are three of San Francisco's top swim coaches and personal trainers. I asked them "What is the most common issue you encounter with form and how do you help your clients through it?" 

The most challenging obstacle I watch most beginners over come is the idea of training the mind and body to understand how to move and breathe underwater. We are taught that water is dangerous as it can drown us and our fight or flight systems kick in immediately once we are submerged. Training the brain to understand it is not in danger and teaching proper respiratory patterns while under water takes time, patience and dedication. The end result is my mind blowing.
— Michael Bonella

About Michael

I completed three years of swim instruction at CCSF. My mother has always had trouble keeping me out of the water. From sunny lakes to ice cold oceans, she claims I was born with the souls of a fish... who grew up to be a shark. 

“Swimming uphill”— many people are physically grabbing and visually hunting for the other wall in a pool. Many times, a simple slight tuck of the chin, high elbow and fingertip entry *closer to your face* (instead of after full elbow extension) can really flatten someone out. This will decrease drag/energy output and increase speed/efficiency.
— Claire Love

About Claire

I swam competitively for 13 years; including one year for my Turkish college team while studying abroad. During some of my competitive years and after, I coached a swim team and did private lessons for 9 years; ages 3-18. When I started teaching adults at Equinox, I had to re-teach myself how to teach. Many adult swimmers come with decades-old ingrained fear or body misalignments from living the "9-5" that kids do not. 

A common obstacle new clients face is keeping their bodies balanced in the water during freestyle. People will usually kick from their knees and “cycle” in the water. By kicking through the knees instead of the hips there is a lot more drag present causing the lower body to sink preventing the swimmer from staying balanced and afloat. It is best to kick with a straight leg and from the hip, a slight bend in the knee will occur naturally but is not problematic.
— Megan Nazareno

About Megan

From a young age I always enjoyed swimming especially in the ocean. I swam recreationally throughout high school. In college I became a competitive combat sports athlete and would use swimming as supplementary conditioning for fights as well as a form of active recovery. When I decided to become a swim coach for Equinox, I took 6 months to work with a swim coach to not only better my swim technique but also understand how a client feels being coached in a pool.