Swimming is a popular hobby, especially in summer, when many Americans seek relief from the heat in a pool, lake or ocean. While swimming is fun and can help you stay in shape, it also is potentially dangerous. Whether your goal is to swim competitively or to enjoy swimming with friends or children, you can become a better swimmer by getting help from trainers, keeping your body in good condition and practicing your techniques.
Take swimming lessons. If you are not a good swimmer, taking lessons at your local recreation center or YMCA can give you the confidence you need in the water. Check that your teacher is CPR certified for maximum safety.
Get in shape. The better physical condition you are in, the better your endurance and strength will be, which will make you a better athlete in general. Spend time each day performing aerobic and strength-training exercises. In addition to swimming, try walking, running, dancing, biking and rowing, suggests the National Institute on Aging.
Eat a wide variety of nutritious foods. The journal "Clinical Sports Medicine" notes that not only will this help keep your body in good condition and at a healthy weight, but also a varied and healthy diet will provide you with the energy you need to be a good swimmer. Focus on eating fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and lean sources of protein, recommends the Centers for Disease Control. Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after swimming, especially if you are at an all-day meet. Although you might not feel hot, you still will perspire and could become dehydrated if you do not drink enough.
Practice your breathing techniques. "Fitness Magazine" suggests making it a habit to breathe by turning your head to alternate sides and keeping your bottom ear in the water. This is more efficient than lifting your head completely out of the water.
Practice each stroke until you have mastered it. Ask your instructor to demonstrate each stroke slowly, and put together each component of the stroke until you can do each motion at once. For example, when practicing the freestyle stroke, work on keeping your arms high in the water, as described in "Fitness Magazine," then practice kicking from the hips. Once you understand the basics of the stroke, put it together and practice until smooth.
For variety, if you live in a temperate zone, switch to outdoor pools or lakes in the summer.
Follow all safety rules while swimming, cautions TeenHealth. Do not swim alone and pay attention to any posted signs in the vicinity of the pool or body of water. Do not dive in water that is not at least 9 feet deep and never swim after drinking alcohol.