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When most people see me swim like this… they would never guess that it all begins with…

…Tthis.

Balance.

Perfect balance is impossible – almost no one can float perfectly flat or horizontal in the water. But trying to stay as balanced as possible is extremely important to fast swimming.

If you can keep your body horizontal when you swim, you create a lot less drag, and all your energy can be used to send you forward.

A good way to find your balance is to float face down on the surface of the water without moving.

I’m using a snorkel to help me relax as I do this, but you can try it just by holding your breath.

When your legs and hips start to sink, make slight adjustments at the top end of your body to help stay afloat.

Look down with your eyes. Your best head position should be similar to your natural posture when you’re out of the water – looking straight ahead.

Press in -- or lean in -- on your chest and lungs.

And press in with your hips, working with the feel until you find your optimum natural balance point.

Once you find your balance point, you can start to kick a little bit, trying to maintain a horizontal position as you move forward.

This is your starting point for everything in freestyle. But balance is way more than leaning in and staying horizontal.

For me, balance means keeping your right side and left side equal and symmetrical.

In this clip, try to focus just on my arms. Notice how the angle of the elbows is the same on both sides and how my hands enter at the same point on both sides.

From under water, you can see how I try to balance the path of my hands on both sides, and how I try to rotate an equal amount on both sides, from one hip to the other.

Being balanced side to side helps me move in a more direct line down the pool, and that’s critical in a 50 or 100 free.

Balance also means keeping your upper body and lower body equally efficient.

In this clip you can see that I’m in horizontal balance, but also that my kick doesn’t overpower my pull… and vice versa.

When I pick it up to race pace, the balance is still there. The kick and the arms are working at the same level of intensity, and this helps drive me forward with steady, even speed.

Here’s one more clip at race pace. Look for the horizontal balance, the side-to-side balance, and the balance between kick and pull.

When you work on balance at the pool, don’t be afraid to slow down, and work on just one aspect at a time…

Horizontal balance…

…side-to-side balance – or symmetry…

…and a balance of effort between kick and pull.