Swimming gives a great total body workout.
Below are a few suggestions from area coaches and the Web site www.swimming.about.com.
Swim regularly, at least three times a week. As with most activities, the more you do it the better you get at it.
Take classes. And just because you failed to learn in previous classes doesn't mean you shouldn't try again. A new teacher, a new pool, a new approach may be just what you need.
Even experienced swimmers can learn something new with additional classes.
Good places to look for reasonably priced classes include your local city recreation centers and area YMCAs.
Join a team. You may not be interested in winning ribbons, but working out with a team will help you improve techniques and speed. In addition to learning from the coach, you'll learn from other swimmers.
Again YMCAs, city pools and swim clubs are great places to look for a team. Meet the coach in advance to make sure your goal - swimming better - is in line with his or her goals - winning trophies.
Focus on technique first, speed second.
Wear proper swimming attire; ideally attire made for competitive swimming. A well-fitted suit is more comfortable and easier to swim in than, for example, a baggy T-shirt and gym shorts. Competitive swimwear costs more, but it usually lasts a long time.
Vary your strokes. While freestyle may be your best stroke, adding breast stroke workouts gives different muscles a workout and you're likely to get better at that stroke as well.
Compare yourself to yourself, not the swimmer in the next lane. Go at a pace that's comfortable for you and build from there, using your starting point as the gauge for your progress.
Occasionally use flippers or fins. They may help you feel what a better body position feels like and strengthen muscles.
Relax and enjoy the water.
(c) 2004, Detroit Free Press. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.