Michael Phelps will go down in history as one of the greatest swimmers ever. With 18 Olympic Gold Medals and record-breaking titles, he is a swimming icon.  However, you don’t have to be an Olympic swimmer to benefit from this demanding sport. In fact, becoming a good swimmer might be easier than you think.

What makes a good swimmer? Some might say that it is genetics or an affinity for swimming, but the truth is, it comes down to technique, practice and patience. The benefits of following these key components of swimming can help you become exponentially better in the pool.  If you do not see dramatic results right away, don’t be discouraged, just keep training to get your body used to swimming.

“Humans are not naturally designed for swimming so entering the water is already an accomplishment. It takes some time for your body to truly acclimate to swimming on a regular basis so be patient and keep at it,” said Anderson Vickers, former masters swim coach.

Once you get used to the water and how you move through it, it is time to focus on the most critical aspect of swimming — technique. Learning proper stroke and how to move efficiently through the water will make your journey to becoming a good swimmer much easier. Some swimmers exhaust themselves because they swim harder and not smarter.

“Learn to feel and use the water to propel you while keeping every part of your body as streamlined as possible,” said Vickers. “Reduce unnecessary movement such as lifting the head during side breathing, or bobbing your head up and down during breaststroke,” he added.

These may seem like small adjustments to your stroke, but they can make a world of difference over a long period of time. As you continue to swim more and more, you’ll begin to swim farther and faster, but with these improvements, swimmers ultimately face the dreaded plateau. To break through these plateaus it is important to set goals and challenge yourself.

“Swimmers plateau when they no longer set goals or challenge themselves. Don’t be afraid to get creative with your workouts,” said Vickers.

Fort Bragg offers fun programs that help swimmers set new goals for themselves. Currently, the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreational Center is hosting an Appalachian swim event at Tucker Indoor Pool that challenges swimmers to swim 95.5 miles before June 2 of this year.

If you are looking for a program that offers more instruction, the Fort Bragg Masters Swim Team might be a perfect fit. The coach, Celia Wolff, is an accomplished coach and swimmer and agrees that even the best swimmers can always use some coaching.

“I’ve been swimming for a long time and even my stroke isn’t perfect,” said Wolff. “Even Michael Phelps has a coach and that just goes to show you that no matter how good you are, there’s always room for improvement.”

Whether you are a novice, intermediate or advanced swimmer, there are always ways to improve and the only way to get there is to work on technique, practice, have patience and above all -— just keep swimming.