Let the hate mail come, but I am trying to help. Help everyone come to the realization that working harder at the wrong thing, will not really do anything for you except burn some calories (which isn't bad).
The issue comes down to relaxation and being comfortable in the water. The key to swimming in water is flowing with the water and knowing when to use you body for power and when to relax and glide. Maximizing efficiency is what we should be striving for; especially when your swim is 1.2 or 2.4 miles!
Ok we have established we need to relax, how do we do this?
- Start with the basics: Relax and Float, keeping your body in a line, fingertips to toes, staying at the surface. Lean forward and down on your lungs to help lift the lower body to the surface.
- Relax and stretch: Practice swordfish kicking stretching through your armpit, keeping your body in a line (fingers to toes), relaxed knees, snapping down with the kick and then feeling the water on the bottom of your feet as you kick back up.
- Relaxed Shoulders: Building from the swordfish position, count to 6, then lead your stroke with a relaxed shoulder first. The shoulder leads, the elbow stays high, and the wrist stays relaxed as you come over the water with the arm.
- Rhythm with Relaxed Rotations: Swimming is a dance of using your body in a linear rhythmic motion to move your self through water. You must reach while staying relaxed, we discussed relaxed shoulders on the over water recovery, and relaxed back of the knee on kicking. Use power from the lats and abs/core to move the arms in a backward direction, using the triceps and core to finish the stroke pulling strait back. Simplified: Use your body to pull, not just your arms!
- To recap: Reach, Relax and find a Rhythm.
Staying relaxed will keep you safer in the water, it will help you be more efficient in the water, and it will not only help your swim time, but your run and bike, because you will have more energy for these portions of your race.
Go get back in the water, and don't stress about the workout, Relax.