It is while attempting to acquire leg movements that a little friendly assistance will be most useful. When learning in a bath the help of a friend can usually be dispensed with, owing to the presence of a rail or rope running round the edge of the bath to which one can easily hang.
But in the sea, the learner should first make her way into somewhat shallower water than she has been standing in whilst acquiring the arm movements described on page 2251. Her companion, who should grasp her firmly by the wrists or assist her by a stick to which the learner can hold on, should take up a firm position, facing seaward, in water not much more than waist-deep.
The back of the learner should now be slightly hollowed, and rising from the feet (which should not be very far apart) she should bend.her knees, drawing them well underneath the body whilst leaning her chest upon the surface of the water. By this act of bending the knees, the body will be bent backward from the person supporting her. The next movement which should be made is a sharp kick, and at the same time the legs should be opened as wide as possible. the feet assuming a spread-eagle position. Next, an almost complete semicircle should be made with each leg, during which operation the toes will drop gradually as they reach the greatest point of separation. If the backward and circular motion be continued, the legs, being stiffly extended, will almost touch at the completion of the stroke, in a straight line with the body, toes pointing backwards.
During all these movements the back should be kept as flat as the stroke will permit.
The learner should at this early stage remember that the object of these motions is to propel the body through and not out of the water. At the completion of each set of movements the feet should be allowed to rest upon the sand for a moment or two; then a new start may be made. It is important to avoid hurrying.
When the learner finds she is actually making some progress through the water she should endeavour to perform the various movements so that they are continuous; that is to say, so that there is no noticeable pause between the drawing up of the knees and the outward kick of the legs. Combining the various leg and arm motions comprises the act of swimming.
To help the learner to practise the leg movements a friend should hold a stick to which the beginner can cling. The water should be about waist deep. The swimmer in this photograph is wearing an eminently practical costume
So soon as the necessary movements have been mastered, and an element of confidence has been attained, it will generally be found that sufficient support is afforded by the helper's hand placed just beneath the swimmer's chest. To start the stroke the hands should be brought close together in front of the breast, the elbows close to the sides, the fingers and thumbs closed, with the palms slightly hollowed and turned downwards. The arms should then be shot out straight in front, and swept slowly backward as described in the remarks upon the arm movements.
During the performance of this motion, the first movement of the legs is being carried out in unison - namely, the drawing up of the knees. As the legs reach their proper position, the hands will be found to have come close together just below the chin, palms together, fingers touching and pointing straight out in front of the swimmer. The hands now must once again be shot outwards, whilst the legs are being kicked open and brought into position as far apart as possible, by the process of straightening the knees. The thumbs should be turned down again when the arms have reached their greatest limit of extension, the arm stroke being completed by the backward sweep, whilst the legs are kept rigid. The latter should then be bent and brought into position for a fresh start. D 24
Hurry should be scrupulously avoided. Nothing is gained by over-haste, and, indeed, much may be lost. It is more often than not the cause of the would-be swimmer acquiring a bad style, which, it may be remarked, is much more easily gained than lost. Hurry also tends to retard the learner's progress.
To endeavour to swim as low as possible is another point worth remembering, for both power and speed are gained by doing this.
The proper moment in which to expel the breath is whilst the hands are extended in front; the act of inhaling fresh breath should be accomplished while they are being brought back again. Breathing should be through the nose as much as possible, with the head thrown back so as to keep the mouth and chin clear of the water.
It is difficult, if not impossible, in the space of a brief article to do more than mention the different kinds of fancy swimming, though it is well to describe the simpler form of side stroke and swimming on the back, which are changes which may prove useful.
The side stroke is a faster method of progressing through the water than the breast stroke, and it may be said that some learn to swim on their side much more easily than others, just as some favour the right and others the left. If, however, the right side is chosen it will be now necessary to use the arms one over the other instead of, as in the breast stroke we have just been describing, using them away from one another.