Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/64

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PERHAPS there has been no science—at least none of equal importance—that has been less developed theoretically than swimming. The essay of Franklin upon the subject, although an answer to the inquiry of "how to swim," is merely an article with advice as to when and how long to bathe, and the narration of anecdotes of his experience in swimming. In the literature of the subject we fail to find any practical directions that could assist a novice in learning to swim; for this reason we propose briefly to analyze one or two important points, which, if put into practice, will make it an easy matter to acquire the art.

It has been the writer's experience, in teaching beginners, that the great difficulty lies, not in the inability on the part of the scholars to master the correct stroke, but in the fact that while using the correct stroke, for a certain reason, they find it difficult to keep their heads above water Some of the scholars did not lack in determination or bravery, and yet their efforts were fruitless. They would apply the correct stroke with great force, and yet eventually their heads would sink. Finally, the complaint of one of the scholars, to the effect that the effort seemed to tire the neck more than any other part of the body, led to a contemplation of the cause of the fact.

While investigating the facts in the case, it was observed that a beginner throws himself upon the water in a stiff and straight position, not allowing the body or back to bend at all, but merely bending the neck. He kicks his legs in a vertical direction, tending to raise the back to the surface of the water, and thus places himself in a position parallel to the line of the surface. It is easily seen that he must bend his neck nearly perpendicular to this line of direction in order to keep his head above water (see Fig. 1). We have merely to try this

PSM V23 D064 Head position when swimming.jpg
Fig. 1.

position on land, to experience its difficulty and disagreeableness. The muscles of the throat are greatly strained, while the air-tube is nearly closed, causing difficult respiration.

It is not to be wondered at that the learner soon relaxes this unnatural position of the head, and gives up the effort to keep his face