A young, French open water swimmer, training with AS Monaco, let us in on the secret to pulling of the perfect stroke. Whether you prefer the butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke or the front crawl, Lisa Pou has some helpful bits of advice for you.

On Wednesday, Lisa Pou swam for around two hours. Every other day of the week she spent at least twice as long in the water. Taking some time out of her training schedule, she freed up a few hours to talk to us about swimming over at the newly renovated Larvotto beach complex. “I’ve not been back in ages, it’s great now!” A rising star of the pool at AS Monaco, she told us all about her journey, her life as a swimmer, her passions and her goals for the future.

>> READ ALSO: Larvotto beach finally reopens: here’s what to expect

But before we tell you more about the swimmer’s story, Lisa Pou gave us a brief insight into some of the strokes. As although the 22-year-old French swimmer trains in the Rainier III Nautical Stadium, all of her competitions take place in open water, be that in the sea, rivers or lakes. So since Larvotto beach is finally back open, now is the time to head back into the Mediterranean waters. Why not take the plunge and try something new next time you go swimming?

Out of all the strokes, let’s start with butterfly…

(Smiling) “Personally, my butterfly is quite bad. It’s a very energetic stroke, which can also need wide arm movements. If you go out hard in a 200m butterfly, it’s difficult to finish. Butterfly is the stroke that requires the most oxygen, as you have to do so much work with your legs. It’s often through your legs that you lose the most energy.”

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The key thing for me, with butterfly, is coordination. Start with your head, then move to your shoulders, your pelvis and finish the movement with your legs, staying relaxed the whole time. Let go of wanting to swim quickly, you need to work on mastering the technique first. To do butterfly, you have to really want it and also not be scared of putting your head underwater!”

and what about backstroke?

“With backstroke, strength is really important. Tighten your buttocks and tense your abs. The majority of people I see swimming, I see their buttocks or their legs sinking. Being strong is important because if you start to sink, your straight line won’t be very straight anymore, and that’ll create resistance.”

The goal in swimming is to create the least amount of resistance possible. If you’re going in a straight line and your arms aren’t sticking out then you’ll go faster. You always want to go with the water, never against it. Backstroke is more relaxed, people tend to swim on their back when they’re tired. It’s the only stroke where you can breathe the entire time, since your nose is always above water.”

and breaststroke?

“Most swimmers don’t know how to do breaststroke. It’s a bit of a pet hate. I include myself in that (laughter). People often do breaststroke, but they keep their head out of the water, quite happy just doing a scissor motion. If you look at examples of high-level swimmers doing breaststroke, it’s a bit like butterfly. It’s all about coordination.

In butterfly, you have that up-and-down motion, quickly dipping underwater, but staying above the surface as much as possible. In breaststroke, it’s similar. You have to focus on getting the right coordination, all the time.”

and for front crawl?

“Front crawl is the basic stroke for all swimmers. It’s the fastest and simplest movement. You have to really try and stay flat, because you get a real urge to twist, but that won’t help you. The only part of your body that should turn is your head. You need to try and only turn your head, without moving your pelvis, keeping balanced the whole time. Flutter kicks can help you keep this balance, but your arms and legs need to stay relaxed.”

Some swimmers don’t use their legs much at all. That’s the case for me. It all depends on the race. If it’s a sprint then flutter kicks are important. When covering a short distance though, you don’t need them. Front crawl allows you to travel further. For example, 5km of butterfly would be almost impossible!”