Elite swimmer Likith Prema is constantly defying the norm of his sport. Having won several major titles during his ongoing swimming career of eighteen years, Prema recently opened up to TheMagic5 about his newfound approaches to improving his swimming techniques.
Striving to make a change to his stroke, he began training with a new coach, who devised a plan to help him better his techniques in the water by dipping his toes into other sports to develop a higher sense of connectedness within his body.
Cross-training is known to be hugely beneficial for athletes alongside swimming as part of their training regime, with a focus on improving strength, feeling more streamlined in the water, strengthening abdominal muscles and aerobic stamina.
From slacklining to acroyoga – here’s how Prema is working his way up the ranks by becoming an all-rounded athlete inside and outside of the water. Read on for the second chapter of his story:
TM5: We heard you’re getting stuck into other sports to become a better swimmer. Is that true?
LP: Yes – I’m on a different route than other swimming athletes. I have decided to do other activities that help me – I don’t just swim twice a day and gym twice a week anymore, I do lots of adventure sports and find this method important to understand my body better, such as slackline and acro yoga to help my posture and swimming techniques.
TM5: Tell us about your new coach.
LP: When I came back from Austria in 2019, I didn’t want to go back to being suppressed and with no freedom. I felt like I wanted to quit. Then, I found a new coach and everyone thinks he is a crazy guy because he does crazy things and doesn’t know a thing about swimming.
He was my own friend who came over from North India just to coach me – just me. He designed a learning structure to help me improve in swimming. I wanted to take everything I learned from India and Austria and we create a workout plan to take my swimming to the next level, with his help.
TM5: Why did your new coach recommend these new activities?
LP: He noticed a lot of mistakes in my swimming technique – such as a mistake in my knees. For some reason, I couldn’t correct it no matter how hard I tried, and I didn’t know how to resolve the problem.
My coach told me to do slack and acro yoga to help find balance. Once I started, over time I felt like I could understand my body much better and my stability improved dramatically – then, I could translate what I learned from these activities into swimming.
TM5: What techniques did you learn and what mistakes did you improve as a result?
It was crazy – all of a sudden I knew how to correct my knees from going too far apart from each other. I learned something called the animal flow (also known as synchronized body movement), which lacks a pattern but follows a structure.
I learned other primal moves in order to get creative and perform a flow. This gave me much more body control and allowed me to correct other swimming techniques. 8 months later I found my love for break dancing too which has undeniably the best body control in the world. I was able to connect my muscles and perform various crazy things that helped me in swimming today. My neurons were open to learning new things!
TM5: Do you think other swimmers should try the same alternative approach to work on their techniques?
LP: Absolutely. There are actually 95% of people, as soon as they turn 18, drop out of swimming to focus on studies. Only 100 people actually continue – there is clearly a problem with the way swimming works in India today.
My ultimate goal is to open a new camp for swimmers to learn the sport in a way that is enjoyable by learning and enjoying other sports alongside it. I’m looking forward to this in the future to be a coach when my career is over – I want to teach young athletes and coaches to love swimming rather than teach or be taught through fear.
But, swimmers in India are slowly getting sponsorships from private companies and India has a chance. They want to level up Indian swimmers and see huge potential and big finalists – we’re finally on the radar.