If you are new to swimming you may not have yet created deeply ingrained habits, but for swimmers looking to make improvements after a lifetime of swimming you will have formed habits both good and bad.
As with any bad habit you first need to identify the underlying cause, your habit will feel natural and you will likely be unaware of what it is that you are doing ‘wrong’, a funny thing you do with your hand out front or a splay of your leg will be caused by poor balance, instability or a connection/posture issue. Aches and worst pain in your shoulder, caused by incorrect movements. The best way to identify the problem is to see yourself swim, this will facilitate your route to becoming a better, more self-aware swimmer. Once the underlying cause has been identified, you can now deal with the real problem. This could be a slight change in your head position, posture or stroke timing.
All competences move between our conscious and unconscious. Now you have identified an improvement you need to remain focused and in the moment to perform this new movement correctly. But habits are exactly that Habits (capital H here for a reason) your brain has filed them under ‘unconscious and automatic’ because of this habits are hard to break. You need to give yourself enough time, allow yourself to make slips when you lose focus and cut yourself some slack when you do, because you will. An improvement in your self-awareness will make you more aware when the old habit kicks back in.
What if there are two or three fixes that have been identified? Try and fix them all at once you will most likely overload your brain and achieve nothing.
Focus on one thing at a time by removing other distractions, you might notice the other issues in the background, but again be kind to yourself, don’t worry about them and save them for when you move onto that next focus.
Notice the differences between getting it right and then not quite, become aware of the potential for improvement, this will in turn give you more enthusiasm to continue to practice. It is this purposeful practice that is needed, in time your brain will file this new and improved habit back under ‘unconscious and automatic’ the real win is that you enjoyed and were present in the process of filing it there.