16 Simple Tips For A Better Swim

1. Style vs substance. Your swimming technique (that’s the style) really matters but you can’t improve technique in isolation.  You need to improve your fitness (and that’s the substance) as higher degrees of fitness mean you can take on better techniques. There are no shortcuts in swimming, the only way to better swimming is better swimming.  Improve fitness to improve technique to improve fitness is the way forward.

2. Traditional drills don’t work. The type of drills and the way that most triathletes do them don’t actually have any material effect on swimming technique. You need to swim more often and do longer main sets to improve stamina.  You need to be able to swim like a sprinter and still have energy left for your bike ride. For short courses these should be at least 2km, for IM 4km, or more.

3. Get the right focus.  Not too much here, just enough.  Distance swimming needs you to function on auto pilot so learn how to apply just the right amount of focus.  You need to focus on delivering a constant rhythm that you can maintain over long distance and you’ll never manage that by focussing on each individual stroke.

4. As your swim fitness breaks through barriers you’ll notice a similar improvement for the bike and run element of your triathlon.  It’s obvious really but don’t overlook the benefit to your wider training program. You’ll be able to swim harder and still start the bike feeling fresh.

5. Having variety in your swimming training is critical.  Don’t fall into the trap of focussing exclusively in one area.  The secret is to mix it up, especially if you are swimming less than five times a week.  Make sure you always include band, paddles, and sprints, in every swim.

6. Learn to kick once only.  Don’t keep working your kick technique as it’s not going to improve strength or stamina.  It’s part of your technique and is about stroke control and body position.  Get it right once and stick with it so you can focus on the bigger issue of improving stamina.

7. Resistance bands really work.  Use them frequently and you’ll soon begin to see the benefit they really are the best swimming drill there is.  You should start with short reps and plenty of rest before building up to longer reps.  Follow this one and you’ll see propulsion and the all important body position improve.

8. Choose the right paddles for your need.  Make sure the paddles you are using are best for your job.  As a rule of thumb avoid excessively wide or large paddles as you may end up damaging your shoulders.  Try to find ones that are slightly larger than your hands.  This way, max benefit, min risk.

9. Body position needs constant focus.  Since your first pair of water wings it’s all about body position and nothing’s changed.  Keep your head low for breathing and in open water and keep your feet up.  How many times have you heard it before?

10. Stroke quality is critical.  You need to focus on maintaining stroke quality throughout your entire swim and fitness is central to that.  Start with many short repetitions to build stroke quality.   You need to start shorter, and swim faster by aiming for 50×50.

11. Get your stroke rate right for maximum impact.  Stroke rate is dependent upon good rhythm and great timing and if you focus on them then your stroke rate will at its optimum. If you get the technique right and maintain it while focussing on performance you’ll really see the benefits.  Come race day, especially if you are swimming in rough conditions you will see the benefit.

12. Don’t plan the plan for your swim training.  If you need to keep notes about it – on paper, on a white board or even in your head – you’re making it over complicated.  Streamline it, keep it simple and it will be much easier to focus on delivering the plan.

13. Keep training tools in their place.  Paddles and bull bouys are great ways of improving particular areas of your performance and some areas are almost impossible to improve without them.  The trick is to avoid becoming dependent upon them.  If progress is not all that it should be look to see if you are relying on tools incorrectly.  Drop the tools out and see if that breaks though the barrier.

14. Know when to use your tools.  If you are feeling particularly fatigued, perhaps more so than normal then look to use your tools to squeeze that extra bit of benefit from your training session.  Remember that fatigue can lead to poor technique so your tools can avoid that.

15. Swim training is not all about getting wet.  Dry land and the gym should feature as part of your training program.  Look to banding to improve basic strength whilst identifying other activities to improve stamina.

16. Embrace the swim.  You need to really love swimming if you want to boost your performance.  Without loving the practice you’ll never reach the next level.  Remember – just because you’ve got chorine sweat, doesn’t make you all a bad person.

Good luck!


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