To get faster, you have to train, and you have to train the fitness of your skills. In a previous article, I introduced the concept of developing a plan for transferring your skills to the competitive environment.
A training plan of sorts.
However, before you can ‘train’ your skills, you have to get to the point where you can execute these skills correctly. You have to be able to do it right before you can do it fast, or before you can do it over long distances. As with any type of training, you want it to be as effective and efficient as possible.
It should work really well, and it should work really fast.
That’s the goal.
To accomplish this goal, you have to find a way to get in the right positions where you can FEEL the appropriate skills and can consistently execute those skills at low speed and levels of fatigue. This is the starting point. You must be able to do it RIGHT, before you can do it fast and for extended periods of time.
Traditionally, there has been a lot of focus on the use of drills to facilitate technical change. While certain exercises can be more effective than others, there is a lot of value in understanding what these exercises are really accomplishing. Unfortunately, drills do NOT improve your strokes. Here is the critical concept when attempting to learn a new skill, and change your strokes-
If you don’t provide your body with a new and an interesting way to move, no change will happen.
What drills CAN do, good ones anyway, is provide you with a new way of feeling your stroke or how you move through the water. However, while most drills provide different sensations, they don’t necessarily provide the RIGHT sensations that you want to mimic when you swim. This last sentence is key, once you have a sense of what an effective change FEELS like, you need to replicate those sensations when you swim.
Take what you feel during a technical exercise, and bring those sensations with you into your full stroke swimming. To BE different, a new skill needs to FEEL different. While that may be true initially when performing technical exercises, it must be true when your swimming normally if change is ever going to be real. To create real change, and to make change that has the potential to last, there’s 3 major objectives you’ll need to accomplish. Let’s check them out-
Find the feel. If you can’t feel it, you can’t do it. If you want to change your skills, you have to find a way to FEEL the new skill. It’s not something you can conceptualize. You have to know what it feels like, and be put in a situation where you can find that feel.
Unfortunately, most drills are designed in this way, and usually don’t help you feel the critical pieces. They’re designed visually resemble some aspect of the stroke, and that is often something very different.
To find the feel you’re looking for, it’s best to start with drills you’ve been exposed to or heard about, and see if they can replicate the skills you’re aiming to develop. For any given skill, you’ll likely stumble upon some exercise or combination of exercises that fits the bill provided you explore for long enough.
Vary the feel. A critical reason that swimmers get stuck with the same strokes and using the same skills is that they are not consistently exposed to novel sensations. This can be true, even if you find your ‘magic’ exercises that we talked about above. Even in those cases, learning can begin to slow if you’re constantly being exposed to the same sensations. To get around that situation, you need to find ways to create novelty. We’ll explore how to do so shortly.
Challenge the feel. Once you can execute the exercises to a reasonable standard, you need to modify those exercises to make them slightly more challenging. You want to do so in slightly different contexts, with different speeds, while using different pieces of equipment. The goal is always to retain the same sensations that represent the change you’re aiming to make, regardless of how the exercise is being performed. If you can accomplish this, you’re well on your way to being able to execute your skills ‘right’ in full stroke swimming.
With these concepts in mind, next time we take a look at how to make it practical.
FASTER. EASIER. BETTER.