Speeding It Up
Once you can execute your new skills correctly, it’s time to start working on executing those skills progressively faster. If have any intentions of competing in any context, remember it’s ALWAYS as speed game. It simply does not matter how perfect your swimming is when you are swimming slow. It’s all about how well you can swim when you are going FAST. That’s what we’re going to work.
When working on swimming RIGHT, you should have become intimately familiar with what your new skills FELT like. You know the difference between the way you used to swim, and the new way you want to interact with the water. As you aim to swim faster over time, ensuring that you’re continuing to stay in touch with those new sensations is critical for swimming well as you turn up the speed.
Why is it so important to learn how to swim fast at high levels of effort early in the training process? Ultimately, the goal is to execute pristine skills in the context of a race. Racing involves swimming fast at high levels of effort, with a lot of fatigue. To do so, you need to be really skilled, and your skills needs to be really resilient. Rather than throwing you into the fire from the start, the goal is to help you learn in manageable steps.
Instead of learning how to swim fast AND for long distances AND when you’re tired, we’ll just focus on swimming fast. With that foundation in place, you can work towards longer distances and increasing level of fatigue. Just as you need to walk before you can run, you need to swim fast before you need to worry about sustaining your speed.
To effectively learn how to swim faster, I’ll touch on 6 principles that will help guide you in terms of actually executing these training sessions. Most individuals go about speed training incorrectly. They simply swim as hard as they can for as long as they can, take some rest, and then do it again. If you want to improve your skills, that’s not going to work. You need a different approach.
Many of these guidelines may seem counter-intuitive to you. They may even feel wrong. However, they are specifically designed to help you improve your speed over the long-term. The goal is not to get tired. The goal is to get better. The goal is to get FASTER. While this can be frustrating in the short-term as it’s outside your comfort zone, there will be plenty of opportunities to perform more ‘traditional’ training activities during other practice sessions, as well as later on when you shift your focus. If you want to improve your speed, stick with these principles when you’re working on your speed.
Go as fast as you can RIGHT. This is the golden rule. You can go fast, PROVIDED you are executing your skills to a high standard relative you your abilities. Once you can execute your skills ‘right’, feel free to go as fast as you’d like. Just remember, swimming well is the critical factor that determines how fast you can and should go. When in doubt, you’re better off going slightly slower to ensure that you’re still swimming with optimal skills.
Build speed slowly. The important word to remember is faster, not fast. This implies that there is a progressive increase in speed, rather than simply swimming as fast as possible as soon as possible. As mentioned above, you need to continue to be vigilant about swimming correctly. Needless to say, you want your changes to stick, you have to continue to execute them to a high standard. The more patient you are with increasing your speed, the more your skills will improve, and the faster you’ll have the potential to swim.
Faster is relative. ‘Faster’ does not mean as fast as you can possibly go. It means faster than you have been going. It’s about progress over time, comparing yourself to your recent speeds or level of effort. If you’re moving forward, you’re making progress and that’s where you want to be. One of the easiest ways to short-circuit your progress is to try to swim too fast, too soon. Doing so will likely cause your skills to be move backwards.
Favor controlled speed. Rather than simply going at maximal effort, focus on controlling your speed and go a little bit less than all out. Doing so will serve two important functions. Swimming with some control will ensure that you are able to maintain your skills, keeping you from going beyond your current ability to swim WELL. Remember that the goal is to execute your skills with greater speed, not just to swim faster in the short term. Controlling your speed will also allow for more repetitions, as you won’t be quite so tired from consistently swimming all out. More repetitions will result in more progress and more progress will result in faster improvement. That’s what you want!
Still same, but different. Just as variation was important in learning to execute your skills correctly, variation is important for continuing the learning process at speed. Changing your hands and changing your gear are excellent means for helping enhance what you are feeling as the speeds increase. Some variations may feel ‘better’ and some may feel ‘worse’, they’re all useful provided your aiming to swim as well as possible.
Measure. If you’re swimming over set distances, do your best to keep track of how fast you are swimming with some regularity. This will not only inform you of your progress, it will enhance it. In many cases, simply measuring your times will enhance them. However, keep in mind that the goal is not simply to swim faster, but to swim faster with better skills. Placing too much emphasis on the speed rather than the skill will sabotage your efforts. A good solution is to time your efforts with regularity, but as a small percentage of your total repetitions. This will help to maintain an appropriate balance between prioritizing speed and skill.
Following the principles above will ensure that you’re doing what you need to do to improve your skills at speed. Keep the eye on the prize- speed. Whenever you’re considering a decision, ask yourself whether your choices are going to lead to more speed, and more importantly, great skill at speed.
Next time, we’ll take a look at how to incorporate technical exercises into your speed training. They still play a critical role, although that roles takes a different form. Stay tuned!
FASTER. EASIER. BETTER.