by Amanda Russell, Endurance Coaching
What’s the best way to knock time off your swim? Get comfy! It doesn’t matter what your ability level is. If you’re anxious about the swim, finding comfort will most likely bring your biggest gain.
Imagine how much time and energy you could save if you felt comfortable in the mix and chaos; if some guy swimming over you didn’t freak you out; if you could navigate smoothly and not get stressed when you find yourself in close proximity to others; if that elbow to the head didn’t phase you; if that congested turn at the buoy didn’t leave you hung up. You’d swim a more direct line, you’d avoid pausing, you’d save energy that you were otherwise using stressing, and you’d move faster because you weren’t sidetracked with all the distractions of what’s going on around you. When you exit the water you could be focused on your transition rather than mentally recovering from a stressful swim.
The more comfortable you are, the easier race day feels and the more energy is saved. That translates into faster times. All of the following can help get you there.
1. Find someone…a coach or a good swimmer with great technique knowledge that can look at your form and technique at least once a month and provide feedback and suggest drills for you to improve. Have them watch you do the drills to make sure you are doing them correctly.
2. Do the drills. Over and over. It may seem silly and pointless and frustrating for a while, but eventually it will just come together in your swim stroke. Muscle memory will take over and put your brain at rest! Recurring injuries may disappear, you’ll get faster with less effort, you’ll become more comfortable and balanced.
3. Separate the upper body and lower body:
• Grab a kick board and do some kicking to strengthen your legs and train them to kick at a steady rate. Eventually it will feel as if they automatically kick along while you swim and you don’t even have to think about it.
• Use the pull buoy. Work on your pull technique and force. Pulling with help build upper body strength. Pull buoys are also great for practicing body roll. Focus on your stroke rate. Work on your upper body without having to think about what your legs are doing. (It’s a nice way to rest your legs from the hard running and cycling too!)
4. Sprint! Sprinting builds power…but also comfort. You don’t have time to think so you learn to automatically breath quick, deal with, and recover from any splash, etc. that may interfere with breathing.
5. Get outside of your comfort zone. In training, do intervals or swim with a group that will make you work hard enough to put you outside your comfort zone.
6. Draft and swim in packs. Get used to swimming with other people around you and in rough water. Make physical contact and learn to deal with it without worry. Practice swim starts with a group. Some time spent in practice will make it all seem second nature and reduce a lot of stress and anxiety on race day, which will allow you to focus only on your swim. And the energy saved by not stressing is huge!
7. Confidence on race day. Stay positive, focused and adopt a bit of attitude. Don’t bully your competitors, but you own that swim. If you feel panic, redirect that intensity into focused determination.
And a little trick for swimming in cold water – If the water’s in the low 60’s/upper 50’s (cold!), consider wearing a thermal cap, but also put some BodyGlide or Vaseline on your forehead between your eyebrows from the top of the bridge of your nose to middle of forehead. This area is extra sensitive and it will help reduce, or eliminate, that shock that sometimes makes it hard to breath. Just don’t get it on your goggles!!
All you have to do is stress less and you’ll go faster. Easy, huh? With practice comes comfort. With comfort comes speed and a more enjoyable swim.