12-steps to Swimming Success!
By: Karlyn Pipes-Neilsen
Aquatic Edge Inc.
1. Just Show Up!
Sometimes the hardest part of workout is getting there. Job, commitments, kids, no energy etc. will conspire to keep you away from YOUR time to workout. Even when you don’t feel like it, go anyway.
I promise…you will be glad you did.
2. Swim With a Group (three F’s)
The three F’s stand for farther, faster and more fun! When I swim with a group (or at least a training buddy), I always enjoy myself more, I also swim farther and I ALWAYS swim much faster.
3. Swim at Least Three Times a Week
To maintain fitness and a good feel for the water, swim a minimum of three times a week. Since you want to improve, do not sell yourself short. Join a team or group, find a friend and make it to the pool.
4. Establish Goals
You are more likely to show up and follow through when you have specific goals. One simple but effective goal might be to practice streamlining off of EVERY wall. Set both short term and long-term goals in a variety of areas in life besides swimming. Give your goals “life” by sharing them with teammates, coaches, family and friends. When you reach a goal…celebrate! Then set new ones.
5. Don’t Be Afraid of Change
The saying goes "If nothing changes, nothing changes.” With that in mind, I suggest you take a clinic, schedule a private lesson, buy a good video/DVD (www.goswim.tv), or read up on current techniques to see if you need an update. Changing your stroke feels weird, takes time and may fatigue you more than your old stroke (at first). However, if you can assign a VALUE (i.e. swim faster or with less effort) as to why you are making a change, you are more likely to be successful.
6. Swim Longer, Not More frequently
If given the option of swimming more often OR going longer, choose to swim longer. Instead of 4 times a week for 45 minutes (3 hours), swim 3 times a week for one hour (also 3 hours). This adds up to: one less drive to the pool, one less chance of missing your workout, one less …you get the idea.
A great way to increase distance in your workout is to add a longer warm up, cool down or use of fins or other equipment in a "bonus" set. Swimming longer will also help you build up your endurance.
7. Don’t Skip Warm Up or Cool Down
Warm up: Many swimmers (and triathletes) make the HUGE mistake of rushing through the warm up, or get no warm up at all. BAD idea! Warm up is a great time to let the body gradually wake up, work on good technique and relaxed breathing, and get mentally ready to swim fast. Open up your body like a finely wrapped present and appreciate the wonderful gift that you are. You will be surprised by the rewards. If you rush it, it will be over before you know it.
Cool down: At LEAST 200 or more. Use the time to work on good technique and to reflect on a job well done. To make it more fun, find a buddy or two and form a pace line. Each person takes the lead for a 25, then shifts back. Or, play Simon Says, with each person choosing a 25 choice, stroke or drill.
8. Swim Really Fast, Swim Really Slow
Many swimmers make the mistake of training mostly in one energy zone (usually medium fast). By doing this, you will become a very good "medium fast" swimmer. Teach yourself how to swim fast in training so you are prepared to swim fast in a race. If you do go FAST, you also need to learn how to swim slow so that you can recover from your fast efforts. Your "slow" speed is also a great time to focus on good technique, effective breathing, and neutral head and body position.
9. Use Swim fins
Using fins on a regular basis (but not ALL the time) will help you learn how to swim really fast! Besides swimming fast, fins are also great for drills, kick sets, building core strength and provide a change from monotony of training. However, not all swim fins are alike. Try to stay away from short, heavy fins that drag you down and lower your body position. I use the super light/comfortable Alpha Fins from Zura (zura.com or local swim shops). The fins are made of EVA foam and float your feet like a pull buoy; so they help you maintain good body position and can improve your ankle flexibility.
10. Post Exercise Nutrition For Recovery...a Must
Drink or eat something with a 4:1 (or 5:1) carbohydrate to protein ratio within 30-minutes of completing your workout…or sooner! This is an extremely important component to successful swimming. It will also help you improve the quality and rate of recovery; just like sleep at night helps you rest for the next day. Drinks with the 4:1 ratio will also help you re-hydrate and can be tolerated when you are not hungry. Some drinks do not need to be refrigerated and can be tossed in your bag and consumed during a shower or post workout chat.
Examples of products with a 4:1 ratio are Accelerade, ENDUROX or Recoverite by Hammer. Some low-tech recovery drink suggestions: low fat chocolate milk (my favorite), soymilk, Slim Fast or COSTCO Kirkland drinks. HINT: Find one that you like the taste; otherwise you will not drink it.
11. Learn To Do a Stroke Well Besides Freestyle
Variety is the spice of life! Training and racing can get really boring if you only feel comfortable doing one stroke. Even in a triathlon, all of the strokes can be used (fly for "dolphining" on a beach start, backstroke to watch for incoming waves; breaststroke for sighting a buoy).
Everyone has an aptitude or talent for one (or more!) of the following; backstroke, breastroke or butterfly. Figure out which one comes the easiest to you, and then begin working on it. Don’t forget to ask for help from a reliable source, or check out a few websites like: usms.org, swiminfo.com or goswim.tv to see free video clips, drill suggestions and get some really good information.
12. See Yourself Swim
In the water, small changes feel huge. We may feel that we are making enough of a correction to our technique, when in fact, very little has changed. Have yourself video taped…the camera does not lie. Ask a friend, coach or pay to have yourself videotaped. Do some research on top swimmers like Australians Ian Thorpe or Grant Hackett so you have a reference as to what a good, fast stroke looks like. The most common mistakes are: crossing over your center line, poor body position as a result of the head/eyes looking forward, pulling too far under the body and believe it or not…too big of a kick!
In life and in swimming,
It’s all about paying attention to small details
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Created: April 2006