Twitter, the blogosphere, and Facebook are full of “hacks”, and we hate it. The reason why that word drives me up the wall is that it implies cutting corners and making short cuts to get better results than if you had taken the consistent, steady, hard work and elbow grease route.
If you want results, then you have to work for them, which is why we wanted to compose a list of “anti-hacks.”
No tricks, no pseudoscience, no short cuts, just good quality tips and products to design a better workout, work harder during it, see the most gains from it, and then help you analyze what you have done while recovering better so you can do it all over again the next day without making the same mistakes.
1. A TrainingPeaks.com account: What can be measured can be improved and there is no better software that allows you to do it than Trainingpeaks (and I (Chris) have tried them all). With their friendly and sleek user interface, handy iPhone/android app, and displays for any metric you can think of, TrainingPeaks is an essential part of my training. The moment I finish a workout and upload it into my account, I dump my thoughts out into the comments section. I can then look for trends in sleep, speed, power, distance, and time. I can adjusts my coaching clients’ schedules easily based off their workouts and numbers. It will also keep you accountable for your workouts. Nothing is more aggravating than seeing a red box (the sign for a missed or half completed workout) staring at you in the midst of green ones. While TP will not automatically make you faster, by logging and tracking you will make yourself a better athlete through metrics and feedback.
2. Garmin Swim: Just like number 1, putting this on your wrist will not take off 10s from your 500 split instantly; however, it will count laps for you to make sure did all 500 instead of cutting it short. It also instantly syncs with TrainingPeaks so that you can monitor your laps and see if your pace is fading as the set progresses. As an ex college swimmer, I was reluctant to use a watch instead of the swim clock, but since I no longer have a coach yelling at me and shouting out my sprints, a watch will have to do.
3. Tennis balls and a laundry loop: These are not that fancy and are cheap. You may even have them already lying around the house, but they have the power to make you a better, faster, and more efficient swimmer if you use them properly and put in the work with them. Using the tennis balls for the fist drill will prevent you from cheating and opening up your fist; thus, you will have to adjust your stroke to make your whole forearm a paddle and not just your hand. The laundry loop is a perfect size to bind your feet and do 25 or longer sprints. This is not an easy drill and not for the beginner or faint of heart. Binding your legs will completely immobilize you from the hip down. You will therefore have to perfect your balance in the water to keep your legs in line with your upper body. Your arms will also have to use all the work, so you get a killer workout.
4. Finis Paddles: The Finis paddles with their unique, triangular shape are not meant to develop shoulder strength like your typical, circular paddle. For them to work properly, you need to perfect your stroke to have a higher elbow pull and horizontal entry. If you try to short your entry and go straight down like many novice swimmers do, the paddles will not work. They also work wonders if you have a history of swimmers’ shoulder. You will be working harder with them on but with a more efficient stroke.
5. Finis wetronome/Tempo Trainer: A huge problem for triathlete swimmers is a turnover over or cadence, which leads to a glide in the water and dead zone at the beginning of your pull and consequently inefficiency . To fix this, you might want to look into using a wetronome which beeps every time you are supposed to stroke.
6. Roll Recovery: This nifty toy looks like it came out of a Medieval dungeon, but does it work wonders on your legs. With the R8, it is far easier to get a deeper massage and undo those knots that you worked up in training. I use it nightly before bed for 10 minutes of pain and have noticed a significant improvement in flexibility and reduced soreness when I wake up.
7. Amrita bars: If you have followed the blog, you know that I (Chris) am fan of this small company out of New England. Can a bar make you faster? Not directly, but it is the only bar that does not cause me GI distress before a long swim and thus gives me clean fuel for a faster workout and then provides me with the nutrients I need to recover right after tiding me over till I can get home for a more substantial meal.
8. Enduropacks: Like everything else on this list, Enduropacks will not make you faster simply by taking it. Instead it supports your recovery so that you can train harder and be more consistent in your training. Enduropacks is a Tri Swim Coach partner and we are offering 10% off with discount code ‘TRISWIMCOACH’.
9. SwimSwam: The best way to become a faster swimmer is to train like a swimmer, and the writers and contributors to SwimSwam are exactly that. Not only do they have full coverage of collegiate swimming year round, but they also have training articles written by the best swimmers and coaches in the field. If you wake up and do not want to swim, spend five minutes on the website. You will be revved up and raring to go and thankful you do not have to swim the workouts the kids at UNC have to.
This list will not make you directly faster but these anti-hacks will allow you to push yourself further in practice (and make each practice better), recover, then hit it again harder the next day.