The art of getting faster

Posted Ella Villas Articles

These are the most common questions we get, in order, here at Tri Swim Coach:

1. How can I get faster?
2. How can I stop my legs from sinking?
3. How can I breathe more easily when swimming?

I want to focus on #1 today.

The answer is “it depends”, of course.

First it will depend on your current experience level in swimming.

The novices need to focus on technique, starting with the basic balance drills and getting body position correctly.

Don’t even think about getting faster until you have put in that basic technique work!

Once you’re beyond that, and getting a more fluid stroke, you can start adding in the “getting faster” stuff – while still working on technique.

I used to coach a masters swim group in San Jose, CA. Most of the group were men in their 50s.

They were fun-loving guys but always were competitive with themselves and each other.

They LOVED wearing fins, buoys, and whatever they could find that would make them faster in practice!

They hated working on technique. And while most of them had been long time swimmers, they absolutely needed technique work to go faster! But immediate gratification is so tempting. 🙂

My point is that it’s important to never think you’ve arrived, that now you just practice speed and get faster. This will hurt your chances of progress.

And keep in mind, you’re a triathlete, not a pool sprint swimmer. You don’t need 200 meter speed if you are swimming a 1500 meter race.

Here are 3 things to focus on that will help you get faster, but only IF you’ve put in the technique work, and continue to do so:

1. Long swims. Yes! I know, this goes against some of what we have said about just swimming laps. But I’m talking about long swims with a very specific purpose- as opposed to mindless laps! Try doing this: swim 800 meters straight. Build your first 200. Then, count strokes per length on the next 200, while keeping a steady pace.

Then go hard, around 80% effort on the third 200. On the last 200, count your strokes again, and attempt to maintain the same pace or close while hitting your same stroke count, or close. This will teach you to be able to swim faster without sacrificing your technique.

2. Short swims with lots of rest. These are to help you simulate race pace, and be able to “shift gears” when you need to in the open water. Try a set of 4 x 200 race pace. After each 200, do a 50 easy where you are counting strokes and paying attention to your technique. Then take a minute rest and repeat.

3. Swim-bike (or run) “bricks”. Practice doing a long swim, followed by a run, with no rest in between. Simulating your race will help you get used to that feeling of jumping out of the water, and being able to shift right into a different activity and be able to turn it on immediately. This will help you build confidence in your swim come race day, as you’ve done this before and know you can successfully pull it off!

These tips should help you dip in to that potential you have for moving faster, while maintaining your stroke technique, and while keeping enough in the tank for a long bike and run. 🙂

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