So you’ve been swimming for a while. Maybe you’re a masters swimmer who has been doing laps for health, a student on a team, or an athlete from another sport who started swimming as a form of rehab, and unexpectedly discovered you’d rather stay in the pool. Great!
You already know how to swim. Great! But now you’re thinking about next steps. How do you swim faster?
1. Time yourself regularly.
This seems like it should be obvious, but unless you’re already competing regularly, it might not be. You can’t grow what you can’t measure. Timing yourself on a regular basis enables you to track what is and isn’t working well for you, set appropriate goals, and recognize your own accomplishments.
Even if you are competing throughout the year, it’s easy to get caught up in comparing yourself with others instead of measuring your own growth. Don’t count on just being able to “feel” if you’re swimming more slowly or quickly. Improvement can sneak up on you when you least suspect it.
2. Tackle technique one aspect at a time.
Coaching is key. If you’re a lap swimmer hoping to amp things up, consider hiring an instructor for just a few weeks or participating in a weekend clinic to help you improve your technique. If you do work regularly with a teacher or coach, the same advice still applies: focus on improving one aspect of your technique at a time.
If you’re trying to adjust your head position, strengthen your kick, and make sure you’re finishing your stroke, all at the same time, you’re not going to get much better at any of them. Focus on nailing down one thing in your muscle memory, then add the next. With practice, they’ll add up to a faster, more efficient technique.
3. Make those easy fixes.
There are aspects of technique that really need to be perfected in order to impact your speed. But there are others that aren’t so complicated. Grab that low-hanging fruit if it’s around! One example is spreading your fingers. Not too wide (no jazz hands), just about ten degrees.
Scientists studying swimming technique found that this created the most drag out of all the hand positions, since 10 degrees between the fingers was narrow enough that it was more difficult for water to travel between the fingers, while still increasing the breadth of the hand itself. It’s such a simple adjustment, but one that can shave seconds off of your time. Why not take advantage of any easy fix you can?
4. Cross train towards your goals.
Cross training (participating in workouts and sports outside of swimming) can be a great addition to your swim training program. But like pool workouts themselves, one size does not necessarily fit all. Are you hoping to build your core strength? A pilates class might be perfect for that. Increase your range of motion? Consider yoga or ballet. Develop more explosive power? Boxing, martial arts, and Olympic weightlifting (that’s a style, not a commentary on skill level) could be right for you.
Of course, not all cross training goals have to be related to swimming. If you’ve always been curious about triathlons, it makes perfect sense to take up running and cycling, even if you feel happy with your cardiovascular health. And if salsa dancing looks like fun to you, you should try it! Using your muscles in different ways outside of swimming helps prevent injury, which definitely impacts your swimming speed.
5. Learn from the best.
This means finding a good coach, yes. It also means talking with more advanced swimmers and attending workshops and clinics. And just because you’re an amateur swimmer doesn’t mean you don’t have access to some of the biggest names in swimming.
Reading books and articles that they have written and watching videos of their techniques online can give you ideas for your own swimming.
Faster swimming starts today.
Every person at Born to Swim started out as a beginner, and worked hard to become better and better at this sport we love. And whether you’re a newbie or an Olympian, there’s always room for improvement. We’re so glad to have you along!