With the triathlon season under way and upcoming open water races in our collective anticipatory consciousness, athletes everywhere are beginning to ask themselves a common question:
How do I get faster?
It is a question whose answer remains elusive, confounding both the weekend warrior as well as the athletic elite.
When it comes to swimming, there are lots of ways to improve your speed. Whether the end result is avoiding the end of the pack in the first leg of a triathlon, or achieving a personal best time at a Masters meet, no one will hesitate about committing to self-improvement.
But if the means of getting there are as simple as a basic checklist of things to do, it may require even less work than you had initially thought!
While there are infinite ways to get faster -- some complex and others surprisingly obvious -- the following list of 10 ways to gain speed in the water will help you achieve a season of success.
You may already be practicing a few of these ideas, but if there are a few on the list that you haven't considered, then now is the time to try. Let the racing season begin!
1. Improve Your Technique
Many triathletes are forever resolved to the fact that they learned to swim too late in life, and therefore will never be as strong in the swim portion of their race as their swimming-background counterparts. With a shrug of the shoulders, they struggle through Masters workouts with rudimentary (or just plain bad) technique, swimming because it is a necessary evil and figuring they will make up for time lost on the bike and the run.
You can't make up for lost time; once it's gone, it's gone. So why not make the best of your swimming leg and learn to swim correctly? It could mean a weekend stroke clinic, or perhaps a peer-analysis from a training partner.
Maybe you can find someone who can objectively look at your technique and inform you of mistakes: are you finishing your stroke? Is your head riding too low? Simple changes to old habits can result in huge improvements (and if your speed doesn't improve, then at least you may avoid injuries or unnecessary race fatigue that result from bad technique).
2. Practice Speed Work
Some swimmers are so consumed with covering a fixed amount of yardage in their daily workouts that they pile on the distance sets (e.g. long, medium-paced drills, endurance-testing pulling sets, or several thousand meters of constant swimming at a slow pace).
By swimming long distances at a constant pace, one gains little more than the ability to swim long distances at the same constant pace. One actually learns to swim slowly; and is then unable to know how to swim fast!
It is important to tack on a few sprints at the end of every workout, regardless of your event or racing preference. Maybe 4 x 25 sprint freestyle on a minute interval. Or 2x50 at 30 seconds rest followed by 2x25 at 15 seconds rest.