It seems so easy to swim fast when you're on and everything is flowing. If only you could do it every time and swim on cue. Well, you can. Here's how:
Be in Focus
Before you race, think about what makes you swim fast; don't think about whether you'll win or lose. Otherwise, you'll get to the blocks too uptight to perform your best. Swimming fast is a direct result of staying calm and loose.
Empty Your Head
If you're the type who over-thinks everything, practice emptying your brain of any thoughts about the race. Try it in workouts. If you regularly swim faster in practice than in meets, then you know you're the type that overanalyzes.
There's no pressure in a workout so you don't get uptight. At the meet, you start thinking about everything—the outcome, the opponents, your stroke mechanics. Countless what-ifs go through your head, soon you're tense and distracted.
Stay in the Race
Focus on what you experience in the race. Pay attention to one or more specific details. For example, the way the water feels to you, the way your arm extends as you reach forward, your body position in the water, your head or hip position, your kick and how much water you're pulling.
This comes as second nature when you swim your best. Sometimes, you can't remember what you were thinking because you weren't thinking, you were doing.
Get a Cue
Next time you want to swim fast, ask yourself three questions. First, how do you know when you're swimming fast? The common response is I guess I can feel it. Whenever I swim well I feel long and smooth.
Second, where can you feel it? For some, it may be in your arm extension. Whenever you feel long and smooth, you can feel your arms completely stretched out. If that's where you feel it, isolate it even further.
Lastly, where in your arms do you feel that stretch? Experiment in practice. Find out exactly how you feel in your body when you swim fast.
Go With the Flow
Concentrate on that cue exclusively during your race. It worked for a young swimmer in the 500-yard freestyle. She found her fast-swim cue near the outer edge of her armpit. At her next meet, she focused on that spot for the entire race—the feel of that stretch under her arm. She locked her concentration on that kinesthetic cue. She dropped 10 seconds off her time!
Concentrate on the right feelings during the race and you'll consistently go faster. All too often, your drive to swim faster gets distracted by thoughts about swimming fast. Don't meander mentally and swim. It doesn't work.
Know When to Adjust
When you find yourself getting distracted, shift your focus to your swim cue. In practice, experiment with different cues so when you're in a race you'll be able to call upon them easily. Hone your mental mechanics so you can focus on what's going right at the right time.