Friday, January 21, 2011

How I Improved My Swim, Part 0

You should have seen me exactly two years ago in the pool. I was taking my 2nd swim workshop and I swore I was getting slower. I actually WAS slower than 6 months prior! How the heck did that happen? I seriously (I am not joking here) could NOT swim 4 lengths of the pool without being completely oxygen deprived. I wasn't some beginner in the pool. I could swim 1 mile straight (not fast) 6 months prior!

So why had I gone backwards with my swimming?

I was improving.

Wait, what? Doesn't that kinda contradict itself? Well, sorta. But swimming itself is like the evil step child of triathlon. See with running and biking, you can just make your legs go faster and your body WILL go faster. Unfortunately with swimming, windmilling your arms faster can more than likely make you drop like a rock to the bottom of the pool.

That all boils down to efficiency, right? How can someone who is only taking 12 strokes per 25 yards be faster than someone who is taking 30 strokes per 25 yards? That 12 stroke person is more efficient than the 30 stroker.

So back to how I was improving but yet going slower. My form/technique was getting better, but my muscles were so used to swimming WRONG that it was a foreign dance for my muscles to be swimming the right way, hence why I would tire out faster.

Eventually it all balanced out and my body got used to the more correct technique and in the long term, I swim a LOT faster than I used to. Faster as in I used to swim @ a 2:00/100 pace, and am currently hovering @ a 1:30/100 pace.

Three things got me swimming faster:
1) Balance
2) Front Quadrant
3) Swimming Faster

I am going to go more in depth into each of the three in separate future posts. This is also a review for myself as I quickly forget the importance of #'s 1 and 2. But here is an overview.

1) Balance - This how your body is positioned in the water. From a side view, are you horizontal? Or are your legs dragging? How is your body rotation? Without good balance in the water, you can forget what your arms are doing and how fast you are going. You gotta be able to float!

2) Front Quadrant - What are your arms doing? How is this interacting with your balance and rotation? How is your catch? Pull? Follow Through? Recovery? Entry? Most of my propulsion comes from the Front Quadrant. Balance will keep you floating and reduce drag, but your Front Quadrant will make you move forward (I don't use kicking as propulsion. I like to save my legs).

3) Swimming Faster - You aren't going to swim faster without swimming faster. Unless there is something I am missing?

So I am going to do three separate posts including drills on the topics listed above. Stay posted!

*Disclaimer* - I am NOT a swim coach. This is merely me verbally vomiting out my successes in the pool and how I was able to lop a HUGE amount of time off of my swimming pace. Take this with a boulder sized piece of salt!


  1. John, you are so right! Swimming is all about EFFICIENCY. That's why you should do stroke counting drills. Swim the length of the pool and focus on taking the least amount of strokes possible, even if it takes you twice as long. Work on being efficient and that will carry over when you start to pick up your speed. But if you don't lower your stroke count, you will be twice as tired when you try to swim faster. You'll poop out very quickly! Plus stroke counting is so relaxing. How many strokes do you need to swim 25 yards?

  2. you are my swim coach
    and I love salt:)


  3. I can't believe how much you've improved. Come train with me!

    First email from my coach included two swim workouts and one line: "yes Em, you have to swim."

    I'm also going to pick up boxing to get ready for that mass swim start in LP. I like to think I'm a feisty force you don't want to mess with.

  4. Your improvements in the pool have been inspirng Jon. I've used a lot you have blogged about to get better myself. Thanks for that and looking forward to the upcoming posts.

  5. Found your blog through another blog...just what I need...swim help-What was your beginning lap time? And how much did you swim? I find I'm needing to cut my time in half just to keep up with masters.

  6. I'm so jealous of your swimming improvements! I can't wait to get back into the pool!

  7. Can't wait to read more! I often think of you when I'm in the pool, windmilling and gasping for air. :) I will happily take any coaching you wanna write about!

  8. One of the best tools to improve your swim is to have someone video you from the front and each side. A coach can talk till they are blue in the face about form and technique and what you're doing wrong and what you should be doing, and it often doesn't make any difference. But to see you swimming, or doing what you think is swimming, up on the TV in living colour will burn it into your brain like nothing else. I was just at a swim camp where this exact thing happened.

    Distance per stroke is important, but it isn't the only thing. Everybody's stroke is slightly different depending on exactly how your body works. Fixing your body position by getting your head down and your butt and legs up will speed you up more than any other single thing.

  9. I'm looking forward to your swim wisdom as well. I need a lot of work.

  10. I saw "improved" and "swim" and knew you were writing this series of posts just for me right??

    Looking forward to reading more...heading out to play with the "evil stepchild" this morning :)

  11. You are getting swimming!! You are going to rock this year!

  12. Impressive improvement! I'm at about 1:30-1:35 per 100 at distance up to about 500yds and then I slow down to about 1:40/100. I probably should try to focus on stroke count to even see where I am.

    Just read your comment on Jeff's blog - are you available to hire as a swim coach??? :)

  13. Wanna borrow my water wings? :)

  14. I really need to work on my swimming, I'll check out these posts for inspiration!

  15. Right now I am at the swimming slower stage! I am looking forward to your next posts.


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