Olivier Poirier-Leroy is a former national level swimmer based out of Victoria, BC. In feeding his passion for swimming, he has developed YourSwimBook, a powerful log book and goal setting guide made specifically for swimmers. Sign up for the YourSwimBook newsletter (free) and get weekly motivational tips by clicking here.
It’s easy to get get lost in the up-and-down, back-and-forth that is our sometimes twice-daily swim practices. Going through the motions, simply chugging along with little focus or purpose means we are wasting the limited opportunities we are given to improve our awesomeness in the pool.
Here are 6 ways to hack your workouts and improve your swimming in practice so that you can yield even more from your efforts the next time you step up on the blocks:
1. Attack the turns.
So many swimmers use turns as an opportunity to lose all form and momentum. No knee tuck, soft streamline, and leaking speed all over the place both going into the wall and coming off of it. And then when it comes to competition time they find that meet coming up so fast that they end up doing either a flip turn so tight their head is between their knees, or turning short and doing the tippy-toe push off. Get used to doing fast and aggressive turns in practice so that when it comes to competition you utterly destroy them.
2. Focus on 1-2 things.
When you put all the components of a trying to be a fast swimmer – hand entry, hand exit, body roll, engaged core, flexion on your ankles, not bending your knees too much, keeping your head faced down – and break them down it’s a long list. Trying to think about all of them, and of doing them well at the same time, is overwhelming. Instead, focus on maintaining perfect form on 1-2 things and nail them until they become auto-pilot. At which point move on to the next.
3. Be consistent in the way you approach tough sets.
Having a reliable set-up each time you approach a main set means that you aren’t approaching your set in a different manner. The set-up should act as a primer to get your mind and body firing on all cylinders for the set ahead. An example of a set-up would be: 3 deep, forceful breaths from your abdomen, repeating a mantra (“I’m gonna punch this set right in the nose!”), and then BOOM.
4. Visualize yourself beating the competition.
One of my favorite tricks to stay engaged – without really knowing it at the time – was imagining that the swimmer in the lane next to me in practice was the guy I would be squaring off against at the next meet. (And sometimes, that swimmer was the guy I was competing against.) This tool was especially helpful during those grueling main sets, and also had the side-effect of encouraging better finishes.
5. Lay the tracks in practice.
“What we do in life echoes in eternity,” Russell Crowe told his soldiers in Gladiator. To paraphrase that quote for our purposes, what we do in practice echoes in competition. If you swim into every wall with your head up during practice odds are pretty good you will fall back on that nasty habit when you are dead tired at the end of a race. If you breathe every stroke when you are tired during a main set, that also will creep into your swimming in competition. Think of yourself as a little choo-choo train, and practice is what determines what kind of tracks you are going either coast or fly down.
6. Focus on systems, not results.
As the season or cycle progresses, you might find that you aren’t making as much progress as you like. Especially in the toughest weeks of training your speed doesn’t feel as crisp as it did when the cycle first began. Have faith in the systems, of showing up every day with a good attitude and being consistent; during hard training your true performance levels are buried underneath accumulated fatigue.
YourSwimBook is a log book and goal setting guide designed specifically for competitive swimmers. It includes a ten month log book, comprehensive goal setting section, monthly evaluations to be filled out with your coach, and more. Learn 8 more reasons why this tool kicks butt.
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