The ugly truth about how to swim faster

My first swim lesson of the year with Coach Dinah was a stark reminder of why I can’t swim…my balance in the water is lousy

…well that along with a lot of other things…I don’t envy Coach Dinah and her task to look at a swimmer like me and try to figure out the priorities in a vast array of stroke challenges

Like many triathlete’s that come to swimming later in life…like over the age of 50…I don’t have the same sense of balance, and feel for, the water, as those that swam as youngsters or raced in college…like a world of difference

The only good news with any of it, is that I’m relatively fearless in the water…I swim alone in the ocean…with the alligators in lakes…and have a strong preference to open water in choppy conditions and challenging current, to the pool…largely because then I’m just ‘swimming’…my poor stroke mechanics and slow speed not as apparent as when there’s a clock at the end of the pool, and a black line on the bottom, and nothing to do but think about the 50 things that I should be doing in my stroke…and not pulling off.

…on the bike, once you have a bike fit, and are planted into the best aerodynamic position that your body can handle, it’s all about power…in fact the workouts are all based on power…I even have a power meter that tells me how much power I’m putting out…train with more power, makes you more powerful…and therefore faster. 

Same with the run…run faster…you become faster…form a bit of a factor to prevent injury and run more efficiently, but ‘form’ is not going to make you faster…you largley just run faster to become faster.

With swimming, if you have lousy form, and you try to become faster by just swimming faster, you’ll just wear your butt out…the drag created by poor form, just cannot be overcome by pulling faster

…or more properly, a quiet, relaxed, position, that’s balanced and streamlined, and not bobbing up and down every time you breathe…a body that’s so balanced that arms and legs aren’t wasting energy keeping it propped up in the water, and can focus on other stuff like propulsion and rotation…is soooo much easier to pull through the water, than one that’s thrashing around with a lot of wasted motion and body parts that are acting like drag chutes.

So what to do about it…sadly the answer is not a pretty one: drills…period.

And that’s just something that we don’t do…I see lots of other swimmers in the pool with lousy stroke mechanics…I _never_ see anyone doing an hour of balance drills…but sadly that’s the real answer to getting faster in the water…balance and streamline first…then get faster by pulling that sleek, streamlined body through the water with progressively increased tempo…done.

The Total Immersion guys are the ‘balance’ fanatics…here’s a nice succinct post on their website that lays out the process nicely…although it wasn’t, it could have been me submitting the question posed:

How to gain speed: Subtract work first; then increase tempo

…now to see if I can take my own advise 🙂

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