Swim tips from Lionel Padial, #3

Swimming smarter not harder.

Following the 1st swim tip re pacing a number of you asked me the same question, “How do I get faster?” Over the coming weeks I will talk about a number of swim and training techniques but this week I want to focus on getting smarter in your approach to swimming faster.

I spent many years working swimmers harder and harder (like I had done myself as a young swimmer and initially as an age-group triathlete) to try and help them get more speed and whilst it worked reasonably well for some I felt most if not all would gain more via a different, smarter approach. With the work harder approach most of my swimmers would get faster for a while but at some point their ever-increasing efforts began to destroy their stroke at which point the increased drag would cause them to struggle with their existing times.

Conversely I noticed that the best swimmers were always looking for ways to make the work easier rather than harder, they felt their way through the water whilst instinctively searching for ways to reduce drag. In reducing drag they created what I call a “speed potential” i.e. the potential to go faster once they found the balance between their form and effort. In most skills if we slow down a little we can perform the skill to a higher standard. Where speed is the goal the challenge is to add effort little by little with a constant eye on the maintenance if not improvement of our swim form.

From observing this in my swimmers I realized that great athletes become relaxed and fluid in their sport by finding the balance between effort and form, they do work hard but they know that to become really good they must constantly look to improve their form and therefore their efficiency of movement. In effect they have to look to make it easier rather than harder.

I began to talk to my swimmers more in terms of swimming easier yet at the same speed rather than trying to swim faster. I created swim sets that were focused more and more on form and ease of motion rather than effort alone. I worked hard at holding swimmers back with carefully written programs that gave them the time to keep the balance between working hard and holding technique. ALL the swimmers that embraced the approach became more efficient and therefore faster but the real bonus was that they took more ownership of their swimming and enjoyed it more!

Top Tip 1 – Rather than going to the pool and swimming reps / intervals hard whilst focused upon your times how about making the same times easier…. Relaxing your hands, neck and shoulders and focusing carefully on reducing drag to see what effect it has upon your times. Above all work on developing fitness WITH form i.e. your ability to gradually swim further and faster with an efficient and therefore effective stroke.

Top Tip 2 – If you find that you are a little slower try again a few times over a few sessions to see if it is simply a case of finding the balance between relaxation and effort.

Top Tip 3 – Do not increase the effort in your swims until you feel you can hold your form with ease. Ironically once you can do this more often than not you will be swimming faster anyway!!

Remember – swimming is a game of drag reduction – aim to make it easier not harder!

Lionel

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