After you’ve been swimming for a while, it’s common to hit a plateau. And there’s only so much you can do to your body (have you noticed how hard it is to make yourself grow an extra 10 inches!). But not all is lost.
Here’s eight handy tips you can use to get the most out of your swimming session – and get yourself a faster lap time.
1. Focus On Technique
It may seem obvious that to improve your time, you’d improve your technique. But a lot of swimmers overlook this simple step. To get the best lap time, you want the best technique. And likewise, bad technique, while it may get your heart rate up, will slow you down.
The best way to improve your technique is to start slow. Break down the technique into simple, repeatable actions. Once you’ve got it perfect, you can start to speed up again.
Key areas to focus on to improve your time are: body rotation, stroke angle, kicking power, and turns. It’s also key to focus on your breathing (which we’ll cover later). Drills will let you focus on improving specific parts of your technique. So if you’ve got an elbow off or a turn not right, you can hone your technique.
And don’t forget about your wall kicks. A good wall kick is the easiest way to decrease your lap time and keep pushing your PB down. Push hard, and reduce as much drag as you can, and you’ll be flying through the water.
By ironing out issues in your technique, you’ll streamline your swimming, and move faster through the water.
2. Train Shorter
What’s this – we’re telling you to spend less time in the water? Well… kinda. Not quite. It’s better to swim for a shorter time, more often, than it is to spend a lot of time in the water, but less times.
Let us example. For example: 3 x 40 min sets is better than 2 x 60 min sets. But why is this?
The importance of swimming multiple times a week comes back to a few key reasons. It stops the decline of your skills, as a longer time between sessions means that it takes your muscles longer to remember their actions. Gold medallist swimmer (and the greatest Olympian of all time) Michael Phelps trained every single day of the week for competition. Swimming more often also lets you swim at your peak intensity more often.
By swimming more often, you’ll strengthen your skills, muscles and techniques, which all add up to a faster lap time.
3. Improve Your Health
Good health is important – it influences not only how we feel, but also how we go about our everyday lives. But health is also important for any physical activity we undertake.
Because health is not just about exercise, not having diseases or never having broken a bone. It covers a huge area of things. This includes sleeping well, eating right, drinking enough, and making sure our brains are happy.
A good diet is vital to maintaining a healthy body. And a healthy body will give you the best chance at smashing your PB: you’ll stretch further, have more energy, and get more force from your kicks. Because if you’re body is like a well-oiled machine, your diet is the fuel to keep it running. You need the right type and the right amount.
The best way to ensure healthy eating is to plan and prepare before you need to eat. Sunday meal prep exists for a reason!
You also want to get enough sleep before you hit the water. Think of how much faster you can go when you are fully rested and recovered; and not running of the stream of three double-shot extra-hot non-fat macchiatos, all with almond milk.
Set your sleep schedule, get your diet sorted, and you’ll be making swim gains in no time.
4. Learn To Breathe
Breathing should be easy. In and out – it’s the first skill we learn in life, so surely it can’t be hard to do when swimming?
As you expected, it’s the most common problem swimmers face. After all, it makes sense! Humans weren’t designed to breathe underwater (otherwise we’d be fish!). But it’s one of the most critical skills to learn.
Like fixing your technique, start slow. Most swimmers find that a snorkel can help you get started. You can lock in your technique without having to worry about breathing. Then, once you’re confident, you can begin to introduce the breath. Say, by removing the snorkel every 4 laps. This slowly gets you used to breathing while swimming.
The trick to breathing is going in through the mouth above water, and out while your head is under. It’s harder than it sounds! A lot of poor form is caused to bad breathing technique i.e. head up when it should be down. Find that rhythm, and you’ll be well on your way.
Nail this, and the benefits will come back in spades.
5. Improving Your Balance
“Stand tall, swim fast”, as Ian Thorpe says in Live your Dreams. But standing tall is not just a confidence trick while you’re out of the water, it also helps you swim.
Elongating your body is vital to improving your swim time. Each stroke and every kick should be at the greatest distance to maximise forward thrust! This is something you can practice both in and out of the water, say, while sunbathing and catching up on the latest Netflix special.
And while you’re at it – let’s get that body straightened up.
A straight body will disrupt less water as you glide through the water. When you aren’t balanced (e.g. your head is up and your legs are down), you increase drag between you and the water. It also means your kicks won’t put you in the right direction to get the most momentum. And if your body is off, your technique is off, meaning less power from each stroke.
By keeping your body tall and straight, you increase the chance of beating your PB as you glide through the pool
6. Make It Harder
We love swimming, but that doesn’t mean it should always be easy. By making it harder, you can increase your swimming strength, hone your technique, and build your muscle memory.
A simple way to make it harder is to mix it up. Different kicks, different strokes, different paces… all great ways to get you out of the 50m front crawl up and down, up and down mindset. Because as we all now, butterfly makes for quite the workout.
Adding resistance to your swim is also a great tactic. Weights, a pull buoy, or parachute are all ways to build your strength as you swim. Think of it like running with your arms full of shopping. You’re much faster once you’ve put them down.
You can also focus on the speed of your laps. That lonely clock on the wall should be your new best friend. By keeping an eye on the second hand each lap, you’ll be able to clock how fast each lap is. Plus, you can keep an eye on your rests, to guarantee you’re not taking longer breaks and falling asleep at the starting block.
By making it harder, you build your swimming skills, which all lead to you improving your time.
7. Get The Right Outfit
Fashion matters. To the economy, to society, and to everyone personally. It’s how we’re seen, how we’re interpreted, how we’re judged. What we wear tells the story of who we are – or who we want to be.
But how does that help us swim?
Well fashion can be many things: It can keep prying eyes off our birthday suit when you step outside. It can represent our culture and heritage. And it can keep the rain off and keep our feet safe.
And it’s that third point, functional fashion, that matters so much when you swim. Science shows that wearing a fitted swimming suit reduces drag and resistance in the water. Swimmers have shaved seconds off their PB, purely by updating their swimwear.
That’s why cyclists pay thousands to take grams off their bikes. Because these incremental changes have huge percentage effects on your time. Especially when your PB is already near perfect.
And the right outfit or accessory can help our technique. Take flippers for instance. Flippers can help you line up your body in the water, improve ankle flexibility, lower your kick frequency, and make swimming easier.
But you don’t need to go all out. No runway labels or haute couture necessary. Just ditch the boardshorts or the bikini for something a little more… form fitting. The closer to your body, the more streamlined your body will be in the water. This will minimise drag, and see you shooting forward in the water.
8. Get A Lookout
We’ve all heard about the buddy system: you watch out for your buddy and they watch out for you. But the buddy system is not just a way to keep kids safe on a field trip. It’s also a great way to improve your swimming.
How’s it work? It’s a lot like having a coach. A friend will be able to watch your form, and let you know areas that need work. They can spot if you’re turning too early, or not coming up regularly for air. And if you’re looking out for them too, you’ll also get better and spotting things that are wrong with their form, that you can apply to yourself.
A friend will also be able to push you to do better, swim faster, and reach you goals quicker. Because that’s what good friends are for.
By having a friend watch you swim, you’ll be able to hone your skills and smash out a new record.
Swimming it tough, but very rewarding. Jump in and put a few of these into practice. You’ll never know what records you can set.< Back to Blog