Become a Better Swimmer

Become a Better Swimmer

by Coach Cathy

Fall is approaching and the triathlon season is winding down for most of us.  You’ve worked hard this summer at completing your required swim workouts just to be ready for that next race. Now that the season has come to an end, what are you going to do now? What’s next?  I’m hoping that you’ll continue with your swim schedule and complete those hard workouts even when it starts getting colder outside and you don’t have a race around the corner.  Thus, I’m providing you with a few pointers to help you become a better swimmer and ensure you continue to swim this fall/winter season.

Swim Often.  First and foremost, this means get off the couch, get out of the home or office and get swimming! Don’t let the fall/winter blues let you lose your focus and all that you’ve gained from a competitive season.  Try to swim 2-3 times per week.  The more you swim, the more you improve and the more you swim the less likely you’ll lose your swim technique.

Swim with Good Technique.  I know this is much easier said than done! But remember you should spend most of your time on your side and not on your belly. Learn to glide through the water, feel the water running through your hands and be aware of your hand placement, head position, side rotation, and kick.  Learn the importance of balance and proper stroke mechanics, which produce good swim technique.

Do your Drills!  Fingertip, fist, catch-up… you know the ones. Drill work may appear to be mundane but trust me, they are very beneficial. These drills, among others, allow you to focus on a specific technique and even a few strokes thinking about what you are doing with your hands, arms, elbows, head and feet can help you be a better swimmer.

Use your Swim Toys!  The common toys are the kickboard and the pull buoy but others such as flippers/fins and paddles may also be used in order to help you swim better. Flippers help improve kick strength and ankle flexibility and they allow you to swim faster. Paddles help increase arm and shoulder strength and improve your technique. Try to incorporate these in your next workouts but remember the use of these swimming aids should be deliberate, with a purpose, and limited in your total workout in order to avoid overuse and potential injury.

Challenge Yourself!  Complete the long or hard workouts and test yourself.  If the workout involves sprints, tempo work, or interval training then ensure you are pushing yourself. Your breathing should be labored but take the necessary rest in between sets to catch your breath. It’s hard to push yourself but think of the added cardio and endurance you’re gaining from challenging yourself, even if it’s a little at a time.

Learn to Bi-Lateral Breathe – This may be scary to most since it means breathing on your weak side. But this is beneficial if you want to reduce your anxiety during an open water swim triathlon race.  During a race, you may be forced to breathe on your weak side due to the sun in your eyes or because you need to avoid choppy waters hitting your face. Now is the time to learn.  You have many months before the next race so get started now and learn something new to incorporate for the spring.

Get Videotaped. Watching yourself via a video camera may be an eye opener to you and it may be a bigger eye opener if you have an experienced and qualified coach explain your growth opportunities. You may discover a weakness you didn’t realize you had and you may work on this opportunity during the off-season months in order to improve your swim technique.

Join Masters Swim Class:  There’s no better way to challenge yourself than if you are swimming with others in a masters swim program. It definitely enhances the caliber of your swimming just due to your competitive nature and it holds you accountable. You may incorporate all of the above by joining a master’s swim class.  It’s also a great way to network with your triathlon colleagues and most importantly, to just have fun!!

Now that’s the way to start the fall season.  Now go and get your cap and goggles and Get Swimming!!

Cathy Obordo is a USAT certified Triathlon Coach with Experience Triathlon.   As leaders in the endurance services industry, Coach Cathy and the Experience Triathlon staff help athletes of all ages and abilities achieve success in training, racing and life.  Learn more about Coach Cathy and Experience Triathlon at www.experiencetriathlon.com and www.ET-Youth.com.

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  • Sal_DeTraglia

    Good one, thank you! Valuable article.

    For me, the hardest thing about swimming into the Fall/Winter is losing the outdoor pool. Indoor pools are sooooo much colder and more dreary.

    But swimming indoors is still better than running on a treadmill.

  • So true! You can make big gains swimming consistently over the off season and it’s still great cross-training if you’re a winter runner. Great reminders Cathy!

  • Sarah Farsalas

    Great article, Coach!! I especially found the part about the majority of our time being spent on our sides versus on our bellies as a great visual to use on my future swims–thank you!! 🙂