Swimming On Your Own – Being Your Own Detective
Most of us swim on our own – certainly the large majority of the people I coach do. Added to this, even if you do swim with a club, getting technical feedback can be few and far between. As a result, if you are trying to improve your swim technique and speed, it can be very difficult to know if you are making improvements.
To make these improvements on your own, you have to BE YOUR OWN DETECTIVE. This doesn’t mean that you need to obsess over every little element of your swim; just that you need an awareness of your body – and tools to help understand whether you’re improving or not.
Metrics To Help You Understand Your Stroke (And Training)
One of the best metrics to measure yourself by is your speed; the time it takes you to complete particular reps or your average pace. But clearly, in training, it’s not all about going hard all the time. It’s knowing how quick you go for a particular effort. It might be that you know you can hold 2 minutes per 100m all day every day. Or that if you’re swimming at race pace you can usually maintain 1.20/100m. Just a basic awareness of your speed can tell you a lot about how you are swimming. It may be that you realise you have to get your head in gear – and concentrate – because you’re swimming slower than you should be. Or it could be a sign that you’re tired/ill/stressed and need a break. Equally, you could be absolutely flying – in which case you might want to work out why!
Another score that people like to work by is stroke count. Simply put, counting the number of strokes that you take per length. BUT – and it’s a big but – lower stroke counts are not necessarily better. You could do fewer strokes but by gliding and slowing down end up going much slower. A better measure of your stroke is swim golf (or SWOLF). This is where you add your time for 25 or 50m to your stroke count. At any given effort level, you can compare your SWOLF score – and that will give you an awareness of whether what you have changed has had a positive effect; or whether what you think you have changed has actually changed!
Improving Your Awareness
When it comes to actually thinking about your form, you don’t have to be obsessive about your stroke! But you do require a little bit of an awareness around your body and positioning in the water.
My favourite way of helping create that awareness is by doing contrasting drills on consecutive lengths. It might be that you need to think about your head position; on one length you might swim looking directly forwards, on the next length you’d swim looking straight down at the floor. It may be that you want to improve the front end of your stroke and where you reach to. In which case you might do some sidekick and moving your lead hand up and down in the water to find the optimum position. Or you may be working on rotating more from your hips – so you could try and swim one length completely flat, the next with a massively exaggerated roll. In each case, there are drills that you can do to really nail down the form and the specifics – but then sometimes it’s just good to swim and play around with where you fit along the spectrum.
We All Love A Challenge…
A challenge that I like to do – and to give – is to swim a length as fast as possible and a length as slow as possible. The target is the largest possible gap in time – but there are two caveats. Firstly, you have to swim both with reasonable form (fairly obvious for swimming fast, not so much for swimming slow). Secondly, you need to keep the stroke counts within 2 strokes of each other – so you can’t just go crazy on the fast length. My best is an 18-second gap (13/31 – 11 strokes for both).
Swimming on your own can be a challenge when you can’t see yourself or you don’t have external feedback. But with a clock/watch, and an increased physical awareness, you can definitely embed good habits and improve your skills.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to get in touch; either by email, facebook or leave a comment on here! Remember, you can always get your swimming reviewed in the endless pool with our video swim analysis packages.
See what’s up next week for our #SwimTechTues tip!