Good swimming is relaxed swimming. Relaxed swimming depends on practicing the best techniques and the best body position. At this point you should be able to stretch out in the water with your head down and your feet up without kicking hard and without struggling. Tips for making this easier include kicking on your side and floating on your torso.
Practice lying on your side with the bottom arm extended in front palm down. Your top arm should be along your side with the hand on your upper thigh. Kick smoothly across the pool, keeping your head in a relaxed downward position. If your legs are not near the surface of the water you should push downward along your side especially along your upper torso.
Your lungs are filled with air and by pushing down on your side you are using them as flotation making your work easier. To breathe you just need to turn your head slightly, without lifting at the forehead. Do this several times, alternating arms in each direction.
Next work your arms into the mix by kicking a few times and then taking an odd number of strokes. With an odd number of strokes you will end up switching sides as you move smoothly across the pool. If your legs still are sinking and you are having to kick rapidly to keep them up, you should do the next exercise a few times to get the feel of proper body position. Get a pull buoy and hold it between your ankles. That’s right—between your ankles. With the pull buoy between your ankles your feet will come up to the surface and the rest of your body will be in the correct position as long as you don’t try to hold your head too high.
Now swim across the pool. This will take practice at first to keep from losing the pull buoy but the effort will pay off by making you more aware of correct position. Once you have mastered that feeling, you should be able to do the preceding drills without difficulty.
You are now ready for some more difficult drills. They are not more difficult because they make you work harder physically, they are more difficult because of the concentration they take to do.
First, swim several 25’s using a two beat kick focusing on when you are using your downbeat. You should be kicking down with the opposite foot from the arm pull. Thus when your right arm is starting the propulsive phase of the arm stroke, the left foot should be in the down stroke of your kick and vice-versa. This will take some mental concentration on your part.
Next try the following drill. This one takes at least four 25’s to master and will seem very awkward at first. With the same two-beat kick, swim across the pool but pause your recovering arm in the air right by your head. Hold your arm in that position for a two count and then proceed with your stroke. Do this on both sides as you swim across the pool. Both of these drills make you focus on your hip rotation and make you put that rotation into the correct spot in your stroke. Never forget that doing drills on a regular if not daily basis will pay off in the long run. Too many swimmers think that all they need to do for success is pound out the yardage, but working on correct technique is more valuable than miles covered in the pool.
Nevertheless, you also need to develop endurance and pacing which will be made easier by working on correct technique. Now is the time to start working some longer unbroken swims into your swim training. Maintaining good technique in shorter distances is relatively easy but maintaining that smooth long body profile in longer swims takes practice. As you get tired you will begin to see your stroke fall apart which in turn will make your pacing suffer so you need to work on both.
Every week you should begin working some 500’s into your routine. Do three 500’s in a row on a tight interval. By tight, I mean with thirty seconds or less rest between repeats. Your arms and legs will get very tired and you will need to focus on your good technique to finish the 500’s correctly. Then once a week at this point in your training you should swim one 1000 and get a time for it. You will increase this distance on a regular basis over the next few months until you get to a 1500. As you practice the 1000, first try to maintain a consistent speed. That is each 1000 should take approximately the same time for you to swim. By the fourth week, you want to go faster. Keep in mind when you swim these longer distances that you also want to maintain consistency within the swim.
Don’t go out fast and then die at the end. You will need to be relaxed and consistent because you need energy after the swim to do the biking and running portion of the event. After these five weeks, add 100 to your distance and repeat the pattern except this time do three weeks and then faster. Before you know it you will be swimming a 1500 and you should be able to do so with good, consistent pacing.
Here is a workout for this month:
Warm Up is always a relaxed 500 yards or meters.
4 x 100 drill
Work some of the drills above or from other months into easy 100’s.
6 x 100 kick
#’s 3, 5, 6 are as hard as you can kick.
6 x 300 swim
Descend 1-3, descend 4-6. Keep your interval at 15 seconds rest on cruise speed.
Cool down with a very easy 200, alternating freestyle with backstroke to stretch out your arm muscles.
That is 3500 yards.
*Glossary of swim terms
Recovery portion of the arm stroke is what happens between your arm leaving the water until it enters again.
Drill is an exercise to work on a specific part of your stroke.
Descend means go from slow and easy to fast and “hard”. You should drop about five seconds in each descend in this workout.
Two-beat kick is one kick per one arm. This is typically the pace to kick during a longer race except at the beginning and the end.
I help coach Utah Masters here in Salt Lake City. I have been listed in the Top Ten in US Masters and Top Ten in the FINA world rankings.