Whether you’re a beginner or a veteran swimmer, getting better at swimming involves a lot of factors. From your workouts to your nutrition to your mindset, each aspect of your training builds on itself, and can either push you head first into your goals, or keep you stuck in a plateau.
Today we’re taking a look at what a holistic approach to swim training looks like, and sharing tips to help you train this way. For more guidance and inspiration, check out Fares’s new book, Swim Like A Pro!
If you entered our giveaway celebrating the launch of Fares’s book, read to the end of this article to reveal the winners!
Let’s Start with a Fresh Perspective
Close your eyes and imagine you’re at the pool, beach, lake or ocean. Inhale and smell the aroma of the chlorine or the ocean, and exhale.
Now visualize yourself entering the water and taking your first strokes. You feel light, riding high on top of the water. It’s magical.
From today onward I want to challenge you to appreciate what an incredible opportunity it is to swim.
Now that we are in a swimming mindset, let’s dive into our tips to swim like a pro!
1. Stroke Technique
There are 2 main ways to improve your swimming: reducing drag and increasing propulsion. Focusing on technique during your workouts will help you refine your stroke over time and you’ll get faster as a result.
Related: How to Swim Perfect Freestyle
To reduce drag, take a look at your body position. Are your hips riding high in the water, or are they sinking down toward the bottom? Are you looking straight down at the bottom of the pool, or do you lift your head up and look forward most of the time? Work on keeping your hips high and your eyes looking straight down.
To increase propulsion, you want to pull as much water as possible. To do this, work on Early Vertical Forearm.
In freestyle, when your fingertips enter the water, bend at the elbow and keep your wrist and forearm straight, pointing your fingertips down to the bottom of the pool. Pull straight back! This turns your arm into one big paddle that pulls tons more water than you would if you pulled with your arm completely straight.
After technique, it’s time to take a look at your training. Do you follow a plan, or do you make up your workouts as you go? Swimming without structure is perfectly fine exercise, but if you want to swim faster and improve, you need a personalized plan. Without one, you may find that you plateau and your goals are put on hold.
Whatever your skill level, the MySwimPro app is a great option for structured Training Plans. With options for beginner all the way to marathon swimmers, you’re sure to find a swim plan that challenges you and helps you reach your goals. Try the MySwimPro Coach Subscription on your iPhone or Android >
You can train as hard as you want, but if you aren’t fueling your body properly, all of your hard work will be for nothing.
It’s important to give your body the proper amount of protein and carbs before, during and after your workouts to ensure your muscles have enough fuel to get you through your workouts, and so you can make maximum strength gains as you recover. Check out our interview with a registered dietitian for tips on fueling for swimming performance >
Hydration is important, too. Drink plenty of water throughout the day, and always bring a water bottle with you to sip on during your swims. You don’t feel it in the water, but you sweat a lot when you swim!
The next piece of the swimming performance puzzle is dryland training — more commonly called strength training. Adding 1-3 days of dryland to your weekly training routine can help you build strength, power and endurance in ways you just can’t in the pool.
Related: How to Do Dryland Workouts at Home
Whether you enjoy bodyweight workouts or hit the gym for some weight lifting, incorporating different movements helps avoid overuse injuries, and can even strengthen your muscles to prevent injuries in the first place.
5. Mental Training
Mental training is arguably the most important aspect of swimming success. You can train hard and keep your diet on point, but if your mindset isn’t in the right place, you won’t perform.
As swimmers, having a growth mindset is critical. No matter where you are today, you can always improve. That goes for beginners who just started swimming last week, and for the pros who are the fastest in the world.
No one is perfect, and every day is a new chance to work hard and make progress toward your goals. Remember that on the days you struggle to stay motivated. Every workout won’t be your best, and there will be days that you don’t feel 100%. But that’s all part of the process.
6. Set SMART swimming goals
It’s important to note that all of our advice above is useless if you don’t set goals for yourself.
The best swimmers in the world are meticulous about goal setting, and many will write down their goals so they can refer back to them for daily motivation.
Related: How to Set SMART Goals
We like using SMART to help us set goals. SMART stands for:
- Specific: “I want to get faster” is not a specific goal. A better goal is: “I want to get faster in my 200 breaststroke race.”
- Measurable: Assign a number to your goal. For example: “I want to drop 2 seconds in my 200 breaststroke.”
- Attainable: Is this goal realistic to your skill level right now? Set goals that are achievable.
- Relevant: If you don’t race breaststroke, or if you focus more on open water races, setting a goal to improve your 200 breaststroke may not be relevant right now.
- Time-bound: Give yourself a time limit. For example: “I will drop 2 seconds in my 200 breaststroke race at my swim meet in 3 months.”
If you’re interested in going deeper on any of these topics, pick up Fares’s new book: Swim Like A Pro >
Bonus Swim Tips
If all the advice above wasn’t enough swimming goodness to get you excited about your goals, we’ll leave you with 3 extra swimming tips:
1. Stack Your Hands in Streamline
Many swimmers push off the wall with an inefficient streamline that slows them down. To reduce the drag your body produces in streamline, stack your hands on top of each other. Wrap the thumb of our top hand around the bottom hand, and hold on tight!
2. Swim with Open Fingers
You may have been taught to swim with your fingers cupped tightly together. Well, that’s actually not as powerful as swimming with a small space between your fingers! Studies have found that just a 5 millimeter space between each finger can help you swim 2.5% faster. Learn more about open finger swim training >
3. Reduce Your SWOLF Score
Your SWOLF score is a rough measure of your stroke efficiency. To calculate your SWOLF score, add the number of strokes you took for a lap to the length of time it took you to swim that lap.
So if you swam a 25 in 15 seconds and took 16 strokes, your SWOLF score would be 31. A lower score is better, and signifies that you are going faster with fewer strokes. Learn more about SWOLF scores >
To celebrate the launch of Swim Like A Pro, we gave away epic prizes! Congrats to our winners:
Grand Prize: Apple Watch, Signed Book, Swim Cap & T Shirt: @dotryan68 on Instagram
Honorable Mentions: Signed Book
- @uniqueblox on Instagram
- @plyothenics on Instagram
- @marlene.fidalgo.1 on Instagram
How do you approach your swim training and setting goals? Share your tips in the comments. You just might help someone out!