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10 Lies Your Swim Coach Might Be Telling You

If you think your swim coach is always right…think again!

Coaches are great, but some coaches will give pretty questionable advice that’s super outdated, or just downright wrong. And sure, they mean well, but sometimes coaches will tell you something that might make you slower.

Today we’re going to break down 10 lies that your swim coach might be telling you, and what to do instead!

1. You Need to Swim a Lot to Be Fast

So many coaches have the old school mindset that you need to swim an insane amount of volume to be any good. And that’s just flat out not true. It’s also potentially dangerous! 

All that garbage yardage could set you up for shoulder injuries, which nobody wants…your coach included!

Related: What is Ultra Short Race Pace Training?

Instead, you need to think about quality over quantity. The focus of your workouts is 10 times more important than how far you go. And sure, if you’re training for distance races, you’re gonna swim more, but that doesn’t make a sprinter’s training plan any less valid or effective.

Just look at Michael Andrew! He does Ultra-Short Race Pace Training, and pretty much only swims shorter workouts at race pace. And he won an Olympic medal! 

It’s safe to say that we can throw this piece of advice right in the trash. On to the next!

2. You Should Never Take a Break From Swimming

Sometimes you’re just burned out, and no matter what you do, your training isn’t sticking. Sometimes you need a break! 

But so many coaches are against taking breaks. Somewhere along the line they’ve convinced themselves – and you – that stepping away from the pool for a bit is the worst thing you could possibly do. 

But really, it’s not. Take a minute to think about it: What’s the worst that could happen if you took a break? 

Related: How to Make a Swimming Comeback in 5 Steps

You get out of shape? You can get back in shape. You miss some competitions? There will be more competitions in the future. Those don’t sound like the end of the world to us!

If you’re experiencing burnout, or your schedule is super crazy, it’s absolutely OK to take breaks. It might even be good for you! The pool will still be there when you are ready to come back.

Michael Phelps retired from swimming in 2012 and came back in 2014 to finish out his career with a few more gold medals, so you can take a month or two off. It probably took Michael a little while to get back in shape and find his feel of the water again, but he did it! And with a little dedication, so can you. 

3. Competing is Required

The next lie your coach may tell you is that you have to compete in meets.

A lot of coaches get caught up in the competition side of swimming…and I don’t blame them! Racing is a huge part of swimming for a lot of people. 

But some coaches take it too far and push their swimmers to compete when they don’t want to or aren’t ready. I see this especially in the masters swimming world. 

Related: How to Set SMART Goals

In reality, it’s totally ok to not compete at all. Swimming doesn’t have to be super serious! It can just be a workout for fitness! There are so many other goals you can work toward without having to squeeze yourself into a racing suit.

Maybe you want to lose weight, or learn a new stroke, or get faster so you can keep up with the fast lane on your team. The point is: Racing isn’t the only acceptable goal for swimmers. And coaches should understand that! 

4. You Have to Specialize in a Specific Distance or Stroke

Staying on the topic of racing, next up is the lie that swimmers have to specialize in a specific race or choose between sprint or distance. 

Usually coaches will suggest a few events to focus on based on where the swimmer is doing well, and they’ll adjust their training to align better with those races. And boom, suddenly that swimmer has been pigeon holed as a 200 freestyler, or a mile swimmer…forever!

But what if you want to swim all the events? Your coach might not be happy, but who cares? Do it anyway! It’s not that serious, and it’s not all about winning.

There’s no rulebook saying you can only do sprint or distance events. I mean, look at Michael Phelps! He did a TON of events, and he’s the GOAT.

To maximize your training, it might be helpful to focus on a couple similar events for two or three months leading up to a swim meet. But, ultimately, just do what works for you. It is your swimming journey, after all.

5. You Won’t Swim Fast if You Train Alone

So many coaches will tell you that you won’t swim fast if you train alone.

Swim teams are businesses, and coaches want to keep as many swimmers on the team as possible. So of course, they’re going to say that you won’t do well if you train by yourself. They want you to pay to be on their team! 

But what if you can’t make it to swim team practices, or you don’t like the workouts? You will probably end up swimming alone. And if you train effectively, you can absolutely get a killer workout.

If you swim solo and are looking for swim workouts, check out the MySwimPro app! We create custom swim workouts and training plans based on your swimming times, goals and schedule. Download it on iPhone or Android and find your next swim! 

6. You Can Only Swim Fast When You’re Young

We’ll admit, coaches are somewhat right about this one. Lots of coaches say that you can’t swim fast when you’re older.

Sure, when you’re 40 your times might not be as fast as when you were 16, but you can still throw down some speedy swims when you’re older. It all comes down to how you train.

Related: 10 Tips for Older Swimmers

The same workouts that worked for you as a young swimmer might not be as effective now that you’re older, but that doesn’t mean you should give up. Experiment with different training schedules and plans to find one that helps you improve.

Don’t listen to coaches who tell you that you’ll be old and slow after you retire from hardcore competitive swimming. You can still crush it! 

Why would we let the young ones have all the fun?! There’s so much more speed to be had. If you’ve ever been to a masters swim meet, you know exactly what I mean. World records are dropping left and right, even in the 80+ age groups!

7. You Need to Give Up Other Sports or Hobbies

Coaches often tell their swimmers they have to give up other hobbies or sports to focus only on swimming. We totally understand where they’re coming from, but it’s just wrong. 

Sometimes doing other sports can be really helpful for your swimming performance. Think of it as cross training! You might take other sports less seriously if swimming has become your favorite sport, but quitting everything else altogether isn’t always the answer.

Having other hobbies outside of sports can be really good for your mental health. Honestly, sometimes it’s just nice to have something totally different to do, to get your mind off of swimming.

Coach, I promise that I can be a good swimmer and a skilled underwater basket weaver. Don’t doubt me!

If you’re happy with your schedule and swimming performance, there’s no reason to give anything up. Just do you!

8. Using Equipment is Cheating

We have no idea how coaches got it into their heads that using equipment is cheating. Come on…are the fins swimming for us? 

Maybe it’s cheating if you wear fins or paddles all the time, but most of us don’t do that! 

Equipment can be a very effective way to improve technique or add resistance to build strength. As long as you don’t overuse it! 

Our rule is to keep equipment use to no more than 50% of your total workout volume for the week. The rest of your training should be “all natural” with no equipment! 

9. You Need to Wear a Tech Suit to Swim Fast

And speaking of gear, some coaches go tech suit crazy when competition time comes around. They’ll require all of their swimmers to have a tech suit, and make them suit up for almost every meet of the season! 

We love racing in a tech suit as much as the next swimmer, but that’s just too far.

Lilly King (photo: Mike Lewis)

The suit doesn’t make the swimmer. It can definitely help, but your performance in a race is about your skill and the training you’ve put in. Not the fancy suit! 

If it was all about the suit, we would have made it to the Olympics by now!

Tech suits can make you feel like more of a badass on race day, but wearing one too much makes that effect wear off. If you do have a tech suit, be more thoughtful about when you wear it. Only the most important qualifying or championship meets!

So, don’t squeeze into a tech suit if you don’t want to. And, if you don’t have a tech suit? Don’t worry, you can still race, as long as your suit is FINA-approved. You can definitely still swim a personal best without wearing a tech suit.

10. You Can’t Lift Weights Before Swimming

This last one is a never-ending debate: Do you do dryland before or after swimming? 

Many swim coaches would say that you should NEVER lift weights before your swim workout because it will ruin your swim.

And to some extent, they’re right. If swimming performance is your main goal, it can be better to swim before lifting so your muscles aren’t super fatigued when you hop in the pool. 

Related: Should I Lift Weights Before or After I Swim?

But at the end of the day, it comes down to what your schedule is and what works best for you. Don’t sweat it if you have to lift before you swim. If you can’t do dryland at any other time, do it pre-swim. It’s better than not doing it at all! Regardless, doing a swim and a lift in any order will be a killer workout. 

Swim coaches are great, but you don’t always have to take every word they say as absolute truth, and apply it to your own training without questioning it. 

Don’t go around telling your coach that they don’t know what they’re talking about…they probably do, but they’ve held onto some of these old-school swimming rules for too long, and it’s time to let them go. 

Experiment with different training approaches and find what works best for you! So, what do you think? Has your coach ever told you one of these lies? Let us know down in the comments!

If you don’t have a coach and are looking for swim workouts, make sure to download the MySwimPro app to get a new, personalized swim workout every single day!