Do you do the same workout every time you swim? Do you only swim freestyle? Are you not pushing yourself in your workouts?
If it wasn’t already obvious, answering “yes” to any of those questions means that your swim training isn’t as effective as it could be, and you’re probably not making that much progress…Actually, we can almost guarantee that you’re not making any progress.
The best swimmers in the world didn’t become the best by floating back and forth in the pool, getting lost staring at that black line!
If you really want to swim faster, you need to build smart training habits. And today we’re going to share 10 simple swimming habits that will actually help you swim faster!
1. Work on Technique & Drills
First up, start adding more drills to your swim workouts.
We know drill sets can be boring sometimes, but working on stroke technique regularly improves your efficiency in the water, which helps you swim faster.
Remember: Water is 800 times more dense than air, so the more efficiently you can swim, the better!
Most of your drill sets will probably focus on your actual stroke, but don’t forget about starts, turns and underwaters! Perfecting your speed and form in these areas can shave off extra seconds and help you swim faster overall. Yep, that’s right, with a bit of practice you too can have epic underwaters like Michael Phelps!
We like to add a few drills into our warmup, or add a drill set between our warmup and main set. If you’re really feeling hardcore, you can focus your whole workout on drills if you want! Just don’t do that every time…
2. Analyze Your Stroke
Second tip: Start filming yourself while you swim. And before you comment saying that it’s awkward to do an impromptu video shoot at the pool, just trust us…actually seeing your stroke can make a huge difference in your performance.
Having video footage of your swimming makes it easy to compare your technique to the best swimmers, and identify areas to improve. Maybe you didn’t realize you were crossing over on your freestyle hand entry, or maybe you had no idea your head position was incorrect. Now you know!
If you swim alone, this self analysis is super helpful, since you don’t have a coach to tell you what you’re doing wrong. And if you watch a lot of our videos or read a lot of our articles, you probably know more about technique than you think!
To film yourself, try propping up your phone on the edge of the pool and swimming a couple laps, or ask a lifeguard to film you. If you have a waterproof camera like a GoPro, try getting some underwater shots!
3. Swim All Four Strokes
This next tip might make some of you IM-haters mad, but I’ve gotta say it anyway. If you want to swim faster, you need to swim all four strokes!
Even if freestyle is your main stroke in competition, mixing up your strokes in training is super helpful for your overall fitness. Different strokes challenge your muscles in different ways, which pushes you harder and builds a better feel for the water.
Related: What is Individual Medley?
Plus, adding different strokes to your workout is a guaranteed way to make your swims less boring.
And don’t worry, you don’t need to go all-in with killer IM workouts every session. Try adding a short IM or stroke set to your warmup, or incorporate easy backstroke between sprint sets. Just mix it up!
4. Swim Structured Workouts
In that same vein, it’s important to mix up the structure of your workouts, too. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again…you need to STOP swimming laps for 30 minutes or longer with no breaks.
When you swim this way, you’re more likely to swim at a slow, continuous pace, which basically guarantees that you’ll never swim faster. As you get tired, your technique will fall apart and you’ll start to create bad swimming habits!
It can also be incredibly boring, which can make it tough for you to stay consistent.
Instead of nonstop swims, try a structured workout. Start your workout with a warmup set, then do a main set with a specific focus, and finish with a cool down to help your body start recovering.
Structured workouts typically incorporate interval training, which means that each repetition in a set will have a time limit and a specific effort level noted. Depending on the focus of your workout, you might do long intervals for extra rest between all-out sprints, or shorter rest intervals to help build endurance and aerobic capacity at a more moderate pace. Mix up your effort level to increase the intensity of your workout.
Here’s an example of a structured swim set:
4×100 Freestyle @ 2:00
You have two minutes to swim a 100 freestyle. If you finish the 100 before the two minutes is up, rest on the wall and get ready to start the next rep!
If you want to try interval training, check out the MySwimPro app! You’ll get customized swim workouts designed for your specific speed, skill level and goals. You can sync the workout to your smartwatch for a totally guided experience: The watch keeps track of all your intervals for you, and tells you what to do! It’s a game changer.
5. Stick to a Consistent Schedule
Now this next one might seem obvious, but some of you need to hear it. If you want to swim faster, you need to go to the pool consistently!
Create a routine and stick to it for the best results. We recommend swimming at least three times per week, but do what works best for you.
In general, going to the pool more often is better. It’s better to swim three 30 minute workouts than it is to do just one 90-minute session. If you only swim once a week, you’ll lose your feel of the water pretty quickly, and it’ll be really tough to make any progress.
Commit to your schedule and stick to it as best you can. Put your swims on your calendar! Or train with a buddy if you need some extra accountability. Do whatever you need to do to make sure you actually swim every week. No excuses!
6. Follow a Plan
Once you’ve got a consistent schedule, it’s time to start a training plan. To see the best results in the pool, you need to follow a plan that challenges you and pushes you to swim faster over time.
If you’re one of those people who does the same workout every time you swim, start a training plan! If you aren’t challenging yourself, there’s no way you’ll get faster.
The right plan will be tailored to your skill level and swimming goals, and will increase in intensity over a few weeks or months to help you safely achieve a new best time!
With a full calendar of pre-planned workouts, you won’t have to spend extra time writing your own workouts or figuring out what to do. You can just go to the pool and hop in!
7. Use Equipment
Our next tip is to use equipment. And no, this is not a free pass to swim with fins all the time! Although that person swimming with fins is probably getting a better workout than you.
Equipment is a great way to add variety to your training and increase resistance to build your strength and power.
Certain equipment is also helpful to isolate specific parts of your stroke so you can improve technique and efficiency.
All that said, though, you don’t want to rely on equipment too much. If you plan on racing, you won’t be able to use any equipment! Try to keep your equipment usage to less than 50% of your total workout volume for the week. Think of it as a tool rather than a crutch.
We recommend using fins, paddles, and a snorkel. But there’s a ton of cool stuff out there, like parachutes and power towers!
8. Do Dryland Training
And while equipment can be a huge help for getting stronger, you can only build so much strength in the pool. The best swimmers also do strength training outside water, which is called dryland training.
Related: How to Cross-Train for Swimming
Two to three dryland sessions per week will help you build muscle, and that translates to more power, speed and endurance in the water. And, it helps prevent injuries!
You don’t have to go full Hulk and get totally jacked, but adding in some extra cross-training will be huge for your swimming performance. Try weight lifting, yoga, running, or cycling.
If you need some extra guidance for dryland, check out our dryland workouts in the MySwimPro app. You can add dryland to any swim training plan, and most dryland workouts have very minimal equipment, or no equipment, so it’s easy to train at home.
9. Track Your Progress
All the training tips we’ve shared here are great, but you won’t really know if you’ve gotten faster unless you track your progress. Remember: What gets measured, gets improved!
It’s best to track your performance against a specific goal. At MySwimPro, we love the SMART goals model. SMART goals are:
Set a specific goal time, and commit to achieving it by a certain date. Then, track your swims and review your splits after each workout to get an idea of how you’re doing.
We recommend swimming with a smartwatch and the MySwimPro app for the best tracking experience. You’ll get real-time coaching while you’re in the pool and after your swims you can see your splits and other data about your stroke efficiency, heart rate and much much more!
MySwimPro’s Test Sets help you get meaningful data and see your improvements. Track your best times over weeks, months or years to see how far you’ve come!
10. Recover Like a Pro
Our final tip is all about recovery! Proper recovery is a huge contributor to your swimming performance. You cannot swim fast if you aren’t giving your body a chance to rest and repair itself.
To start, make sure you warm up and cool down properly before and after your workouts. This will keep you injury free and help ease your body in and out of training mode.
After your workouts is when the real recovery begins, though. Make sure you eat enough food and drink water after each swim to give your body the fuel it needs to build those strong muscles we all want!
If you want to learn more about nutrition for swimming performance, we interviewed a dietitian about the best diet for swimmers…check it out here!
Sleep is also super important. Try to get seven to nine hours of sleep each night if you can. When you’re well rested and well fueled, you’ll be ready to crush your workouts every day.
We also recommend taking a rest day when you need it, at least one day per week! We know it can feel counterproductive to take a whole day off from training, but think about these rest days as part of your training program. If you don’t rest, you won’t do well during your workouts, and you’re putting a ton of stress on your body.
During your rest days, go for a walk, stretch or do some yoga, or just lounge on the couch. If anyone questions you, just tell them Coach Fares said it’s ok to be a lazy bum sometimes! But only sometimes…
Ultimately, swimming faster comes down to consistency. If you can stick to these 10 swimming habits, we guarantee that you’ll start swimming faster in no time, and you’ll probably feel amazing in the water, too.
Comment below with your tips and tricks for staying consistent and swimming faster. For new, custom swim workouts every day, download the MySwimPro app!