When you swim alone, it’s easy to fall into bad swimming habits. Without a coach on deck calling you out for poor technique or mistakes, you might end up doing things that slow you down and make it tough to reach your goals.
Thankfully, we’re here to help, with a look at the five worst swimming habits that impact your speed and improvement in the water. Read on to learn how to change these habits and swim faster!
1. Swimming Too Fast in Warmup
We’ve all been there…you dive in and the water is super cold, so you swim a fast 100 or so to help yourself warm up. Or you’re feeling good so you crush your warmup and swim way faster than all of your intervals.
But when you look at your performance from the start of the workout to the end, you might see that you get slower as the workout goes on, all because you went too fast in warmup!
Instead, think about pacing yourself. Warmup should be just that: A warm up to get your body prepared for the main set, which is where you should focus your speed. Do your best to be calm and controlled during warmup.
Related: How to Warm Up for a Swim Workout
This concept also applies to individual sets, not just warmup. Maybe you get really excited at the start of a main set (let’s say 8×100 freestyle on 2:00) and swim extra fast on the first rep. While that first 100 was great, you struggle to maintain that fast pace on the rest of the set, and end up swimming really slow by the 8th 100.
Instead, think about building or descending each 100, so you get faster as the set progresses. This means that your first 100 will be the slowest rep and the final 100 will be your fastest.
For longer swims, such as a 500 freestyle, think about negative splitting, which means to swim the second half of the swim faster than the first half.
2. Lazy Walls & Turns
We get it: When you’re tired, you want to take your time on your turns to get a quick break. But being lazy with your turns is actually making your workout harder because your poor technique is less efficient.
Water is 800 times more dense than air, which means that improper or “lazy” turn technique can cost you valuable seconds in your swims, and tire you out big time.
Related: How to Do a Freestyle Flip Turn
Your turns are a major opportunity to get a speed boost from a tight streamline. Do your best to train your body and your mind to not think about the walls as a rest period, as much as you might want a break sometimes.
Whether you do a flip turn or open turns, focus on staying compact, and maintaining your speed into the wall. When you push off, make sure you have a tight streamline, and do a few dolphin kicks to go even further.
3. Overusing Equipment
It’s so tempting to use fins all the time…after all, they make you feel like a superhuman in the water!
While there are definitely benefits to using equipment, overusing any equipment can definitely hinder your performance. Yep, too much of a good thing can actually be a bad thing!
If you’re really focused on improving your swimming performance, try to keep your equipment usage to less than 50% of your total swimming volume for the week. That means if you swim 10k in one week, you should only use equipment for 5k or less of that total distance.
You could swim 80% of one workout with equipment, and not use equipment at all for another in the same week.
We recommend starting your workout with little to no equipment, and building in equipment as the workout goes on to make sure your body is warmed up and ready for the extra resistance.
4. Poor Swimming Etiquette
When you go to the pool, there are a few things you shouldn’t do to make sure you get the most out of your workouts:
- Pulling on the Lane Line: This happens a lot in backstroke. It’s a lazy way to swim faster, but it’s not going to help you improve in the long run, and it will get you disqualified in a race!
- Not Finishing Into the Wall: We see swimmers of all ages and skill levels make this mistake. Don’t stop a meter or two from the wall at the end of a rep! Especially if you plan to race, train yourself to finish to the wall every time.
- Lifting the Head Into the Finish: Don’t lift your head up and look for the wall when you finish. Stay long and reach for the wall! Use the T on the bottom of the pool or the backstroke flags to help you see where the wall is.
- Breathing Off the Wall: In freestyle and butterfly, try to take two to three strokes before taking a breath.
5. Not Being Consistent
So many swimmers are discouraged when they don’t see results, but they aren’t putting in the time or focus to see the improvements they want. To swim fast, you have to be consistent!
Schedule your swims into your calendar, and set SMART goals that help you stay on course. If you want to swim faster, commit to a specific number of swims per week so you can easily track your progress.
Show up to the pool every day with intent, focus and passion, and a plan that’s designed to help you reach your specific goals.
Bonus Tip: Swimming Too Slow
If you always swim slowly, you’re never going to swim fast. You need to practice swimming fast in training if you want to swim a new personal best in your next meet, or beat your lane mates during practice.
We know swimming fast is tough and tiring, but those hard workouts are what make you a better swimmer. Up the intensity, challenge yourself and you’ll see results!
If you struggle to write workouts that actually challenge you, try the MySwimPro app to get daily, personalized workouts and Training Plans that will help you reach your goals and break these bad swimming habits once and for all!