This post is sponsored by Master Spas, the official swim spa of MySwimPro! Train and improve your technique at home with Master Spas’ continuous water current. Use our link to save $1,000 on a swim spa or $500 on a hot tub!
Whether you want to crush the competition in a race or simply beat your lane mates in practice, swimming faster is a great goal. But many swimmers neglect one key aspect of their training in their quest for maximum speed gains: Swimming slow.
It might feel counterintuitive to hear that you need to swim slow if you want to swim fast, but hear us out. Incorporating more slow swimming into your training can help refine your technique and build endurance so you’re in top shape when it comes time to swim fast.
2 Ways to Swim Faster
If you want to swim faster, you will need to do two things:
- Decrease Drag: Reduce the amount of resistance your body creates in the water. Do this by improving your technique. Generally, decreasing drag is the “quick fix” of the two.
- Increase Propulsion: Improve your overall power. You can do this by getting stronger and increasing the power you generate per stroke. This can take time!
Ideally, you’ll find a balance between decreasing drag and increasing propulsion.
The Swimming Equation
When you’re thinking about swimming faster, it’s helpful to break your race into pieces to identify where you can improve. The swimming equation can be helpful here:
ST = S + (UT + TT) + (CC*SR)
- ST = Swimming Time, in seconds
- S = Start (reaction time + airtime)
- UT = Underwater Time (how long you spend underwater after the start & turn(s))
- TT = Turn Time (how long it takes from when you touch the wall to when you push off)
- CC = Cycle Count (number of strokes you take)
- SR = Stroke Rate (how long it takes you to take one stroke)
Use this equation as a framework to analyze your races, and play with different numbers to estimate how much you could improve by making certain changes. Learn more about the swimming equation and how to apply it to your own training here.
4 Reasons to Swim Slower
So, now that you know how to break down your swims, where does slow swimming come in? Glad you asked. Here’s why you need to start swimming slower.
1. Technique Development
Technique work is best done at slower paces. If you aren’t able to maintain good technique while swimming slowly, you definitely won’t be able to do it when swimming faster. You might feel like your hands are “slipping” through the water.
Related: How to Swim Perfect Freestyle
It may feel boring at times, but doing slower drill sets is essential to building your feel of the water and creating a solid foundation for future speed. You’ll increase your power with each pull
As you start to improve, you can add in more speed work, but make sure you continue to focus on proper technique. Maximize your efficiency!
2. Reduce Cycle Count & Stroke Rate
Looking at the swimming equation above, we’re going to focus on improving the last part of the equation: Cycle count and stroke rate.
Cycle count is the number of strokes you take during a race. If you decrease your cycle count, that means you’re increasing your distance per stroke. As a result, you’ll have a slower stroke rate, but you’ll be swimming faster!
Your stroke will be more powerful and you’ll use less energy to swim faster. What’s better than that?
However, it’s important to note that you can overdo these changes to your cycle count and stroke rate. If you take only three freestyle strokes per length, you’re going to be moving pretty slow! Find the balance between cycle count and stroke rate that works best for you without slowing you down.
Check out this video for tips to improve your distance per stroke.
3. Swim at Different Speeds
Many swimmers joke that they have only two speeds: Slow and fast.
If that’s the case for you, you have lots of work to do! Even if racing fast is your ultimate goal, there’s huge value in mixing up your swimming pace and challenging yourself in new ways.
In the MySwimPro app, your workouts will incorporate seven different, color-coded Effort Levels depending on the goal of the workout:
- Best Average
- Race Pace
Easy, Moderate, Endurance and Threshold are aerobic, and Best Average, Race Pace and Sprint are anaerobic.
As you become more advanced, it will become easier to change gears between each of these Effort Levels. Most people swim in the Moderate and Endurance levels, with some Race Pace mixed in. Imagine what you could do if you could tap into your full Sprint potential!
Practice Pacing with Master Spas
Learning how to swim at different speeds can be tough, but a Master Spas swim spa makes it easy! Their high performance swim spas have an adjustable water current that allows you to vary your speed and effort with the touch of a button.
You can get a great workout right at home: Focus on technique, push your speed and swim all four strokes without ever going to a public pool!
After your swim, relax and enjoy a little hydrotherapy. Master Spas are also great for aqua jogging and recovery!
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4. Build Endurance
For most swimmers, training at Race Pace all the time won’t yield good results, because they just simply can’t hold that pace for very long.
Instead, it’s more helpful to swim longer distances at a slower pace (maybe with some Race Pace mixed in) to train your body to maintain a lower, more consistent heart rate over time.
We recommend using interval training for your swim workouts rather than swimming continuously. Intervals will allow you to focus on maintaining effort and technique over shorter distances. Long, non-stop laps may result in your technique falling apart.
As your endurance improves, you can increase the distance of your workouts, and change up your intervals to continue challenging yourself.
So, take it from us: It’s ok to swim slowly! Just make sure to focus on technique, and over time you’ll unlock even more speed, power and endurance. Download the MySwimPro app for personalized, interval-based workouts designed to help you reach your goals!