After decades of swimming, most experienced swimmers look back and see a few cringe-worthy mistakes that made their swimming journey tougher.
Whether they didn’t train correctly or spent too much time with the wrong mindset, many swimmers had to learn the hard way…but not you!
Avoid making these common mistakes to fast-track your swimming progress and make the sport more fun.
1. Not Swimming Enough Variety
Some swimmers get stuck swimming the same type of workouts over and over. Maybe they stick to a style of training that they enjoy most or they avoid swimming strokes they aren’t good at. And while that works for a little while, they eventually plateau, get bored and struggle to swim faster.
Instead, we recommend adding lots of variety to your training. Mix longer workouts focused on endurance with shorter workouts focused on speed.
Add more individual medley to every workout to ensure you’re covering every stroke, every day. If you balk at the idea of swimming butterfly, know this: You should be swimming your best and worst strokes regularly. You don’t have to do your worst stroke for an entire workout, but make an effort to mix it into your swims somehow.
The IMX style of training is a great place to start. If you swim alone, it’s easy to let yourself off the hook when it comes to training variety – try the MySwimPro app for personalized Training Plans and well-rounded workouts!
2. Not Swimming Fast Enough
This might sound obvious: If you want to swim fast, you need to train fast. Most swimmers know this, but when we take a look at their training, they aren’t pushing themselves hard enough.
Sometimes, this comes down to the type of training you’re doing. If most of your workouts are longer with shorter rest, you won’t swim as fast. Instead, try adding in a few workouts or sets that involve shorter sprints with more rest. You’ll be able to increase your effort and swim faster because your body has more time to recover.
Ultimately, it comes down to speed variation. Every set in your workout should have an intention. Whether that’s easy swimming during warmup, threshold work during a main set or all-out sprints from the blocks, avoid sticking to the same moderate pace all the time.
3. Poor Cross-Training
Similar to swimming, variety is the spice of life when it comes to cross-training.
If you cross-train, take stock of your current routine: How long have you been doing it? Do you feel challenged?
Over time, our bodies adapt to the stresses we put on them. And if you aren’t training optimally, we’ll eventually plateau.
Related: How to Cross-Train for Swimming
When you feel your gains starting to slow down, take a look at your cross-training frequency, variety and intensity, and identify opportunities to switch things up and improve. If you lift weights in the gym, try these examples:
- Prioritizing mobility and flexibility to prevent injury
- Increasing weight and reducing reps to maximize strength gains
- Reducing weight and increasing reps to build muscular endurance
- Focusing on power, agility and overall athleticism out of the water
If you don’t cross-train at all, that’s another mistake in itself. Find time in your schedule for two to three cross-training sessions each week if possible!
To build strength that directly translates to your stroke, we recommend the KayakPro SwimFast Ergometer.
The SwimFast is designed to complement your pool training to help you build strength and technique out of the water so you can swim faster.
If you have limited access to a pool or if you’re tight on time, spend 15 minutes per day on the SwimFast Erg to start seeing results!
- Variable Resistance Settings: Work on tempo at lower resistance, or build strength with higher resistance.
- Hi-Resistance Bands: Add extra resistance to build more strength!
- Rotating Bench: Mimics your freestyle stroke.
- Full Palm Hand Paddles: Work on proper hand position.
- 9-Week Training Plan: Increase your power per stroke by up to 25% with a plan designed for the SwimFast.
4. Not Warming Up Appropriately
So many swimmers think hopping in the pool and swimming a few hundred meters at an easy pace counts as a proper warmup…unfortunately that doesn’t cut it!
You should already be warmed up before you swim your first lap – that means it’s time to add a bit of dynamic stretching to your routine!
Spend 5-10 minutes on your dynamic warmup to get your blood flowing and prime your muscles and joints for swimming. Try this dynamic warmup before your next swim!
When you take the time to warm up before your swim, you can spend more time working hard in the pool.
5. Pushing Yourself to Failure
To be clear, it’s ok – and encouraged – to push yourself hard in the pool. It goes too far, though, when swimmers think they need to swim to absolute failure in every workout.
You should not swim so hard that your technique starts to fail. Doing so sets you up for injuries and can also create bad habits that can affect your technique and efficiency in the long term.
Instead, find a balance. Workouts should be challenging, but doable with good technique most of the time.
Think about finishing every workout the way you want your next workout to feel – you should be able to swim a few laps with perfect technique at the end of every workout!
6. Swimming Too Much
As much as we all love to swim, there is such a thing as too much swimming! Many swimmers don’t prioritize recovery time and end up swimming too much volume too frequently to see meaningful results.
It’s helpful to think of your recovery time between workouts as part of your training – your body gets stronger in the down time between swims.
The good news is that you don’t need to swim 10 times per week to get faster. With the right plan, you can swim three or four times in a week and reach your goals easily.
It comes down to finding a balance of swimming frequency and volume that works for you. If you like swimming five or more times a week, try doing so with less volume per workout to reduce the stress on your body.
If you want to swim less frequently, it will be easier for you to increase your total volume per workout because you have more recovery time between swims.
This will vary from person to person, and also depends on the other fitness activities you do each week.
7. Not Using Equipment
Equipment is a helpful way to vary your workouts and refine your stroke technique. But if you don’t use it correctly (or don’t use it at all), you’re doing yourself a disservice.
Introduce Equipment Slowly
When you introduce a new piece of equipment that adds resistance, such as fins or paddles, ease yourself into it slowly to give your body enough time to adapt and build strength. Start with a few laps, and over time you’ll be able to swim full sets with equipment.
Gear Up for Drills
Many swimmers think equipment is only useful for pulling, kicking or sprinting. What they don’t realize is that the right gear can enhance drills and technique work by adding resistance at key places.
For example, adding fins to single-arm freestyle drills can help keep the hips high so you can focus on your pull and rotation instead of kicking to maintain momentum.
8. Comparing Yourself to Others
Our eighth mistake focuses on your mindset. Swimming is a competitive sport, which makes it easy to fall into the trap of comparison. Maybe you compare your race times to other swimmers, or you compare your stroke technique to someone else’s. Doing so is understandable, but it isn’t helpful in the long run.
Instead, focus on being the best swimmer YOU can be. Your only competitor is yourself! Benchmark your performance over time using the MySwimPro app to remind yourself of how far you’ve come and to set goals for the future.
There’s always going to be someone who is faster than you or better than you. When you learn to let go of comparisons, your mindset will improve dramatically.
9. Not Being Grateful
Especially as adults, we often forget that we choose to swim. Sure, it can be difficult or stressful at times, but we swim because we enjoy it.
When the going gets tough, take a step back and find opportunities to express gratitude for swimming. Reflect on why you swim and what you find fun about the sport.
Remember that you don’t HAVE to swim, you GET to.
Steer clear of these mistakes and you’ll enjoy your swim training a whole lot more – and make progress more quickly. Share a comment with any tips, tricks or additional mistakes you think fellow swimmers would find helpful, and download the MySwimPro app to start a personalized swim Training Plan that’s specific to your goals!