Many swimmers think that the only way to swim a personal best time involves training for months, tapering, and competing in a swim meet.
While that’s a tried and true strategy that has worked for millions of swimmers over the years, it’s not the only way.
Read on for six ways to shave off extra time without tapering.
What is Tapering in Swimming?
Taper is a portion of your training calendar that involves reducing your workout volume and time to allow your body to rest. During taper, you’ll swim less and rest more, which allows you to swim faster on race day.
Swimmers who compete regularly can benefit from a taper before a big meet or race. But what if you don’t want to scale back your training? Try these tips to swim faster sans taper.
6 Ways to Drop Time Without Tapering
1. Focus on the Little Things
When you want to swim faster, sometimes it can feel like you have to improve a million different things, but that’s not always the case!
Instead, focus on the small aspects of your race that make the biggest difference. Things like turns, starts and breathing may only make up 20% or less of your race, but they can get you where you want to go (hint: a new best time!).
Focus on the following skills to see marked speed improvements:
- Streamline: Tighten up your streamline to maximize your distance off the start and turns.
- Starts & Turns: Work on fast start reaction time and quick, tight turns. Both can make a difference in shorter races.
- Breathing Pattern: In short races like the 50 free, many swimmers try to breathe as little as possible. If you’re racing a distance event, figure out a breathing pattern you can consistently maintain for the whole race.
- Pullouts & Underwaters: Maximize your underwaters off the start and turns to shave off extra time.
Ideally, you’d work on all of the above items during training, but if you need a quick fix for a race, refining these will work in a pinch.
Swimming fast isn’t all about training. It’s also about your mindset. Visualizing your race can help you get in the zone and perform better.
Find a quiet place, close your eyes and walk yourself through every step of your race. From the moment you put on your suit, cap and goggles to the moment you step on the blocks. What does every lap of your race feel like? When you touch the wall, what time do you see on the scoreboard?
Use all of your senses to create the perfect race in your mind. Believe that you can make that race a reality, and then go swim it!
Visualization is helpful throughout training, whether you are tapering or not. Focus on improving your mindset and you’ll end up swimming faster overall.
3. Shave & Suit Up
There are only two ways to swim faster: Reduce drag and increase propulsion. To quickly rid yourself of extra drag, try shaving down and/or putting on a technical racing suit.
Many swimmers shave their entire bodies ahead of big meets to remove any extra drag that their body hair creates. While this may not make a massive difference in overall speed, swimming fully shaven feels markedly different than swimming unshaven. When you feel like a dolphin in the water, you swim like a dolphin!
Related: Why Do Swimmers Shave?
You don’t need to wait for a big swim meet to shave. If you want to swim faster now, try shaving!
Same thing with tech suits. Most swimmers save them for their biggest meets of the year, but if you have one and want to swim fast, put it on! Tech suits are made of a special material that reduces drag and compresses the muscles to improve blood flow and endurance for racing.
4. Swim Faster in Training
This one might seem obvious, but it still needs to be said: If you want to swim fast, you have to train fast!
Incorporating more sprint or race pace work into your workouts will help your body get used to swimming fast. On race day, your body will know exactly what to do. Work harder in training and it will pay off when it’s time to race.
Ultra-Short Race Pace Training takes this concept to the extreme, but you don’t need to swim all race pace all the time to see benefits. Check out the MySwimPro app for customized Training Plans tailored to your goals and preferred swimming distance.
5. Increase Resistance
Swimming without equipment can get you pretty far, but adding extra resistance will help you build muscle for a faster, more powerful stroke.
- Parachutes: Attach a parachute to your waist to add extra drag as you swim. Over time, this builds strength.
- Bungee Cords: Swim against a bungee cord’s resistance to challenge your power and tempo. Or, use the bungee to pull you forward and simulate super fast sprints.
- Fins & Paddles: Incorporating fins and paddles into your sprint training will help you practice swimming faster than your race pace.
- Drag Socks: Drag socks do exactly what you think! They add drag to make your kick more challenging. Add them to a few sets to engage your leg muscles.
6. Focus on Recovery
Last but not least, recover! Many swimmers don’t prioritize recovery, which ends up making it tough to perform on race day.
Focus on getting seven to nine hours of sleep per night and fueling your body with healthy food (and enough calories) to support muscle recovery and hard training. Without proper sleep and good nutrition, your swim workouts won’t be as effective.
Take a holistic approach to swim training. Achieving success in the sport is the result of proper workouts, sleep, nutrition, injury prevention and mindset. Find balance between all of these, and you’ll feel amazing in the water.
To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with tapering to swim faster. Try these strategies for your next race, and whether you’re tapered or not, you should see a performance boost.
If you’re ready to commit to swimming faster, download the MySwimPro app. Start a personalized Training Plan and we’ll have you swimming faster in just four weeks!