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A lot of times you’ll hear that in order to swim fast, you have to spend a lot of time swimming slow.
While that’s true... and while I do spend a lot of time swimming at a slow pace in order to work on technique... it’s also true that in order to swim fast you have to train fast.
My coach is always telling me, “Don’t be afraid to be fast.” So we train for speed, both in the pool and out of the pool.
In the weight room, I do things that build strength, because strength is a big component of speed.
But I also do things that work on race-pace speed. When I lift weights, I try to mimic the tempo I use during the 50 free. Instead of trying to lift as much weight as I can, and taking 5 seconds to do one rep, I’ll go with lighter weights and train for speed.
My stroke rate for the 50 free is around one cycle every 1.2 seconds. So, I’ll try to lift weights at a rate of one cycle every second -- like I’m doing a sprint. For example, I’ll try to do 20 reps in 20 seconds.
In the pool, I use the same philosophy. I do things that build strength...
... and things that will help me swim at race pace and actually fasater than race pace.
I use a variety of tools to build strength. Anything that makes it harder to swim is obviously going to build your speed, strength, and tolerance for hard work.
Parachutes are a great tool for making you work on balance and body position, and for helping you connect your catch to your core.
Swimming with closed fists is another form of strength training that leads to faster swimming. You might be going pretty slow when you do this, but it will build strength in your shoulders... and muscle memory for a high-elbow catch and a catch that connects with your hips and core.
To build your kicking speed, you can use ankle bands, which restrict your range of motion.
Stretch cords are excellent for working on the catch. When I get to the end of the cord and I’m pretty much holding in place, I forget about working on rotation and focus instead on keeping my elbows high and grabbing water on my catch. Obviously, there are times to work on one thing... and times to work on other things.
Stretch cords are a great example. When you swim with the cord, you’re training yourself to swim at above race pace. You’re learning how to deal with the extra resistance that comes with greater speed.
But I think the best way to train for speed is simply to swim fast in practice. A lot of people are afraid, in practice, to swim as fast as they would in a race.
Yeah...definitely...it hurts, both mentally and physically. But if you want to go fast when you race, you have to know what it feels like in practice. Speed won’t happen at a meet unless you train for speed at practice.