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When I’m swimming at race pace, my stroke is anything but soft. But in order to race like this…

…I spend a lot of time swimming like this.

When I’m practicing I’m focused on a lot of things. And to really focus, I have to slow down and swim softly.

At slow speed, I can tune in to how well I’m balanced in the water, and whether I’m reaching full extension on every stroke.

I can experiment with how my hand enters the water…

...or where it exits.

I can feel what happens when I do different things with my fingers and hands during the catch.

I can play with where I start the catch and how high my elbows are…

…or how wide my hands go.

I have time to think about the difference between the recovery (which should be relaxed)… and the pull (which should be intense).

I can control the height and quickness of my kick – practicing a low, resisted kick at race cadence…

…so that when I race and the kick is high and out of the water, it feels easier.

I work on a 6-beat kick at practice -- kicking with my feet just barely breaking the surface…

…so that I can maintain a 6-beat kick throughout my races.

I put a lot of emphasis on my technique when I practice, as well as following what my coach tells me to do – whether it’s to descend or negative-split or anything else along those lines.

I practice going fast, for sure, but I spend a lot of time swimming softly so that I can think about what I’m doing.

I do this so that when I race, I can turn off my brain and go into autopilot.

If you can’t do something at a soft, slow speed, you probably won't be able to do it at race pace.

But if you spend the time to learn things at a soft pace, you shouldn’t need to think about anything when you race except getting your hand on the wall before anyone else in the pool, which is the topic of our next focus point.