When you’re really hungry and you don’t have a lot of money, you go for the value meal. Whether it’s a sandwich, a side salad and a drink or whatever, the value meal usually gives you the most calories for the least amount of money.
A similar phenomenon happens during swim training as well: You are hungry for improvement in your swimming yet have a limited budget of time and knowledge to spend on it. Athletes training solo can glance over at the faster swimmers and try to mimic their smooth strokes or, as a last resort, one can utilize swim tips from a world-class swimmer in a triathlon magazine.
The challenge for the uncoached swimmer is that there are so many nuances of the freestyle swim stroke to copy and so many tips for technique improvement to choose from that finding the most integral aspects can seem daunting. Which facets should you work on first? Which tips will result in the most improvement?
Here are what I consider to be the most seven important aspects of freestyle to focus on. My “value meal” of swim tips applies to everyone: fast and slow, beginner and advanced, pure swimmer and triathlete.
1) Don’t hold your breath. The feeling of being out of breath is caused by carbon-dioxide buildup in the lungs. A steady and constant exhalation out your nose and mouth while your face is in the water will prevent this unpleasant phenomenon. Inhaling on every third stroke is a good breathing pattern to use because you will breathe on both sides of your body and get plenty of oxygen.
2) Relax, relax, relax! This advice seems so simple … until you start swimming! The best swimmers in the world look like they are gliding along the surface of the water. You cannot fight the water; it will always win. Instead, relax your whole body into the water and channel your power exclusively toward moving your body forward. Practice the simple art of floating facedown on the surface.
3) Align your spine. On dry land, stand up tall and look straight ahead. Notice how your neck is in alignment with your spine and your face is pointed forward. Take that position into the water. The waterline should cut the center of the top of your head and your face should be pointed at the bottom of the pool.
4) Remember to glide. The swim stroke differs from a cycling pedal stroke or a running stride because it is disconnected instead of continuous—or should be. In running there is no separation between each stride and the next, and in cycling the rotation of the cranks is continuous. In swimming, each stroke should be separated from the next with a brief glide. When your arm enters the water above your head, let it stay fully extended for a few moments before you start the catch phase. Don’t be a windmill.
5) Rotate. Body rotation is an art form. Those who get it perfectly are beautiful as their bodies cut through the water like a knife. The secret is they rotate in one motion. Remember, your head does not rotate with your torso and hips.
6) Never cross the forbidden centerline. Under no circumstances should either arm ever cross the centerline of your body. At the entry point of the stroke, drop your arm in the water directly in front your shoulder.
7) Kick from your hips. Relax your knees. Point your toes. Think about slapping the tops of your feet on the surface of the water; they should be making a small splash. If you feel tired in your hip-flexor muscles, you’re doing it right!
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to get in touch; either by email, facebook or leave a comment on here! Remember, you can always get your swimming reviewed in the endless pool with our video swim analysis packages.
If done correctly! As most experienced runners will tell you, the best way to learn how to run faster times is to get used to running fast. A one-paced strategy just won’t nibble away at that PB, whatever distance you like to run; so the best thing to do is practice. This means speed interval training and the track is the best place to execute these specific speed-enhancing sessions. For new runners, getting immediate and consistent feedback is critical to improving your ability to execute a specific skill. On the track, you can easily and accurately measure your pace every 100, 200, 300 or 400 meters. Once you start to develop a sense for the effort needed to run a certain pace, there is nothing to distract you.
Overall benefits of speed training
A lot of runners like to incorporate track sessions into their programme to focus on speed. Although it might not be everyone’s favourite session in terms of location and content, it is the perfect environment in which to focus on structured high intensity intervals to really hone your speed, fitness and running economy. The science behind the benefits of speed sessions include improved aerobic fitness and an enhanced ability to distribute oxygen-rich blood around the body to key muscle groups. Getting used to the bio-mechanical demands of running at speed will allow your body to adapt and improve your running economy and stride power, particularly over shorter distances. Plus the fact it will make those slower longer distance runs seem easy by comparison and over time, as you hone your sprinting skills, that natural speed will start to show up in your longer runs.
There are several ways you can work on speed at the track. You can either choose short, middle or long distance intervals, depending on your target race and current ability. The length and duration of those intervals depend entirely on your fitness, running level and requirements. And please don’t forget to warm up properly, especially before sprint sessions, or your hamstrings might not thank you for it.
Short speed intervals and why they work
Typically short intervals involve sprints of 100m, 200m or 400m with a suitable recovery in between. The idea is to boost your power and economy over a burst of short distance sprinting, which will ultimately help you maintain your marathon or longer distance race pace for longer. Over time you can extend the intervals and increase the number of repetitions, which will certainly improve your 5k speed. The key to success here is to make sure that you leave sufficient recovery time between intervals because each interval has to be run at the same flat out speed and intensity. If you don’t leave enough time to recover your speed will decrease and your ability to build power will be diminished. How you choose to recover between each sprint is up to you. You can either walk or jog as you prepare for your next sprint.
Beginner Short Interval Workouts
6 x 100 meters
6 x 200 meters
6 x 300 meters
6 x 400 meters
Middle distance speed intervals
Middle distance sessions are generally anything from 400m to around 1200m and these intervals should be run at something close to your 5k race pace. These sessions are all about improving your lactic acid recycling capability and your ability to resist the effects of fatigue. Muscles that are tired just don’t perform as efficiently, so the longer you can maintain a certain pace without getting tired, the greater the likelihood of achieving a PB. As a general rule after each of these intervals, give yourself a recovery period of around 3 minutes to allow the body to recover sufficiently and then repeat the interval with the same intensity as the first. But again, the duration of your intervals and recovery periods will be dictated by your level and ability.
Beginner Middle-Distance Interval Workouts
5 x 600 meters
4 x 800 meters
3 x 1000 meters
2 x 1200 meters
Long distance intervals
Long distance sessions tend to be anything from 1600m upwards and they should be run at something approaching your 10k race pace. This is primarily an exercise in lactate threshold running, which means running at such a challenging pace that lactic acid starts to accumulate in the blood. It’s not like an eye-bulging sprint, but a sustained pace that makes conversation difficult and feels hard. If you can maintain that pace over a sustained period, the body’s ability to recycle lactic acid increases. Over time this will enable you to be able to run further, faster and for longer. Just as with all of the other intervals though, it’s important to incorporate a suitable recovery period before going again.
Beginner Middle-Distance Interval Workouts
4 x 1600 meters
3 x 2000 meters
3 x 2400 meters
As always, I encourage your comments, experiences, and questions about cadence and technique in the comments section. See what’s up next week for our #RunFormFriday tip! For more in depth understanding on how to put this into practise, get in touch and we’ll see how we can help!
Making swimming round buoys a smooth and efficient practice is an easy way to gain valuable seconds on your competition — alternatively, it’s an easy way to slow down your swim if done sloppily. Here are three turning methods used by the pros that are simple and can be utilised in your next race. Note that the term “inside arm” will apply to the arm closest to the buoy.
The benefit is keeping an arm extended in front of your face to block the erratic kicking of other swimmers.
Step One: When you reach the buoy, lock your inside arm straight out in front of your head.
Step Two: Continue taking quick, short strokes with the opposite arm.
Step Three: Arc your body around the buoy, keeping your fingers pointing toward your destination.
Step Four: Maintain a strong kick to keep your body at the surface.
Step Five: Return to normal swimming when you have completely rounded the buoy.
Tuck Up Turn
The benefit is that swimming round buoys can be tighter and sharper, allowing you to kick away quickly. It also allows you to practice in pool
Step One: When you approach the buoy, lock your outside arm in front, so that your body is rotated, your chest facing the buoy.
Step Two: Tuck your knees up tight toward your chest, knees as close to the surface as possible.
Step Three: Push legs out in the opposite direction to where you want to go and kick hard.
Step Four: Return to normal swimming and accelerate away from the buoy.
Advanced Turn: The Corkscrew
A single corkscrew rotation will adjust your heading 90 degrees. Add a second rotation if there is a sharper turn on the course.
Step One: When your head passes the buoy, take a stroke with your inside arm.
Step Two: When your inside arm enters the water, roll inside shoulder down and go onto your back.
Step Three: Take one stroke of backstroke with your new inside arm.
Step Four: Roll toward the buoy onto your stomach and take a freestyle stroke with your inside arm.
Step Five: Resume swimming normally as you head toward the next buoy.
This should help your swimming round buoys go with less effort – and hopefully faster! If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to get in touch; either by email, facebook or leave a comment on here! Remember, you can always get your swimming reviewed in the endless pool with our video swim analysis packages.