Many athletes often expect to improve more quickly than is really feasible, especially when they are strong runners and cyclists. This inevitably leads to frustration, particularly when you cannot swim the number of lengths you would like to or develop the kind of swim speed you were hoping for. This is extremely common with newcomers to any sport and can often lead to people giving up trying altogether.
All this is connected with our emotions, but it also about setting realistic goals in relation to our own ability and motor skills.
Why can’t I swim that well?
This is the question lots of us ask ourselves just after starting to swim. We inevitably compare ourselves to better swimmers, which can often be extremely frustrating. This can also depend on the methods our swim instructor employs to teach us the proper technique.
Good instructors realise that beginners have not had time to learn the right motor skills to swim properly, whatever stroke they are focusing on. In this respect, we know that verbal instructions need to be backed up by visual aids: observing and attempting to implicitly memorise is the most effective strategy for achieving the aspired standard of swim technique. The idea is to make all the movements constituting our swim stroke automatic. Learning to make these movements automatic takes time and lots of practice, as well as expert help.
One major reason for not swimming as well is not putting yourself and your body in the correct position. Because swimming is counter-intuitive, this means doing things that the survival part of your brain isn’t necessarily comfortable with doing, and this can take some time and mental resilience.
Why can’t I swim as many lengths as I would like to?
Quantity is something even less experienced swimmers use to assess their swim skills. Nevertheless, it is also a yardstick that can easily lead to frustration. To avoid this, it is extremely important to set realistic goals for your own ability, as well as being willing to train hard.
How far you swim is not the only measure of how well you are doing. Quality and quantity are both equally important in testing your swimming ability. If you can do the same distance in a session but feel better, not as tired, and swim smoother or quicker, then that is just as much – if not more of an improvement than swimming further.
Some of your distance issues may be related to pacing. The further you want to swim, the easier your effort will have to be, this is a learned skill that takes time and practise, just as in running and cycling.
Learning to swim takes time. Improving your swimming and technique takes longer. It’s not just a case of turning up and putting in the physical effort – it’s a concentration effort more importantly. Take your time and enjoy the process!