Saturday, 23 June 2012

The need for speed

Last time I talked about needing to go faster, so what is my approach to speeding up?

When I first started out on this quest the one piece of advice I consistently received was to sort my stroke out. This is generic advice to everyone making the attempt (although I did need some serious sorting out, see the early posts)as it is so important to have the most efficient stroke possible. So I had some coaching and video analysis which improved my stroke and efficiency no end. At the time I had read a lot on stroke technique all of it different from each other with conflicting ideas, which just helped to confuse me. Once I had done the analysis I knew what I had to work on and didn't have to think 'is this the right way to do it'. I could focus in tweaking my stroke.

With good technique comes good consistency, which is the key to improvement in any sport.

I have made a conscious effort this season to focus on my weaknesses. How do you know your weaknesses? Simple, think of all the things you really don't like doing and they are likely to be your weaknesses. One of my biggest is kicking, I used to hate kicking, but over the past few months I have incorporated it into my daily sessions and have noticed a significant improvement in my kick. I wouldn't say I love kicking now, but I certainly hate it less!

Next is the most obvious point. If you want to swim faster, then you have to......swim faster. There have to be mixed sessions each week where you really push yourself to the point where you may not complete the planned session. BUT when you increase your stroke rate it still has to be a quality stroke. I used to literally throw my arms and legs all over the place when I sprinted. This had 3 effects, I made a big spash and, as my limbs were moving all over the place, felt like I was going faster and thirdly had very little improvement on my speed! Now when I speed up I focus on keeping the stroke and body position the same, but increase the stroke rate and the strength of my pull. This has had a significant improvement on my speed.

I try to give 100% every session and not plod along. I tell myself that I cannot afford to be complacent in training if I expect to make it across the Channel. I have to push myself harder each time if I am to build the strength, speed and stamina needed.

Having said that, it is important to know the focus of each session. I do not sprint 6 days per week. I have devised a progressive schedule which builds the intensity of the pace sessions and the distance of the long swims each week. It is important to have a mix of sessions as I have mentioned and to progress each week. Overall progression can only be seen if you push yourself. It's no good going to the pool for a couple of hours and spend an hour of that at the side of the pool 'resting' or chatting. If I have a 2 hour session I swim for at least 95% of it.

Finally you have to know that you are improving and keep yourself motivated. The best feedback is to do regular test swim sets. Here is a simple set I do, swim 10 x 100 with 10 seconds rest. Time the set as a whole, deduct the rest period, divide the remaining time by 10 to give you your average 100 pace.

To recap, my tips for going faster are:

1. Technique, eliminate weaknesses
2. Quality and consistency
3. Swim faster
4. Push yourself
5. Weekly progression
6. Variety
7. Measure

Now go and get faster.