Often times people come to be a few months before a race and want help with their swim. Sadly at this point in many cases its too late. Once you become a more efficient swimming in the pool you still need to learn to swim in open water. All of this takes time and depending on what level you are starting at this could take a significant amount of time. Many times I have people who can't swim ask me how many lessons it will take before they can swim. I cringe when I hear that question because there is no right answer and everyone learns at different rates. It also depends on how much practice they want to do on their own. The more you can get in the water the faster you will learn and the more comfortable you will become in the water. Even at an elite level this holds true. I recently added one more day of swimming each week to my schedule and I had my best performance in an Ironman swim. I went from swimming 3 days a week to 4 days a week adding about 4000 meters each week to my program. Now a beginner does not need to add 4000 a week but even if you can get in the water 30-40 minutes 4-5 days a week that will help you become more comfortable in the water. Here are some more tips to become more efficient at the swim:
- Do it more- if you swim 1-2 days a week increase this to 3-4 days a week.
- Get a coach to help you learn technique. You don't have to meet with a coach for every session but meet with them 1-2 times a week to work on your form.
- Use tools - if you are having trouble getting it down then use tools such as buoy and fins. These will help you focus on your form. When you use a pull buoy you can take the kick out of the equation and focus on your stroke plus it lifts your body to put you in a better position. Fins force you to kick with better form. Some companies like Xterra have Lava pants that will make you more buoyant like swimming in a wetsuit does. These pants are great for beginners and help you learn the technique without getting frustrated.
- Get out to the open water but do it with a friend. Swimming in open water is so different than swimming with the pool. The only way to get comfortable in the open water is to do it more. Make sure you are safe out in the open water and always go with other people. You can have someone paddle a knack next to you while you swim. They also have safety devices that will attach to you while you swim and if you need it will help you in an emergency. Even when swimming with one of the safety devices I would still make sure you have other with you.
- Get filmed - seeing yourself swim underwater and above the water on camera will help you understand what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong.
- Do drills and understand what they are working on - don't just do drills to do them. Research or ask your coach why you are doing the drill. Each drill usually is over emphasizing some aspect of the stroke. Drills are not how you will be swimming but they are helping a certain aspect of the stroke. So understanding each drill will help you understand your stroke.
- Learn different strokes- learning each stroke will help your freestyle swim. Don't just swim freestyle incorporate some or all of the other strokes into your workout. Your workout should mostly be freestyle but adding other strokes is important to your freestyle stroke. Incorporating other strokes into your swim not only helps your freestyle form but it helps balance the muscles in your body taking you out of the freestyle position for your entire swim.
- Try a masters group- swimming with others in a large group forces you to get better. Swimming with others keeps you moving and most times moving faster and makes it more social and less boring.
Too bad adult humans don't learn to swim as quickly as dogs. My dogs picked up swimming on the first time. Babies and kids learn quickly and usually if you learn to swim as a child it will carry with you through your life. Learning as an adult is not impossible but much more challenging.
Train Hard. Have Fun. Recover Well.