Training & Racing Tips
1. Train like you race and race like you train. In other words, you have to train fast in order to race fast. Saving yourself for the last lap, taking it easy on some sets, skipping laps, breathing in and out of walls, not fully streamlining, sloppy turns, and poor technique only serve to slow you down. Swimming slowly for longer distances incorrectly, only prepares you to swim slowly for longer distances incorrectly. However, every race during the summer season is between 25 – 100 meters (all sprints), and you should train for them by giving 100% on all intervals, in all speed sets, in every practice!
2. You only get faster by swimming faster. “Ninety percent of your best is not fast. Ninety five percent of your best is not fast. Only 100% of your best is fast... You get faster by training faster than you’ve ever trained before.”
3. Stay relaxed and stretched. Acquiring speed doesn’t mean tensing up your muscles and gritting your teeth, it means staying relaxed and using proper technique at a faster pace. Be sure to stretch everyday at home, and before every practice and every race. Flexible swimmers have a greater range of motion and more efficient stroke technique. Be sure to warm-up prior to every practice and every race. A long, easy warm-up will not tire you out; it will prepare your muscles for peak performance. Cool down after each practice and each race by doing a sloppy, easy swim. This is not extra yardage; this is preparing your muscles to recover quickly.
4. “Think fast to go fast.” Play the race in your mind starting about 15 minutes before the actual event. Don’t think about it the night before, you’ll only tire yourself out (I’m not joking, you will). Olympic athletes start to build their adrenaline around 15 minutes prior to race time.
5. The fastest parts of your race are the start and turns. The fastest swimmers in the world aren’t really the fastest; they are the ones who slow down the least. At the start of each race everyone is tied; in fact, you may even be ahead of some Olympic athletes if you have a fast enough start (if only by a ¼ inch). From each passing moment after that, the resistance of the water is slowing everyone down; however, the winner of the race is the one who slowed down the least. Therefore, it is critical to gain the most off your start and turns by having a highly efficient, low drag streamline.
6. The race ends at the wall, not at the flags. Drive to the wall at the finish; don’t ease up until you’ve touched the wall. On your last stroke, outstretch your arm, continue to kick vigorously, and make sure your hands hit the wall straight on (just barely under the surface of the water at the level of your shoulder). NEVER dip your arm or hand. NEVER hit the wall above the surface of the water. If you misjudged your last stroke, and you feel you need another half stroke, DON’T do it. It is faster to kick to the wall with an outstretched arm, than it is to take another stroke. Ideally, you should time your last stroke from the flags, in order to ensure you reach the wall perfectly.
7. Maintain technique on stroke, start and turns, while maintaining your speed. A good start, good technique, good turn, and good finish, will beat muscle and wildly spent energy every time. In order to focus your energy into proper technique, think of it as a controlled panic. You are leaning, or pressing forward towards the wall, stretching out front, thrusting past hips and thighs, fast little kicks, rhythmic motion; you are full of energy, but you are controlled, fluid, flexible, and balanced.
8. Controlled breathing in and out of turns. Flip with both hands back at your hips, do not breath into the wall while flipping (last breath should be 1-2 strokes prior, but don't hold it unnecessarily, time it). Maintain your streamline off the wall, elbows behind your ears, legs and arms are a needle through the water.
9. Confidence. Walk up to the blocks, continue to stretch, jump up and down, shake your legs, rotate your shoulders, go through a pre-race routine that includes readying your goggles and cap, splash some water on you if you want, step up on the blocks, focus only on the race, block everything else out, and listen for the start signal. Having some type of pre-race routine that includes some, if not all, of the above steps will prepare you physically and mentally for your race, and sends a signal to the swimmers around you that you are a serious swimmer who intends on winning. As much as this is a psychological boost to you, it is a downer to others. They are now looking at you as someone who is probably going to win, and from that point on, you have the advantage. NEVER, NEVER stand there looking scared, shivering, with your arms folded. This sends the signal that you’re easy to beat, and your opponents will try like crazy to do it. Even when you’re cold, stretching and jumping, and rotating your arms will keep you warmer and better prepared to race.
10. Always shake hands at the end of the race.
11. Stay in the pool until the last swimmer in the race finishes.
12. Never throw your goggles, or say anything to the official (except “thank you”), no matter how mad you are. If you think a mistake has been made, or if you have a real grievance you MUST inform one of the coaches and let them handle it. No matter what, we are always the classiest team in the league. We always show good sportsmanship, give good cheers, and stay together.