Jekyle and Hyde of Your Swim

Tell me if this sounds familiar: you’ve been focused on your swimming and really working hard in the pool. After a month or so you start to see your times begin to drop. You went from a 1:50 per 100 to below 1:40 consistently and even a few sub 1:30’s  from time to time. Then comes race day and your swim split hasn’t moved an inch. What the? All that training, clear improvement in speed, yet the performance is the same.  Before you throw out all your training gear, maybe you need to refocus on race day.

For a number of reasons people approach their workout swims and their race swims much differently. In workouts you are focused on your form and working hard to make your intervals in the pool. Heart rate is up and the times are down. In the race, you are distracted by all the people around you, the buoys, the water clarity, and most importantly, the rest of the race. So you fall into this trance, a sort of no man’s land in terms of awareness. You’ve stopped thinking about your form, you’re not really pushing that hard through the water but your heart rate is up because of the anxiety and you’re worried you’re going to push too hard in the water and ruin the bike and the run.

Stop it. Snap out of it and get your focus back. You suck in the open water not because you swim crooked, but because you are just going through the motions out there. You don’t think that’s what you’re doing, but you are. Even the good swimmers slip sometimes. First thing that you need to understand is that you can’t swim too hard to ruin your bike and run. Yes you can wear your arms out, but the great thing is that they’re done for the day when you get out of the water. And while you might burn a few extra calories or feel a little out of breath, it’s short lived. Once you have that mindset, then the rest is easy. The second thing you need to be concerned with is your stroke. You need to swim like you swim in the pool. Focus on each pull, each breath, each kick. The tendency is to focus on the people around you, the sun in your face, and the buoys you swim to. That doesn’t even count the resting that takes place out there. For newer swimmers, that’s a lot to get your head around, so you tell your arms to move in circles and then spend the rest of the time thinking about less important stuff.  So now that you’ve committed to swimming hard, commit to swimming right. That means proper breathing, good hand entry, strong and correct pull, good turnover, an effective kick.

Is it all that simple? Nope. You’re bound to get tangled up with someone else or swim off course, but don’t let it become a permanent distraction. Make the adjustment, then refocus. It works I promise. When it does the response I get is like another A-Ha swim moment. The light goes on and people “get it”.

Swimming is tricky enough to learn as it is. Don’t make it harder by tuning out on race day. Happy swimming.



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