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At RTA Triathlon, private swim instruction is by far the most popular among triathletes interested in 1 on 1 coaching sessions.
Over the years we have helped 100’s of triathletes become better swimmers. We have worked with complete beginners up through USAT All Americans. Everyone has room to improve, … if they want to.
Below we’ll offer a few commonalities we have seen over the years among athletes looking to become better swimmers… and how to accomplish this in the least amount of time possible.
In our experience, each athlete requires an individualized approach. At the end of each swim session our athletes leave with notes recapping what we worked on. Additionally, we prescribe specific exercises to address their deficiencies which helps improve their swimming ASAP!
Although every athlete’s needs and timeline is unique, one thing is the same for everyone… when trying to become a better swimmer it’s a process and it takes time.
Below are a few common elements among triathletes who we have worked with and have improved their swimming the fastest.
Practice makes perfect! In order to train your body to move efficiently through the water you must practice… often. Swimming 2 days a week isn’t going to cut it. If you’re goal is to become a better swimmer, you need to get in the water at a minimum 3 days a week. If you want to accelerate the process I would recommend 4-5 days per week.
At first, it’s not about how LONG you swim each time, but it’s the frequency that you swim. You’ll accomplish more by swimming 4 days a week for 30 minutes a clip then swimming 2 days for an hour each time.
Drills are only good if they have a purpose… for YOU! If you are practicing random drills you read about in a magazine or because your friends do them, you are likely wasting your time. Everyone has different needs and everything you do should have a purpose.
Be intentional and understand what you’re are trying to accomplish.
Regardless of your current ability, swimming in small chunks is ideal. Whether you’re looking to improve specific aspects of your stroke or simply trying to become fitter and faster in the water.
By swimming repeats of 25’s, 50’s and 100’s you will be fresh and focused. It’s much more manageable and improvement will come quicker.
It’s also VERY important to give yourself adequate rest and allow your heart rate to come down between each. This is especially true for beginners and for anyone working on their form. If you practice tired and out of breath, it will be sloppy. How much rest depends on the individual.
When you’re perfecting a specific aspect of your swim, your form will start to break down the longer you go. As it breaks down you begin to reinforce the bad habits you’re trying to correct. Once you notice that you’re getting sloppy, it’s likely a good time to end that session.
Similarly, when you’re looking to become fitter and faster, … it’s much easier to hold your speed and form over shorter distances. Combined with short rest in between you’re body won’t know the difference between 10 x 50 or 500 straight. HOWEVER, it’s very likely you’re average pace over straight 500 will be slower and your form will begin to falter toward the end. Make sense?
Instant feedback from the pool deck goes a long way. When you’re working on something new, you it’s important to know what you’re doing is correct… and that you’re not messing it up. Otherwise, you may be wasting your time.
Often athletes may think they’re doing one thing, but in reality they aren’t even close.
This could be anything. Movement is exaggerated and can feel different in the water.
For example, you may feel like your arms are shoulder width apart, but in reality they may be still crossing or just too close to that center line. Similarly, you may think your legs stay directly in line with your body, but really they flare out to the side each time you go to breath. There are a handful of flaws we see regularly.
When we provide 1 on 1 swim instruction, in many cases we find it helpful to video the athlete so they can see for themselves what they look like. If necessary we can play back the video in slow motion or take sill photos.
The point is, whether it’s a coach or a friend, instant feedback really helps accelerate the process.
Swimming can be like learning a foreign language. It takes time and practice. Commit, be patient, trust the process and you’ll be swimming faster in no time!