Alice Hector is a rising star, Long distance Protriathlete and unbeaten Ultrarunner. We asked Alice for some tips on how to excel and improve our swimming. Here’s her advice. You can find out more about Alice at her website
1. Make it a Habit.
Swimming is very much based on a ‘feel’ for the water. I can lose a whopping 10 seconds per 100 metres if I have more than two days out the water in a row (luckily, order is restored after a session or two!) Swims don’t have to be long, but they do need to be regular. You’ll benefit far more from 3 small sessions a week than 1 big one.
2. Use a Coach.
Swimming is so technical, and water so dense, that the slightest adjustment in your technique can bring about big changes, for better or worse! You’ll find being horizontal in water gives you a strange sense of what you *think* you’re doing versus what you’re *actually* doing! It’s invaluable to have someone who can monitor you, especially at first when you’re trying to create good habits.
3. Back to Basics.
Good body position is vital to minimise drag through the water. All too often, swimmers just plough up and down – that being head up, legs down – and get frustrated with their lack of improvement. You’re better off adding some drills to the mix. Remember swimming as a kid? A favourite of mine for almost everyone is simple floating exercises: star floats and pencil floats. If you can hold a good horizontal position on top of the water with minimal effort, then it makes the rest of your job far easier. You’ll probably not be a natural floater (you may have to kick your legs a touch, for example), but you can get a lot better. Floating is also brilliant for helping people relax in the water – another key component of good swimming.
4. Break it up.
So many people complain swimming training is boring. I’m afraid they’re just not doing it right! Counting lengths is boring. I do all my swimming in broken up sets: things like 8*2 lengths, 4*4 lengths, 8*2 lengths with a short rest. You can build the speed throughout, aiming to beat the time of the last rep by 1 second. You’ll find effort increases, focus increases and time passes quickly!
5. Count Everything.
The number of strokes it takes you to swim a length will reduce as you improve your efficiency through the water. Make sure you keep a note of your stroke count, and reduce it as much as possible without forcing your style. Your breathing works best in a rhythm too, so aim to breathe every two or every three strokes. Keep an eye on the poolside clock or better still get a lap-counting watch like the PoolMate, and note how long it takes you to swim certain distances. This will create clear markers that can be used for goal-setting and will also provide a great indicator of progress.
7. Be Specific.
Aiming for a triathlon in open water? Then you need to get used to that environment – it requires a whole new set of skills that if mastered, will see you coming out of a 750m event up to 3 minutes faster. Getting used to the cold water, swimming in a straight line, sighting, drafting behind other people, getting comfortable in choppy water and getting in and out all require a bit of practice. Make sure you’re prepared in order to ensure a positive experience!