Preparing For Your First Swimming Event

Although I’ve been swimming my entire life, it was not until just recently that I decided I want to compete in a swimming event. Once my mindset had shifted towards that competitive direction, I realized that I had a lot of work to do before I would be able to hold my own. So, I set out to train myself and here are some helpful tips from that I found:

Back To The Basics

Form matters and it will dictate your speed as well as your endurance. Swimming with poor form can only take you so far, so if you are looking to increase either your speed or endurance you should first take a look at your form. Here are some basic tips for the perfect freestyle stroke:

Michael Phelps 400m IM (photo courtesy of Karen Blaha under CC2.0 licence).
  1. Your body should be parallel to the bottom of the pool with your hairline breaking the surface of the water and your head positioned forward at about 45 degrees.
  2. Instead of beginning your underwater pull as soon as your hand enters the water, try concentrating on having your hand enter about 12 inches from your head and then continue to reach forward from your shoulder until your arm is completely extended before you begin the pull.
  3. Rotating your body helps facilitate a further reach and should be done on each stroke. So as your left arm reaches full extension and your right arm is just about to exit the water, your body should rotated to the left so that your left hip, shoulder, and arm are all facing the bottom of the pool. Then with the right arm you should rotate again so that the right side of the body is facing the bottom of the pool and so on.
  4. Don’t cut your stroke short! It is common as you get tired to pull your arm out of the water early, like when your hand reaches your waist. But to make the most of your stroke (and perform less strokes overall), you should make sure that your hand strokes your upper thigh before it exits the water.
  5. Lastly, your kick should come from your hip rather than your knee with your toes pointed. For longer distance races you can adopt the crossover kick where with each kick you cross your ankles; this is meant more to keep you afloat and maintain rhythm rather than to propel you forward.

Here’s a quick video from Simply Swim which demonstrates these techniques:

Building Block Approach

If you are taking up swimming for a specific race, it’s easy to focus on the speed and drill aspects of it. However, you cannot finish a race that is longer than you are able to endure, let alone be competitive. When you go about training you should adopt a building block approach. For the first 6-8 weeks you should focus on aerobic endurance training – meaning put in the time and the distance without focusing on the speed. Then you can move on to speed work with intervals while maintaining your aerobic base; and lastly you can focus on sprints and specific drills.

Strength For Speed

Swimming requires your entire body which is why you should be performing a full body strength training routine to increase your speed and power.


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