Hitting the pool regularly but not seeing any improvements in your speed? We’ve got some tips that might just help you swim faster.
Looking to improve your pace in the pool? While we can’t turn you into Nathan Adrian overnight, there are some tried-and-tested methods that should shave off valuable seconds from your time in the pool. We’ve asked the experts to share their top tips.
Master your training plan
According to Dan Bullock, Head Coach for Speedo On, a training plan is the first step in improving your pace. He says: “A training plan provides routine, repetition and the opportunity to watch and learn. You’ll follow instruction, record stats and track your progress, as well as making a commitment – it’s absolutely key.”
But one session a week isn’t going to cut it. “Swimming is a highly technical skill - like learning a language or an instrument – and it needs practice,” he adds. “You need to be doing two or three sessions a week to see improvements, but if you follow a plan and keep progressing - doing benchmark tests along the way - you’ll see progress.”
Dan’s best tip? “Print your training plan off in advance. Don’t just show up and plan when you’re there - it won’t be as effective and it’s easier to slack off. Publish your results too - you’ll get encouragement from other swimmers - that support network is really useful.”
Triathlete and fitness blogger Annie Brooks swears by a solid training plan. “Not only does it help you develop, but it gives you a focus,” she explains. “I have a timetable I stick to, with certain exercises and lengths to tick off on a weekly basis.
“Diversifying my training - ensuring I mix it up for each workout – means I’ve seen changes in my posture and core strength, which have resulted in improvements in my speed, too.”
Learn about marginal gains
The idea that small, incremental improvements can add up to serious changes and improvements is popular, but unless you’re a pro-athlete, is it really worth exploring?
According to Dan, definitely. “The medium we swim through is around a thousand times denser than air, so swimmers are really punished for small inaccuracies in the water,” he explains.
“Little changes can see big results - anything from stretching and yoga to improve your range of movement and reduce muscle tension (tight ankles for example, can cause drag in the water) to coming to the pool hydrated so there’s less chance of cramping.”
“I’m constantly looking at ways to improve by making the smallest changes,” adds Annie. “Anything from upgrading my swimming goggles to the time of day I train, and how much sleep I get.
“One big hurdle for me was adapting to swimming in open water. I practised in my local lake and worked on breathing techniques and sighting, and saw a marked improvement in my pace.”
Upgrade your diet
According to British Triathlon Federation Coach, and founder of Viceroys Triathlon Club, Mark Yeomans, post-session nutrition is key. “This is when you need to replenish carbohydrate stores and aid muscle recovery ahead of the next session,” he explains.
“I look to increase the protein into my diet according to how intense each session was. On lighter days I add peanut butter into smoothies with vanilla protein powder, fruit and oats for slow release energy. After a heavier session, I’ll go for a poached egg and avocado bagel.
“The ideal window is around 30 minutes post-exercise - that’s when the body absorbs nutrition most effectively. Improvements in your diet translate directly to improvements in the pool, so it’s worth the effort.”
It’s important to make sure you’re fully-fuelled for the swim itself too. Most experts agree that a high carbohydrate, low-fat diet with plenty of protein throughout the day is the best way to go.
Explore new techniques
Dan believes that any improvements to your technique - no matter how big or small - should result in significant payoffs, which is where drills come in. “Practising or adapting things like your breathing or head positioning is difficult within the full stroke, so drills are key when it comes to trying new techniques,” he says.
“Even the smallest changes can really improve your pace in the water, and you’ll soon find it requires less effort because you’re executing the moves much more efficiently.”
Ironman and full-time dentist Gareth Jones agrees. “I work hard on weekly technique drills to hone my technique in order to improve my speed,” he says. “There’s no point doing drills just for the sake of it though - keep a focus on which element of the stroke you’re working on, or you won’t benefit when you translate it back into a full stroke.”
Don’t be afraid to use pool equipment to help, either. “I use my pool’s [hand] paddles, pull buoys and [kickboards] to help me get my technique right,” says Annie. “It can shave a significant amount of time off once you master it.”
She also advocates variety in her training. “Diversifying my training means I’ve seen changes in my posture and core strength, which have resulted in improvements in my speed, too.”
Try making changes one step at a time, which will help you maintain a focused, positive attitude, and keep you from feeling overwhelmed. Head to the Speedo Blog to get creative with training plans and technique tips.Disclaimer: Always consult with a professional healthcare provider before starting any diet or exercise programme, if you are pregnant or if you are potentially suffering from a medical condition.