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How to Become a More Efficient Swimmer

By Sierra Huber | April 11, 2017, 5:25 p.m. (ET)

swim in pool 

When it comes to your athletic endeavors, the first thing you or your coach may ask is, “How much time do you have to put into your training week?” The odd thing is, most of the answers I get are insanely high and optimistic for many age-group athletes. We’re all balancing many commitments outside of triathlon, and chances are you’re looking to be as efficient and successful as possible in each discipline of your training. To fit with your busy schedule, follow these tips to develop a successful swim with only two to three swims a week.

Tips for the Swim Newbie
If you’re new to swimming and not seeing improvements, start by finding a one-on-one coach who preaches technique work. It may only take one lesson to equip yourself with enough tools to get where you need to go, and with at least four sessions of private swim instruction, you’ll see quick improvements. You can also find group clinics and masters swim sessions. If you’re looking to research and learn on your own, there is an abundance of great books, articles and videos on proper swim technique from top coaches all over the world. 

Best Ways to Focus on Technique
So how do you fit it all in and still see progress in the pool? Each swim session should include technique work. Even if it is a small part of your warm-up and cooldown, reinforcing efficient swimming technique on a regular basis will go far. During your main set, try picking a specific part of the stroke to focus on. For example, I’ll focus on making sure my high elbow catch is there, on hip and core rotation or simply making sure my kick is strong and continuous. Building this technique work into your swim sessions will eventually turn into something that comes more naturally to you and make your stroke more efficient. 

What to Do with a Limited Time Budget
With a busy schedule, it’s better to spend your time working on a specific weakness than trying to fit in a 5k swim (on top of your bike/run and strength workouts). Why? Simply putting in longer swim sessions may make you faster over time, but you’re neglecting key technique issues that will offer you quicker gains on race day. And part of efficient swimming is being efficient with your precious time. If you can pinpoint where your trouble spots are and work on those at each swim session, your results will come back two-fold. 

There’s an App for That  
There is so much technology at the tips of our fingers that you could improve your swim just by watching yourself swim. All smartphones these days have great cameras and videos built in, not to mention the incredible mobile apps that are available. Ask a friend or an available lifeguard if they can take a video of you swimming. Have them walk along the pool and follow you from the side, taking video of you swimming toward and away from the wall. Even better, you do not need to spend hundreds of dollars on underwater cameras anymore. There are underwater phone cases that you can use to take your camera under the water and get some great footage … and the best of selfies! All you need is a helping hand to do the recording for you, and you’ll have underwater video footage for you and a coach to analyze together. 

As busy athletes, we all know that time is precious. By doing less yardage and more specific technique work, I hope you find how easy it is to be successful, see improvements and still fit the rest of life in all around it.

Sierra Huber has been coaching and in the educational field for over 10 years. She is a USA Triathlon Level 1 Certified Coach, Concurrent Hybrid Performance Coach and ASCA Level 1 coach, and continues to train extensively as both a coach and an athlete. She is a coach for UCANDOIT Coaching groups and Complete Human Performance. Huber works with age group to elite triathletes, in addition to beginner athletes and military personnel looking to pass rigorous tests from all over the country. Her personal experience and proficiency as a dedicated swimmer has allowed her to help other athletes conquer one of the most dreaded parts of military and triathlon training. When working with athletes, Huber excels at analyzing their form for running, swimming, implementing a strength program and knowing how to pull out the best in them.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.