Improving Your Performance
- Keep a tight, straight position.The initial racing step of streamlining is an important factor in reducing drag. However, when the muscles get tired, swimmers usually try to skimp on keeping that tight, straight position. Make streamlining a mandatory part of your regular training routine. This way, it will become second nature whether you are training or competing. Regular practice will also allow you to improve your technique for a better shot at first place.
- Remember to kick.Whether you’re breaking out or swimming underwater, kicks help to reduce drag. When breaking out, kick forcefully from the wall. This will help you to maintain the speed you gained from the initial push. When you’re underwater, do dolphin kicks by extending your legs straight back, holding your feet together, and moving your legs straight up and down. The longer you can hold the kick, the more velocity you can gain.
- Hold your head down and your arms at your sides.Your head and arms can reduce the drag on the rest of your body if you know how to position them. When compared to the horizontal alignment of your body, your head should be in a downward position. Keep your arms alongside your body, as opposed to above your head. You can reduce drag significantly by practicing these techniques.
- Spread your fingers.Studies show that spreading your fingers just ten degrees can improve your speed by over two percent.To see what a ten-degree spread looks like, hold your right hand up with your palm facing you. Do not stretch your fingers out or squeeze them together. Make sure your pinky is pointing slightly to the left.
- Practice bilateral breathing.Professional swimmers argue that bilateral breathing is a key factor in endurance. Breathe on every third stroke, as opposed to the more common breath on every second or fourth. Rather than breathing from the same side of your nose each time, alternate which side you breathe on each time.
- Lengthen and vary your strokes.How you move your arms can also affect your endurance. For the complete stroke, reach your arm as far in front of you as you comfortably can. Reach as far behind you as possible in the push phase. Alternating between forward and backward strokes will give certain muscle groups to rest while others work.
- Practice some race-ending hacks.You will be tired by the end of the race, but that doesn’t mean you have to fall behind. Focus on muscles you haven't used to the point of exhaustion. Experts suggest kicking more vigorously and working your back and shoulders more. Working the less fatigued muscles will shift your focus away from the muscles that are tired.
Adopting a Healthy Lifestyle
- Eat healthy.Swimming can burn thousands of calories in a single practice. Ask your doctor to estimate your caloric burn by your age, weight, and height. After that, you need to replace those spent calories through the proper diet. Important nutrients swimmers need include zinc, protein, calcium, and healthy (monounsaturated) fats.Whether you are an omnivore, vegetarian, or vegan, you can get the recommended daily amount. Most of your diet should consist of fresh, whole foods to avoid having to take too many supplements.
- Nuts (including peanut butter) and beans are excellent sources of healthy fats, zinc, and protein. Dark leafy greens are packed with calcium.
- If you have to eat on the go, pack some granola bars, peanut butter, trail mix, or packable fruit (bananas, citrus, apples, etc.) to stay fueled.
- The day before the competition, stick to small but frequent meals, about every two to four hours.
- Avoid junk foods—anything deep fried, greasy, loaded with sugar, or containing ingredients you can’t pronounce.
- Stay hydrated.Believe it or not, you do sweat while swimming. If you don't hydrate before you swim or replace the moisture you lose, you could get dehydrated and experience physical or mental weakness. Regular sips before and after each practice, as well as between intervals, will keep you hydrated. Don't wait until you feel thirsty.
- Get enough sleep.Sleep is just as important as physical training for all athletes. Swimmers can improve their sprinting time, reaction time, strokes, and kicks by extending their sleep periods an extra hour or two per night for up to seven weeks before the competition.Go to sleep and wake up at the same times every day—even on weekends and holidays.
- If you feel tired during the day, take a nap, but keep it short. Set your alarm to go off 20 to 30 minutes after your head hits the pillow. Use caution, though. Naps should not replace the eight- to ten hours of sleep you need every night.
- Talk to your coach.This is especially crucial before you’ve finalized your training plan. Your coach can give you advice about which strokes and events you would do well in. If you are swimming in the meet to get a qualifying time for one of the larger meets, ask your coach what the qualifying times are.
- Set goals.Figure out one long-term goal first. Then, set weekly or monthly short-term goals that will make your long-term goal easier to achieve. For example, if your long-term goal is to improve your time by the end of the season, you need to set monthly and weekly goals that will improve your speed and endurance.
- Warm up.No matter how pressed you are for time, you should never skip the warm-up. Begin by stretching, working each part of your body in the order your coach recommends. If your muscles are cold, take a short brisk walk or go for a brief swim before you stretch. Continue by power walking, jogging, or swinging your arms to raise your temperature and get your blood flowing.
- Work on your flexibility.Whether you’re streamlining or kicking, flexibility can work wonders in improving your speed.Stretching, which conditions your joints to absorb force, is still popular. However, coaches are increasingly recommending mobility drills, which train your joints for improved range of motion.
- Mobility exercises with a tennis ball can make your shoulders more flexible.
- Lie on your back, and place a tennis ball between your spine and rear shoulder bone.
- Place your arm on the floor with your palm facing upward.
- Slowly move your arm across your body to touch the opposite hip.
- Move your arm diagonally so that your hand is overhead.
- Move the tennis ball to the other side of your spine, and repeat with the other arm.
- Training with a monofin can improve flexibility in your ankles. Start out with four to six 25-meter lengths each week. Increase your sets, distance, and time using the monofin as your ankles strengthen. Regular training allows you to track your improvement easily.
- Mobility exercises with a tennis ball can make your shoulders more flexible.
- Exercise on dry land.In addition to training in the water, you need to have a regular exercise routine. Aerobic exercises like running will help improve your endurance.Resistance training and calisthenics will keep your core (abdominal and back) muscles strong enough to support the motions of your arms and legs.
- Practice with a teammate.Training with a buddy allows you to hold each other accountable for making it to practice, arriving on time, and not leaving early. Choose a teammate who you enjoy spending time with and who enjoys spending time with you. Come to a mutual agreement what days and times you plan to train in the water and on dry land. On the rare occasion when your buddy can’t make it, have a back-up plan ready to keep you motivated.
- Slow down to cool down.As your training session ends, slow down your pace. Then, transition to easy strokes and kicks. Swim 200 to 800 meters to prevent lactic acid buildup in the muscles.
- End with stretches.Stretchingreduces muscle soreness and the risk of injury.Focus on the muscles that get most use during your training. These include:
- Deltoid stretch:Extend your left arm across your chest. Bring the back of your right hand to your left tricep and push back until you feel your left shoulder stretching. Repeat with the right arm.
- Trapezius stretch:Extend your arms straight ahead of you. Turn your palms outward and interlace your fingers.
- Pectoral stretch:Place your hands on the back of your hips, palms down. Try to squeeze your elbows together until you feel your chest muscles stretching.
- Hold each stretch for 30 to 40 seconds.
- Never underestimate your opponents. A smaller or seemingly weaker opponent does not guarantee that you will win. Treat all swimmers equally.