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How to improve swimming times when stuck in a rut?

improve swimming times


Hello Gary,

I came across your website when searching for an answer to our big dilema related to our daughter’s swimming. Hopefully you can send me few lines response including ways how she can improve swimming times.

We are from New Zealand and our daughter is 16, taller than 180cm and has a good physique for swimming.  She loves swimming and attends practice around 6 times per week. Technically she is a very good swimmer but there has been no or minimal speed improvements within the last 3 years. She is not what you would call highly competitive and does not have that desire to win.

Her swimming takes so much time and is a huge commitment for her and for us as parents. Sometimes we wonder what is the point. We have discussed many options however she is very keen to keep competitive swimming and does not want to just do social swimming and play other sports.

Her training seems to be focused primarily on endurance (lots of swimming) and most kids are just progressing naturally through the system.  So early developers and kids who are naturally fast including those who have an inbuilt desire, energy and speed, progress while our daughter continues to swim comfortably at one pace.

The challenge for us is how to change the apparent ‘status quo’.  Is it worth talking to coaches, talking to our daughter, or encouraging a results focus with the setting of appropriate goals as she has no goals at present. Is it worth it for her to keep on swimming?

Thank you so much in advance for your help.

Mr M

ANSWER – How to Improve Swimming Times:

Hi Mr M,

I can see your dilemma and hear the frustration that you have.

From my viewpoint and experience, yes it is worth supporting your daughter to do something that she really enjoys. Your daughter is quite tall for her age and it sounds like her body has grown however her strength may not match her body size yet. This should come over time and her height could end up being a real asset.

In relation to swimming the one speed all the time and no improvement, my suggestion is for your daughter to watch the video at Swim Freestyle Fast. The last couple of points are quite pertinent to her improving.  While I am talking about freestyle, the key points relate to all strokes.

As a swimmer, you move in the direction of the back of your hand when your hand is pulling through.  The back of your hand must face the direction that you want to swim for a majority of the underwater pull in all strokes.  In freestyle, maintain a high elbow and ensure the palm of your hand is constantly finding new water by changing the pitch of the hand as you pull through (scull).

Of even more importance is once you get a good hold of the water with your hand/s and forearm, accelerate your hand backwards so that your body surges forward through the water more quickly.  The sculling action that you use means that a high level of water pressure should always be on your palm and fingers and your body moves forward through the water.

If a swimmers hand moves through the water at the same speed that the body is moving forward through the water, the speed of the body moving through the water will stay the same.  If however you accelerate your hand (apply more pressure on the water) through the second half of each underwater pull through, the body will move faster through the water than it was before. The hand and arms will also get more tired because they are working harder.  The result will be faster swimming.

In regards to your other questions, yes it would be worth talking to the coach so that you have a joint plan on what she needs to focus on to improve. A good coach would be happy to sit down with your daughter and yourself to discuss what improvements need to be made and to assist her to set realsistic goals around swimming.  While some of these goals will be time orientated, I would see a number of them as process orientated goals that will give her focus on making major improvements in training first.  It may be worth focusing on different events or trying some different speed sets in training to see if some changes can be made.

If you chose to talk to your daughter I would do it in a way of “how can we help you to make the improvements you want to make with your swimming?”  You can make suggestions and work on a joint plan of attack where she knows you are fully supportive of her.

If anyone else has a suggestion, please include it in the comments below.

Just to finish off, the tips found in 50 Swim Tips will also help your daughter with her swimming and focus on many of the key points.

Hope this helps.


The Swimming Expert

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