When competitive swimmers aren’t busy destroying their lungs with underwater dolphin kick sets or taxing their muscles to exhaustion with length after length after length of butterfly stroke, what are they up to?
No, they aren’t sitting on the couch watching cartoons and cramming Doritos into their mouths. That might be a scenario they prefer, but if a swimmer wants to keep pace with the competition then they’ll be just as dedicated outside of the water as they are beneath the surface.
Here’s 5 training factors crucial to a swimmer’s success.
The North Shore Winter Club’s own Marc Sze was an inflexible athlete growing up. He felt it hurt his performance early on, so he forced himself to constantly work on his flexibility. Flexibility allows swimmers to reach further into the water and maximize their limbs. Stretching also greatly diminishes the risk of injury.
In swimming every stroke starts from the middle of the body. Being the most flexible person on Earth won’t be much of a benefit if the movement of legs and arms doesn’t start from a powerful core. Picture a tree with huge branches but a tiny trunk - those branches won’t last very long.
Performing specific stroke movements underwater can be tricky if you lack coordination or motor skills at a level relative to your peers. Building these habits at a young age helps swimmers move their arms and legs in sync without thinking about it. This leads to maximum speed.
The ultimate element. We all want more speed in the water. Speed is the result of all the other elements, the flexibility, the core strength, the coordination - building these characteristics in tandem with speed (performing exercises such as sprints, jumps and dynamic dryland movements) will tie all your training together. In the summer in particular, short, quick bursts of speed are an asset because of the less time spent in the water relative to the winter swim season.
It’s tough to predict how people will approach races when they’re young. Will you tense up? Will you savour the moment? Will you find a way to perform? Some athletes need to work on being less tense, others need to work on being less nonchalant. Some find they don’t do well when they’re overly focused, some are the opposite. Controlling your physical body with your mind when you’re not on a platform over the water is great practice for when the big moment arrives.
How do you respond after a bad swim? Does it carry over to the next race and create a negative loop? Lika a bad shift in any sport, do you dwell on it and then forget your responsibilities due to a lack of focus and create a negative cycle of bad performance?
All the other elements of dryland swim training are nothing without the mental strength to go with them. Build your entire arsenal of swimming weapons and you’ll be surprised by just how prepared you can be.