When Is It Going To Feel Effortless?

Effortless is a word that is often used by swimmers and coaches alike. But what does it mean to you when you swim or see others swimming?

There's a big difference between an elite swimmer *looking* effortless and them being truly effortless in the water.

As a case in point, our real-life Mr Smooth Jono van Hazel, who competed at the Athens Olympics in 2004 in the 50m freestyle, looks effortless when swimming at 1:10 per 100m pace. And yet this is actually his 1500m race pace - not something he can sustain all day. If it was truly effortless, by trying a little harder he'd be able to challenge Sun Yang's 1500m world record, which of course he can't.

The word effortless has been used in a well meaning manner by coaches for many years. The idea being not to fight against the water but work with it, as elite swimmers like Jono do. However, many swimmers have latched onto the notion that swimming should be truly effortless and as such they should never work hard in training or feel anything but very easy when they swim.

When you are swimming it should not be without effort. Just like when riding or running, you can feel strong, smooth and rhythmical. You are working efficiently with the water but it's never truly effortless. Swimming wasn't meant to be that way.

Swim Smooth!


Anonymous said...

very good said :)

but the line between effortless and hard work is for us "intermediate" in "milky fog"

Anonymous said...

Any plans to provide Swim smooth clinics in Asia or more specifically Kuala Lumpur? There is a nigh number of tri athletes in this area and i believe your clinic would be well supported.

Peter said...

This is a really nice post. When swimming, I often strive for an effortless feeling, but I've been suspecting for a long time that watching videos of very good or elite swimmers may be misleading. I watched countless times the video of Shinji on youtube. Beautiful freestyle (although not specifically appealing to me because it doesn't look as rhythmical as Jono, for example). It looks so easy initially and make one think that with little effort and just technique one can swim so smoothly.

On second thought, however, I think that to swim that way must instead be physically very hard. It probably requires a lot of tension to keep horizontal with so little kicking, and a lot of force in each pull to overcome the glide.

Since I started the catch earlier (thank you SwimSmooth) I increased my pace and got a better feeling of rhythm, and swimming feels more continuous and easier. Somehow counter intuitive, as before I associated swimming slow = easy, swimming with a faster pace = harder.

It turned out to be the other way around. What looks smooth and easy feels quite different.

So thanks for the excellent advice.

Anonymous said...

I really agree with the post !
Some people who sometimes say to me "it looks so easy when you swim" can't imagine how I strain to look this way !
I wonder at what pace it feels really effortless for elite swimmers : 1:20 per 100m ?

Anonymous said...

What would a really effortless pace be for elite swimmers ?
1:20 for 100m ?

Anonymous said...

What would a really effortless pace be for elite swimmers ?
1:20 for 100m ?

faith okten said...

when we watch pro and world class athletes such as runners, football payers,swimmers etc...
we sometimes think "they are good but they do the moves very easily and effortless. maybe, if work(and if want) few months i can do the same.".
yet, these athletes perform both technique(also very basic and essential ones) exercises, and fitness workouts hours and hours everyday. after making a move 10000 times, then it becomes a natural reflex for our body and it makes us feel effortless.
additionally,in gymnastics and Figure Skating, within 2 mins, the athletes carry out their moves and it that seems very easy.but behind this, many years are hidden.
at pro level, in order t make a %5 advance, you must make a twice harder workouts.

Anonymous said...

This is a kind of West meets East moment as hopefully folks pick up on.
Hello Paul mainly, all at swim smooth and followers. A much thought of commitment to share MY experience of effort. The thinking's out there in ways already but try this. Paul, for your next Iron Man race (I think you've still to complete one) when you get to the run, make it truely effortless and "Run at 'Kite hight'" (my term) i.e in 'the zone' (their term) but keep the mind up with a kite. Personally on hills I have to drop my mind's / kite's flight path; Cornwall's a very hilly patch.
I'm now busting to try swimming at kite higth for that feeling which realy is just about effortless 'flying'; actully could be poss on the bike but not sure can afford the mind up and away when the 'road' needs due attention. The best to all; on we go.

Anonymous said...

For me effortless is a term that describes 5-10% below maximum effort for a trained athlete.

Flat out, I currently swim a mile in a little under 28 minutes, but 30 minute pace feels effortless and I could probably do a 10K open water race at that pace.

So to answer some of the questions above, Sun Yang can swim 14.31 1500m so I am guessing a 16 minute 1500 pace feels effortless to him as its 10% slower than his peak?.

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