Or, to make it really scary:
The next time you get in the pool we want you to swim a 400m Time-Trial
You've only read three lines of this blog post but we bet you are already hatching an excuse for not doing this. Perhaps you're not fit enough, or your stroke technique isn't good enough yet or there's no point at your age?
In fact time-trials are so intimidating that every swim coach knows you never tell your swimmers ahead of time they're going to do a time-trial or they won't turn up to the session. When announced, a ripple of shock and panic runs through the squad: Did she just say time-trial? What, a real one? Now? Oh god surely not!
So why is a time-trial so scary? Ask a swimmer why and they will say "because they hurt" but is that really true? Is a well paced* 400m time-trial really tougher than a threshold training set you might perform every week? We don't think so.
No, the reason a time-trial is so scary is that they tell you exactly where your swimming is right now without any dressing up, over-ambition or over-analysis. They put a stake in the ground and say without any fluff: on December 28th 2012 I can swim X:XX for 400m.
What's the worst that can happen? :
- You might be slower than you would like - or slower than you used to be - but that's fine. You now know where you are, so set a new target time for 3-6 weeks ahead and your motivation to train will instantly kick in.
- You might swim faster than you expected. This happens surprisingly often with swimmers who lack a little confidence in their ability and you'll obviously get a huge lift from a result like that.
A time-trial forces you to be honest with yourself and whilst that's scary, it's very empowering at the same time.
Swimming to your maximum requires focus and determination, but it won't kill you or damage your stroke technique. In fact it is possible to enjoy time-trials for the challenge they offer and even to look forward to them (yes, really!).
If you've never swum one before, just go for it and swim as fast as you can. And when you're in the showers afterwards, tell yourself you've just joined the ranks of Thorpe, Phelps, Adlington and Yang, you've just become a competitive swimmer.
Clear Your Head And Just Swim
Swimming a fast 400m swim is such a simple thing to do but will clear out so much of the clutter from your head about how good or bad your stroke feels, how many strokes per length you take or how you ate too much over Christmas. Like many things in life what we hate to do is often the best thing for us. So why not start 2013 with a 400m time-trial and take an honest look at where you are so you can move forwards with your swimming?
Happy New Year and Swim Smooth!
*Pacing out a time-trial evenly is absolutely essential to swim your best time. Ideally every 50m should be swum at the same speed and when you get that right, it feels like a gradually increasing crescendo of effort. If you're dying in a world of pain after 100m then you started out much too fast.
Our tip is to push on the third 100m of a 400m time-trial to avoid fading in the second half, 200-300m is the time when many swimmers switch off mentally.