I'd Do Anything To Improve My Swimming (But I Won't Do That)

COACHES: Applications for our Mallorca 3 Day Coach Ed Course Close March 10th

I'd Do Anything To Improve My Swimming (But I Won't Do That)

If you're a fan of wagnerian rock you'll be familiar with Meat Loaf's power ballad I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That) which reached number 1 in 28 countries in 1993.

Oftentimes we'll be having a conversation with a swimmer and we're reminded of this amusing song title.

Perhaps it's you talking to us. You'll be telling us that you are really frustrated with your swimming, how you've tried everything and you can't seem to get any faster... How you SO deserve to get better and swimming is so unfair.

And then you say those immortal words: "Just tell me what to do, I'd do anything to improve my swimming!". And we sigh quietly inside because we know that's probably not true.

Things We Might Ask You To Do But You Probably Won't

After assessing your individual stroke and looking at your recent training we might ask you to do one or more of the following things. Things we know will ultimately make a big difference to your speed:

- Breathe regularly to your "bad" side - i.e. breathe bilaterally.

- Give up the pull buoy.

- Swallow your pride, move down a lane and lead the group.

- Move up a lane and hang in there.

- Have some discipline and pace yourself properly in sessions.

- Consistently swim 3-4 times per week for 3 months (and keep a log to prove it).

- Swim a 4-5km Red Mist session once a week. (If you think that's a ridiculous proposition remember it's only 60-90 mins of swimming. Can you ride your bike for 60-90 mins?)

You don't do these things because they require you to go to a place of mild physical or emotional discomfort for a while and that makes you think that there must be an easier way. That the guy in lane 4 whose CSS is 1:15 /100m knows some sort of secret you don't. That there must be some trick that you just haven't worked out yet.

Keep looking for that thing if you like (you'll stay frustrated and looking for a very long time). Or the next time your coach suggests something mildly physically or emotionally uncomfortable, but for a good reason, actually embrace it.

Swim Smooth!


MarkkuS said...

"Consistently swim 3-4 times per week for 3 months (and keep a log to prove it)."

I have done this, following one of your dvd-courses, but just a marginal improvement. Still over 2 minutes/100m.

But I enjoy swimming and I don't care even if I'm slow.

Ricky said...

Great article and true too! But my question is: What is a 4-5km Red Mist session? I have definitely never heard of that before...

Neil Tri Czar said...

I'm not posting this as a criticism of this "article" but as comments based on my teaching and coaching swimming since 1957, I also have undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate degrees in Physical Education, neurophysiology/neuropsychology and Motor Learning. Aside from all of that please take my comments as an attempt to stir thinking and discussion.

I've learned two important things about teaching physical/movement activities and sports. First, teaching kids is very different from teaching adults and most coaches don't understand the differences and how to address those differences. Second, the first issue for most adults trying to learn to swim (or improve their swimming) is the inability to relax and the resulting difficultly breathing.

What I've found as the most successful approach to improving the swimming of adults is to focus on relaxing and learning to exhale! Our instinct is to hold our breathe when our face is in the water. As a result when we take out face and mouth out of the water our lungs are full of air and we can't inhale until we at least partially exhale. Since the average time we have with our face out of the water is only a second or two, the result is we hyperventilate. The result is an inability to relax and a feeling of exhaustion.

This environment makes learning a new movement or learning to change a movement we already can perform near impossible. I believe trying to teach adults and movement techniques under these situation is near impossible. Since Swim Smooth is successful and has a positive reputation, I believe you guys are able to get adults to relax and breathe comfortably. I am just suggesting you make these skills clear in your descriptions of improving your swimming (especially in this newsletter).

I feel it is important (for both kids and adults) to make the overall structure and goal of the approach clear and simple to understand and remember. I've used these points: 1. Relax, 2. Exhale (blow bubbles), 3. rotate your torso as you pull, 4. reach forward and stretch (shrug your shoulder as you reach) and 5. point your nose at the bottom (keep your ear in the water as you rotate to inhale).

The final thing I've learned is that it is very difficult to teach adults to modify an existing movement pattern. It's much easier to teach kids a new movement. Adults should be taught "new" movements, not changes to existing movements. This requires an awful lot of creativity for the teacher/coach and is unique for each person being taught.

I hope my comments will stimulate thought, comments, and improvement in teaching and learning.

Adam Young said...

HI MarkkuS - ok sure thing, bear in mind each of those things was "if recommended to you by your coach" - so in your case swimming consistently is unlikely to be the thing holding you back... Have you had any input on your stroke to say what is?

Hi Ricky, as a starting point check out: http://www.feelforthewater.com/2012/07/red-mist-set.html
Red Mist sessions feature inside many of our training plans - inc. in the Swim Smooth Guru (our online training platform).

Hi Neil - some of your other points we'd debate but yes we very much agree with you on the focus on exhalation which is something at the very core of our coaching:

Ram said...

Great post! As an adult learner, the slow rate of progress is very frustrating. Thanks to SwimSmooth I am making progress faster now than I was 3 months ago.

Adam Young said...

Great to hear Ram - keep up the good work and enjoy your swimming!!


Cyndy said...

Ricky - Red Mist sessions are a great way to boost your specific endurance ability, and really suit anyone competing regularly in events of 1500m and above, or simply for sado-masochists who like a good solid work out!
A Red Mist session is quinetessentially a long, hard endurance session, but it will tap into a variety of energy systems from endurance up to and including threshold pace. Really the term "Red Mist" simply implies the feeling that you will get from performing one of these sessions ​as it's very easy to lose control of your emotional state when working consistently hard over a long period of time and start to see "red"! As such, learning to control this is very much a part of the session.
We have a huge library of swim sessions on swimsmooth.guru, have you checked the guru out?


Hi my friends at Swim Smooth. I had tried several times to swim bilaterally in the pool with no success; mainly because of lack of discipline. So I had a big laugh when I saw the title of your article.

Due to the lack of pools lately, I´ve returned to the ice cold Pacific here in Chile with some old friends. with the help of the swimsuit and after merely 7 long swims I am swimming bilaterally. It is wonderful for enjoying the views, it makes the swim effortless and improves breathing when it gets choppy.

Thank you for the kick in the butt! One never thinks that at 52 you´re going to improve something that should have been learned at 5.


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