This blog series is based on a slide-and-video talk I gave March 19 at Multisport World Expo in Boston. The title was Solving the Speed Problem. I could as easily have called it Little Known Facts about Speed. For brevity’s sake (because I’ll tweet each new installment) it’s Secrets of Speed here.
Problem and Secrets are both perfectly apt words to describe the challenges humans face when we try to swim faster. As you’ll learn in Part 3, our instincts are no help, as they lead us to increase Stroke Rate — and heedlessly decrease Stroke Length as we do. As Part 4 explains — and illustrates with some dramatic video — a shorter stroke is virtually certain to lead to slower swimming.
And as several parts explain, most of the things you’re told you should do to swim faster — pull and kick harder, stroke faster — fail far more often than they succeed. The only thing they’re guaranteed to do is make you tired faster.
That leaves us with the Little Known Facts. All of the thoughts, techniques and training approaches that really help you swim faster are things virtually no one thinks to do, and are rarely recommended.
We start by pondering the question: “How do we perceive the need for speed — and how does that perception lead us to respond?”
As I explain in the video below, the perception may arise as innocently as seeing the guy or gal in the next lane at lap hour swimming slightly faster and wondering if you can keep up. Race On!
Even in the best of circumstances, we experience the ‘speed problem’ more emotionally than most other aspects of swimming – and nearly always react ineffectively.
In the worst of circumstances – the chaos of a triathlon swim – it’s impossible to think calm, clear or rational thoughts. Therefore it’s essential to set priorities, make plans — and particularly ingrain habits – in practice, when we have the chance for clear-headed thought and action.
From our own instincts, we move to the ‘orthodoxy’ of swim training. Traditional thinking about swim training suggests that the Solution to the Speed Problem is:
- Faster Strokes
- Bigger Lungs
- Bigger Muscles
Parts 5 and 6 will explore why these solutions virtually never solve the Speed Problem and often make it worse. Parts 7 to 9 will describe alternatives that replace guesswork with mathematical predictability and precision.