Easy Does It
Sometimes leaving a little in the tank pays off later
Swimming is a funny sport. Sometimes, when you want to go faster and try harder, you end up going slower. But when you loosen up your body and fully relax, there’s more speed to be found.
It’s easy to get in the mindset of always trying to go as fast as possible. Many of us are used to going for it—always training as hard as we can on every single set. But some benefits of training—specific adaptations in your body that help you get fitter and go faster—come from exposing yourself to different stimuli that force your body to change and improve.
One way to change your focus and gain more speed is to aim for a certain time on a set. The goal time should be close to your best for a set, but should be achieved while using 10-20% less effort than you usually expend. I call this easy speed with the swimmers I coach. In a racing situation, it’s often that the swimmers’ easy speed determines the winner, rather than their top speed. Competitors train to swim as fast as they can, but it’s the ability to maintain a sense of ease while swimming as fast as possible that separates the fastest swimmers.
The next time you’re doing a familiar swim set in practice, aim to swim the set just a second or so slower than usual and see how easy you can make it feel—The results might surprise you and you might find that you have a new power reserve to tap into at the end of your set or next race.
The easy speed concept can also be applied to your strength-training program. “Train don’t strain” is one mantra you can use to remind yourself when to relax the level of effort you’re expending. For example, the next time you do a set of pull-ups (or any exercise), stop the set when you know you could still accomplish a few more reps. Having a workout like this every so often can give your body an added boost of power and strength later.
So the next time you have a challenge in the water (or out of it, for that matter) ask yourself, “How easy can I make this feel?” And see what happens.