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by Terry Heggy

September 1, 2016

Seven Secrets of Successful Swimmers

Small habits that make a big difference

When talking to people at the pool, I often hear the phrase, “Oh, I’m not a real swimmer.” The person then proceeds to tell me that they are a triathlete or a runner, or perhaps just someone who enjoys working out in the water. And yet, there they are swimming.

Well, guess what, folks? If you propel yourself through the water without a boat, you ARE a real swimmer. You may not have moved directly from diapers to Speedos like most Olympians did, but you can still incorporate the thought processes lifelong swimmers use to excel at the sport. By adopting a few simple habits, you’ll find it easy to proudly identify yourself as a real swimmer.

1. Carry Your Kit

Always have a swimsuit, goggles, and towel with you. You may not want to leave wet gear in your car at all times, but you should have a dry set available in case you forget your regular bag. Your travel kit should also include your USMS membership card, and the link for Places to Swim. Never miss a chance to swim because you’re not prepared.

2. Cultivate Consistency

Because swimming is such a technical sport, it’s important to swim frequently to maintain your feel for the water. It’s tough to maintain your technique if you swim fewer than three times per week. It’s also difficult to precisely duplicate aquatic muscle movements during dryland exercise, so water time is essential for swimming fitness as well. If your schedule doesn’t permit full swim practices that often, at least try to get in the water regularly for a few laps to refresh your kinesthetic memory.

3. Nurture Your Network

One of the best benefits of joining a Masters swim team is getting inspired by other athletes. Swimmers tend to be friendly and supportive of each other, regardless of experience and ability. Building a network of swimming friends provides a wealth of training resources as well as social opportunities. And don’t limit yourself to your own lane; get to know swimmer from across the pool, too.

4. Spotlight the Specifics

When you do swim, approach every set with focus. Show up on time, pay attention to your form, follow your pool’s rules and etiquette, and approach each set with an understanding of how it’ll help you achieve your swimming goals. Try to feel the pressure you exert on the water with each stroke, and know your time and pace for each set.

5. Do Your Drylands

When you’re not swimming, make sure you incorporate swimming-related activities into your day. Whether it’s lifting weights, stretching, or simply moving around to keep from getting stiff, you should schedule supplemental activities with the same rigor you schedule your training workouts. Use your phone or computer’s alarm feature to remind you to step away from the keyboard. Swing your arms when you walk down the hall, or touch your toes each time you get a drink of water. Eat healthfully. Remember that wellness and fitness are full-time commitments, not just something restricted to the gym and the pool.

6. Test Your Training

The best way to stay sharp is to participate regularly in USMS competitions. But even if you have no desire to immerse yourself in the fun and excitement of swim meets or open water races, you should still push yourself in a timed effort at least once each month. Whether it’s an all-out 100 freestyle, a timed 200 fly, or a hard 1650, you’ll benefit from regularly pushing yourself beyond a workout-level effort. You may find it motivational to keep a log of those timed events, or perhaps even to track your overall workout distance with the USMS FLOG tool. That way, you can tell whether your training is effective, or whether it’s time to find a new coach or training program.

7. Love the Label

Even if you are primarily a triathlete, adventure racer, bodybuilder, or whatever you define yourself as, take pride in the fact that you are also a real swimmer. Conspicuously display your USMS logo merchandise. Take SWIMMER magazine to work with you to read during your lunch break. If you have a DVR, set it to find and record any swimming competitions that are broadcast, then invite your buddies over to watch the races. Encourage your friends and coworkers to join a Masters team. And if anyone asks you about yourself, don’t hesitate to tell them the truth: “I’m a swimmer!”