View Full Version : I swim pretty fast...in practice.

July 26th, 2009, 04:09 AM
I started swimming competitively at age 8, and for nearly that long have had the same issue: I swim pretty fast in practice, but when it comes to meets, my results are not so spectacular. I find that the people who swim in my lane during swim workouts all get times 5-10 seconds faster (on sprints to mid-distance), than I do. I kind of avoided pool swimming and did open water for a while, but recently swam and the same issue is still there.

I don't feel like I get overly anxious about my swim events. At least not enough to hurt performance, and I usually have enough rest and food, etc. beforehand. It's less of an issue with distance swims - which makes me think that there's a switch turned off my brain that would make me really 'work it' when in a competition.

Any suggestions? :confused:

July 26th, 2009, 09:44 AM
hmmm not nearly a suggestion, just maybe little anecdote.

Once a 14yo lady who is used to confess to me (I am not coaching her directly, but I coach in the same team), come at me and complains about the same thing. She's a 400-800 specialist, stuck in this vicious circle.

Knowing that this lady had a personal swimmer's profile of a pure distance swimmer rather than a true mid distance swimmer, here's what was my recommendation to her (again, that is not a recommendation for you, every one is different and I don't know you as I knew her):

I said Lady. At this meet you have this weekend. During the warmup, try to disappear. Put your bathing cap the other way so that we don't distinguish Team's logo. Because I do not want your coach (my boss) to see you doing this.

Get into your own lane, and perform a 10x400 freestyle moderate to high pace (instead of the usual soft and safe warmup). Build some speed through it. Build some confidence. In other words, don't only warmup and then sit on the deck waiting for your nightmare, train like usual and have fun.

She swam her best on both events that weekend (she would usually swim her PBs during training sessions). And fortunately for me, my boss didn't notice anyting (pfffeww).

In her, case, I turned a competition into a training session. This 10x400 has had the consequence of putting her in a training type of state of mind. Since she was a distance swimmer really (she did Magog, a 40k world cup event the year after at age 15), this 4k broken into 400s has had no bad consequence on her ability to perform her to events at her best.

And psychological factors put aside, I think that her aerobic metabolism truly needed a high dose of volume to get to operate at its optimal rate.

July 26th, 2009, 09:44 AM
You just might be able to really turn it on in practice, and thus your time drops in competition are less than normal. This seems to be true for the faster swimmers in this forum, they train faster in practice, go fast in meets, but the difference between meet times and practice times are smaller than someone who practices less frequently or with less intensity.

As for distance events, why would there be a big difference between competition and practice? The environment is not different enough to justify a huge time difference.

There is also a male/female bias to time drops I have seen. A female that can train as hard as I can cannot go as fast as I can in anything below a 500. As distance increase, this bias seems to fade. If you are comparing your drops to male swimmers drops, it really is apples to oranges.

Warm up is another thing to consider. Can you swim fast at the beginning of practice, or are you really getting going the second half of practice. I have trained with people who could stretch a little on deck and be ready to swim fast and others who needed a couple thousand warm up to get ready to go.

To summarize, I don't think you have a problem to fix, it is just that you train fast. If you want big time drops between practice and meets, start slacking off in practice.

July 26th, 2009, 10:56 AM
I am one of those people who comparitively race better than I practice. But I am more of a sprinter (though I wasn't when I was young). There are people who do 100s 5-10 secs faster than me in practice but I beat them everytime in races.

It sounds like the OP is more naturally a distance swimmer. I see the practice vs. race speed gap as smaller for distance swimmers than with sprinters. I think many distance swimmers have "a gear" they get in - and can swim all day at that fast speed. But they don't really have a faster gear.

Some of this could be the fast twitch vs. slow twitch muscle fiber issue. But I have to believe you can make a change to improve your race speed.

I suggest:

- vary your speed in workout more often. Swim slower than you normally do at least occasionally. And then swim faster than you do normally. But not for long distance or time. Swim very fast, then slow (active rest). Repeat.

- develop more power - maybe with some dryland work.

- Some of that very fast practice swimming should be very short distance. As short as 15 yards. Best effort for short distances to develop faster turnover.

- Find something you can do to inspire you to explode when get on the block. Watch Dara or Nathan Adrian swim sprints.

July 26th, 2009, 06:44 PM
You may need more warmup at meets and try to get in a mini warmup right before your events. Some people will take longer to get their stroke dialed in than others.

My 500 free best time was in practice on the last repeat of 5x500 free descending on short rest. I started that repeat with my heartrate closer to 130 than to the resting pace (< 60) which seemed to help me stay more aerobic longer. It just seemed easier as my heart didn't have to ramp up its efforts so quickly to keep up with the demands placed on it.

I also have "issues" since I prefer evening exercise but meets are always in the morning before my body has really woken up. Getting up earlier on meet day means I go short on sleep. YMMV

July 26th, 2009, 07:10 PM
I am the same way. Either that or I really misread the clock! It's made for some disappointing meets.

In practice I swam the 400 meter free in 6:20, no dive, at the end of a hard practice; at a meet I did 6:29. Grrrr.

I notice I get very tense before meets, so I'm pretty sure my whole body tightens up. Warming up is not always relaxing, either! And then there is the sitting around after warming up, then warming up again/cooling down. Etc.

I too am a distance swimmer, and I think I push myself a lot in practice so that may be why there isn't that much difference in my times. (Though Ande says to swim fast in meets you have to swim fast in practice????)

Also, I too never get much sleep before meets so usually am swimming on about 4 hours, but I think that's not that uncommon.

My coach has talked to me about visualizing events, which I do, and in my visualizations I am swimming very fast and do amazing times, but actually I think I am supposed to slow the visualization down, really feel each part of my race in order. I am not very patient with this so have not achieved the slowed-down visualization but am working on it.

I still long for a Zen meet where I am amazed at my times and how little effort it seemed I put into my swims.

July 26th, 2009, 07:43 PM
My eldest son was much the same way. He would work hard in workout and go fast, but come a meet he would be faster, but not by much. Both his high school and club coach got together to discuss the issue and came up with the solution of a longer warm-up. In fact, he would still be warming up five minutes before the 200 or 500 free. He was just a kid who needed the extra warm-up to go fast. The longer the warm-up the better he would do.

Me, I might be a distance person, but I do not need a warm-up to go fast. A warm-up helps, but it is a short one less than yards.