Practicing good habits while training can be an accurate representation of how we compete. Even when we are tired, we should maintain focus and perform as if we were in a race. If we perform poor, unfocused turns, continuously during practice, this will translate into how we swim our races. During every practice session, we have the opportunity to practice every aspect of our swimming race with focus and discipline.
- Lazy turns—During the course of a 3,000-yard practice, we have the opportunity to work on up to 120 turns. The most common aspects of lazy turns are: slow rotation, poor foot placement, a loose tuck, and a failure to explode off the wall. Swim into and out of your turns with speed and purpose. Make sure you place your feet correctly and explode off the wall. Practice your open turns much the same way. I developed a bad practice habit of touching with one hand on my breaststroke and butterfly turns. This translated into my competitions, and at one event I was disqualified 6 separate times, in the same race, for a one hand touch on breaststroke.
- Streamlines—When you push off the wall (or dive into the water), you will be at the highest velocity of your swim. Over the course of your swim, you will not be going any faster than you will on your start and turns. Maintaining an efficient streamline takes focus and discipline through every turn. This is most important when you are exhausted both mentally and physically. Maintain speed off your walls and make sure you have a tight streamline and breakout. I call this “free swimming,” and I like to discipline myself to breakout past the backstroke flags on every turn. That translates to 6 yards of “free swimming” during every 25.
- Smooth Swim Perfect—During warm-up, main sets, and warm-down. Focus on good technique. Maintaining good technique takes time, patience, and repetition. Get out of the habit of swimming “easy.” Instead focus on swimming with purpose and perfect technique. At the end of every set, or at the end of a practice session, cool down working on perfect skills. Use terms that have been brought to your attention such as: finishing the kick on breaststroke, driving your hips forward on butterfly, keeping your elbows up on freestyle, “thumbs out, pinkies in” on backstroke to name a few.
- Kick Sets—Use kick sets to build leg strength. Don’t cheat yourself by getting lazy during a kick set and pulling on the lane line or pulling into the wall. Use the first 10-15 yards to work on breakout speed, and the last 5 yards to finish strong. Repeating this during every kick set will give you the stamina to maintain an efficient, strong kick.
- Finish with your head Down—Charge into the wall with your head down. Many races are decided by who finishes with their head down. Make it a practice habit to finish every swim with your focus being on the wall.
- Finish Strong—Attack the wall repeatedly during practice. Don’t get into the habit of gliding into the wall. When you see the backstroke flags and the black “T”, finish strong. If you continue to practice your finishes with purpose, this will translate into some great closing speed during your races.
Remember: “Practice Makes Permanent”