Be a better Swimmer
I looked up at the scoreboard wishing for so much, but receiving so little. After a long and tough season, I expected to swim a personal best time, but that was not the case. The only thing I could do was pick my head up and move forward. Good thing I did that because the next time I entered the water, I started smashing personal records. However, there was still something missing.
I had to know what it really took to be a superior swimmer. I was almost overwhelmed by the amount of material pertaining to that subject. Articles, books, blog posts, and more were available, just waiting to let me devour them. The only thing I had to was open up my mind, sit back, and let the information do the talking. The first thing that I had to understand about the complicated and intense sport of swimming was the physical impact. Matt Leubbers upholds that doing drills daily in practice is essential to keep good stroke form.
I obviously know that stroke form is vital, but I never quite realized that drills pertained to that principle. Whenever my coach instructed that I do a drill in practice, I just blew it off and swam normally. I didn’t understand what the point of drills were because my mindset was, if I’m not going to do drills in a meet, then what was the purpose of doing them in practice? However as Leubbers’ article states, “Thinking about what you are doing with your hands, arms, elbows, shoulders, head, body, hips, legs, knees, or feet can help you be a better swimmer.” So even though nobody is going to be doing drills in a meet, doing drills in practice will make my form better so I don’t have to constantly worry about my form, it will just become second nature. Not only that, but Leubbers’ article also advises that swimmers “Do easier workouts which will result in overall improvement.
” By the way that most coaches run their teams, many swimmers don’t believe that there is such a thing as an easy workout. However it does make sense that having a recovery workout, or simply not going as hard in certain sets, will be beneficial in the long run. It is not just Leubbers who recommends recovery practices, Steve Silberman states that recovery periods “Allow the nervous, endocrine, and muscular systems to replenish themselves before harder workouts in the future.” The day after I perform a difficult workout I always feel extremely sore for the rest of the week. If I have a recovery practice that feeling can be cut to only one day. Another thing I felt was necessary to research was the backstroke.
The primary event that I swim during meets is the 200 yard Individual Medley, which consists of 50 yards of each stroke (butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle). I perform fairly well in the event, however my backstroke portion completely destroys my overall time. The kick is the most problematic for me. In Swimming, Steps to Success, David Thomas suggests that swimmers need to heavily practice the kick by “using a kickboard to get used to the feel of the kick” (35). Thomas also advises that in order to maximize the power of the kick, it is beneficial to perform squats during weight training (42).
I have done both those things in the past, but I have never emphasized them in my training. Kathryn Walsh recommends that swimmers have ” A wide kick that will make you less hydrodynamic” rather than my strategy which is just kicking as hard as possible to try to stay afloat. Walsh also states that the majority of the kick happens in the lower part of the leg, rather than the upper part which is the scenario for most strokes. That is something that I most definitely need to work on because I’m known to be one of the worst backstrokers on the team. Another important component to the stroke is the catch, or how a swimmer grasps the water. The maneuver that really messes swimmers up is the way their hand enters the water.
Walsh proclaims to “turn your hand before it hits the water so the palm is facing the side of the pool and your pinky finger enters the water first”. This small step will help “shave seconds off your time” (Walsh) because the catch is something that is repeated dozens of times during the swim. It is always the small details that make the biggest impact. As important as swimming is in the water, the actions and decisions a swimmer makes outside of the water are just as essential. Though there are many aspects of swimming that do not involve trying to catch your breath, the most significant has to be diet.
It is common knowledge that swimmers must eat carbohydrates like there’s no tomorrow in order to have the energy to perform 10,000 yard workouts. But that certainly cannot be the only thing that helps a swimmer. Deborah Dunham advises that swimmers also “Consume lean meats daily to rebuild and strengthen muscle cells,” which makes sense because weight lifting is a common part of a swimmers’ training. Dunham warns against foods such as soda and desserts that contain sugars because they “Will not give you lasting energy and will only make you feel tired once the sugars wear off.” This is where I start feeling guilty because I know that I am terrible at self restraint when it comes to food.
If I see something I like, I just eat it without thinking about the consequences. Even though I know it’s bad, my logic is that whatever I eat, I will burn it off in practice. I couldn’t be more wrong. As it turns out, even in the middle of the day when practice isn’t for hours, eating and drinking sugars is still detrimental. Diet is not only about what a swimmer shouldn’t have, it is about what a swimmer should have. It is highly recommended that swimmers drink water during practice.
This may seem impractical or irrelevant because swimming is done in water, but it’s actually essential. Though many times it is hard to feel, swimming induces much sweat during practice. As shown through studies, swimmers do sweat in the water, especially when it comes to anaerobic threshold sets (Burke). Also, it has been proven that by drinking water during practice provides “your body with an additional source of food”(Burke). This impact is many times felt emotionally in addition to physically because the fuel is optimism during long and hard workouts (Burke).
This information was rather startling to me because I usually don’t have my own water bottle during practice, I just head on over to the water fountain if I need a drink. Another topic that is debated among swimmers and myself is whether or not consuming sport drinks is a better option than water. As advertised by companies who promote products such as Gatorade and Powerade, sports drinks are meant to “replace water and electrolytes during training” (Coffman). This makes sense due to the massive calories that swimmers burn off but the main question is, is it really differential? The common consensus is not really. Although sport drinks do provide energy, they also have added sugars. If you were to drink too much of them, you would crash (Leigh).
Although there are some benefits to them, the negatives seem to outweigh the positives. Not only is a swimmer’s diet vital during training, it is also essential during swim meets. I have always wondered what I should eat and drink during a long invitational meet. I obviously don’t want to be so full that I cramp, but I don’t want to have a lack of energy. Barrett Barlowe recommends even more carbs during a meet. Though what he calls “Carbo-loading” is counterproductive because it makes your body full, other carbs such as white bread prove to be beneficial.
Also Barlowe advocate for sports drinks such as Gatorade. He feels that during a meet, Gatorade can be more beneficial than water. Also, he brings up the idea of protein bars. He states that swimmers shouldn’t go overboard on them, but if they want to eat them, there’s no reason not to have them. There is nothing in the world that I am more afraid of than failure.
The premise of letting not only myself, but my team down is reason for me to lose sleep. Before every big meet, I get nervous and start over-thinking my events. This is something that I know I need to work on, but mental preparation is something easier said than done. Many elite swimmers have a huge ego. The ability to think that all the other swimmers are “fighting for second place”(Townsend) is something that shows true confidence that swimmers should have.
Having a proper mindset for races is vital because training is “90% physical and 10% mental” while meets are “90% mental and 10% physical”(Townsend). However, one can learn more from failure than from success. After I failed my team I got myself back together and redeemed myself. Though I am still afraid of failing, but I know that it’s not the end of the world. While I was researching the mental aspect of the sport, a thought came to me, all of theses mental practices happened in taper. Taper is the time proceeding a big meet where practices decrease in intensity.
So with that in mind I thought it only made sense to research more about taper. Taper is much more mental than physical. It is advised that, with all the extra time that swimmers have during taper, they should “Read a book or spend time with friends or go to a movie” (Thomas). In Swimming, Steps to Success Thomas proclaims that swimmers should take long hot baths before a big meet (65). This will help swimmers “relax their body and mind” (66) and try to take their mind off their stressful events.
Another thing that Thomas advocates for is an increased amount of sleep. During taper Thomas says that “Since swimmers no longer have to rise earlier for practice, they should be getting about two more hours of sleep a night” (77). The power of reputation is also monumental during a race. When a swimmer is perceived as being outstanding, he can control the entire race. This was once shown by elite swimmer Kieran Perkins.
If he slowed down during a race, other people slowed down. He was on a pedestal that was all his and no one can take it away from him (Townsend). But having that kind of mindset only applies to the best of the best. In order to have the ability to achieve that kind of mindset, I must first train get to that kind of position. All of my remaining questions were answered through my interview of Freddy Arnold. Freddy was a former head coach of many teams and now is an assistant coach at Solon.
I asked a wide variety of questions from diet to stroke form. Freddy emphasized the mental aspect of the sport. When asked about how to approach a big meet, Freddy brought up visualization. Freddy told me via E-Mail to imagine my race in my head and time myself. I’ve tried this attempt before with mixed results.
However, since Freddy really feels that performing this does help in mental preparation, I think it’s only just that I give it another shot. Another thing that I was dying to know was what I should consume during long swim meets. I’ve read numerous articles online about that topic but many of them seem to contradict themselves, so I was really intrigued on what Freddy had to say. Freddy stated that there really isn’t a right or wrong way to go about it but he thought that drinks such as Gatorade were not a bad option and that protein bars were helpful as well. But the thing that Freddy said that I will remember the most was, “The harder you train, the faster you swim.” Those eight words have such an enormous implication about the way that I approach practice.
There’s so many things that help in swimming, but Freddy’s advise sums all of it up in one simple sentence. If you really want to succeed, train hard. I think that it’s safe to say that I didn’t have too many problems trying to find sources for this I-Search. I was amazed and slightly overwhelmed by the amount of information out there. I really have no excuses not to do well in swimming after all the material that I read. But it’s not just reading the material for me, it’s taking that material and applying it to myself and my abilities.
What I really have to do now is think about what I read and put words into action. Works Cited Arnold, Freddy. “Swimming.” E-mail interview. 14 May 2012. Burke, Louise.
“Do You Sweat in Water.” Swimcity.com. Swimcity, 12 Aug. 2010.
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Coffman, John. “Water or Gatorade.” Fasterswimming.com. Fasterswimming, 21 May 2011. Web.
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“What Is A Healthy Diet For A Swimmer?” Livestrong.com. Lance Armstrong Foundation, 5 May 2011. Web. 17 May 2012.
” Livestrong.com. Lance Armstrong Foundation, 15 June 2011. Web. 17 May 2012.
” About.com. About, 21 Apr. 2010. Web. 18 May 2012.
“Recovery Day Workouts for Swimming.” Livestrong.com. Lance Armstrong Foundation, 24 Nov. 2011.
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Thomas, David. Swimming, Steps to Success. Champaign: Human Kinetics, 2005. Print. Thomas, Jim. “Swim Taper Rules.
” Livestrong.com. Lance Armstrong Foundation, 23 July 2011. Web. 18 May 2012. livestrong.com/article/ 499657-swim-taper-rules/>. Townsend, Craig. “Mind Training Tips for Swimmers.” About.com. About, 7 Nov. 2011. Web. 17 May 2012.
livestrong.com/article/ 499657-swim-taper-rules/>. Townsend, Craig. “Mind Training Tips for Swimmers.” About.com.
About, 7 Nov. 2011. Web. 17 May 2012.