Oy, so here’s the scoop: my dear friend Noah inquired about my mile time in the pool. He’s putting together a triathlon relay team for autumn, and they need a swimmer. I was hesitant to throw a numerical value on my swimming because I don’t tend to swim for speed. Efficiency, yes. Strength, yes. Lung capacity, can I get a hell yes. But for fast-sies? Nah. Not interested.
Interestingly, the last time I went swimming with Noah, many moons ago, I remember him attempting to get me to compete against the clock. “Let’s just see how fast you can swim 50 yards. Don’t you want to know?” he needled me. “Do you think you can do it in 30 seconds? Maybe 28?” He almost talked me into it, his competitive streak motivating me to want to flex my mermaid powers. But then I remembered how much I just didn’t care terribly much about how fast I was. But I digress.
One reason I don’t swim quickly is because I almost assuredly have another workout to do immediately following it or later in the day. Tiring my body out to have to skimp on the second workout isn’t my forte, and I like to demo endurance to myself. (Yes, I know I should just swim harder and then push myself in workout number 2, but I’m happy with where I’m at.) But at Noah’s query, I decided to find out how fast I might swim a mile.
This task is actually not that easy. See, my body is not trained to swim fast. I’ve trained it to move through the water gracefully, but not with intense speed, which means that attempting to get myself to move quickly in the pool was a challenge in and of itself. I wasn’t sure how much energy I could expend. And as I swam I realized that I am certainly not moving my arms and legs as fast I could be, nor taking in as much air as I could be.
My time today: 26 minutes.
Unfortunately, this task got more complicated by me realizing this morning that 26 minutes means a whopping zero to me. Is that a good time? Is it a relay-team time? How fast is a good swim time for the mile? And as I know my time isn’t good (can’t be, simply based on my lack of training), how the heck do I get faster? Sigh, and Dr. Dad can’t help me for a weeks (though when he’s around next I’m dragging him to the pool to analyze my swimming), so what’s a runner who wants to be a swimmer to do?
To the internet and beyond, natch!
First, I was lazy and went to eHow’s How to Swim Fast page. I figured if anything it was a jumping off point for the wide world of zippy swim motions. Their suggestions were as follows:
1. Wear a drag suit: in other words, wear a suit over your suit.(Oy, really? Does this really help? And why am I so darn opposed to this? Apparently the extra drag makes you faster when you go with only one suit.)
2. Take more purposeful strokes: swim with intention that is not splashy. (Already do this.)
3. Find your center of buoyancy. (Whoa, is this like my center of gravity? According to eHow, “Generally this is located in your chest, so many swimmers find that if they push the chest down into the water while swimming, it will cause the hips to come up toward the surface, making it easier to propel the body with the legs.” I think I need to look this up. It sounds like magic.)
4. Streamline your body for better glide: there should be a time in every stroke that one or both arms are in front of you and your body is literally gliding. (I do this, but maybe could be better.)
5. Rotate your body from side to side: it’s like Justin Timberlake said, “You’ve gotta rock your body.” (Okay, I totally suck at this. It freaks me out to rotate because it’s less streamlined and less purposeful in my head- it feels too loose to me. This is totally something I can work on.)
I feel like these are helpful notes, but I’m not going to be able to enforce them upon myself (with the exception of the drag suit) without guidance. How much rotation is too much? How long should I be gliding for maximum efficiency?
The internet also directed me to an article on tri-ecoach.com,“Triathlon Swim Training” which I hoped would offer me a little more motivation or ideas, and by golly I was right. It’s been awhile since swim team and workouts, and I tend to repeat a similar workout routine each swim sesh because I like to zen out while swimming. But to be fast, well, workouts are apparently vital according to tri-ecoach:
Swimming fast requires constant intensity work…Since the swim’s distance is so short you’ll need to be able to pace yourself at a very fast tempo, and the only way to accomplish that is to swim in intense aerobic and anaerobic states in training. Workouts should include sets that will push you to, or faster than your pace for the race distance. For example If you are swimming a set of 10x 100, at the finish of each 100 you should be breathing hard but not gasping for air; the recovery should only be ten to twenty seconds depending on your ability. …Some athletes think the rest period is too short compared to biking or running intervals, but that’s not the case. These short rest periods are essential because swimming doesn’t require as much energy compared to running intervals. Therefore, shorter recovery keeps your heart rate constantly in the 80 – 85% of your maximum heart rate zone – similar to a race day effort.
I think tri-e hit the fin on the board with this note: “you’ll need to be able to pace yourself at a very fast tempo, and the only way to accomplish that is to swim in intense aerobic and anaerobic states in training.” Swimming at a pulsing, quick tempo is so not my forte, and making myself do it is seriously the only way to get faster, and ultimately become the swimmer I want to be (and that Noah needs me to be). Besides, 10×100 … I can do that.
I got this.