Your Off-Season Crosstraining: Become a Faster Swimmer

During this off-season, you should take a few weeks off structured training, enjoy some foods you normally skip during the season, and maybe put on just a few pounds.

But unless you’re already a competitive swimmer, you should also consider swimming as your best crosstraining for triathlon, running, and cycling this fall and winter.

Swim Speed Secrets underwater pull from in front of swimmerSwimming can help runners, cyclists, and triathletes in many ways. You’ll…

  1. definitely maintain and likely improve your aerobic base fitness,
  2. strengthen your core and upper body,
  3. refresh your poor, tired, thrashed and trashed legs with low-impact workouts,
  4. strengthen the ancillary muscles in your legs, hips, and core to help correct muscle imbalances and avoid injuries,
  5. enjoy focusing on swimming while you have more available time,
  6. improve your upper body flexibility,
  7. tone up your neck, shoulder, and upper back muscles to avoid pain during cycling,
  8. increase your lung capacity,
  9. look awesome in a Speedo,
  10. and get faster at swimming!

So here, try out the first two weeks of Swim Speed Workouts for free.

And here’s a schedule that will help triathletes and swimmers to schedule the program into your training once your off-season is over. Check out this handy Swim Speed Workouts Start Chart.

Click the image to enlarge it and find your best start date (don’t forget to leave room for taper). Then get started with the first two weeks of Swim Speed Workouts!

Swim Speed Workouts Start Chart

In Swim Speed Workouts, 4-time Olympian, gold medalist, and triathlon world champion Sheila Taormina provides the essential swimming instruction, workouts, drills, and training plan to build all-new levels of freestyle swimming speed.

Drawing from her 30-year racing and coaching career, Taormina’s Swim Speed program is carefully designed to build freestyle swimming speed one crucial step at a time. Over 16 weeks, swimmers and triathletes will swim high-impact workouts to build the critical elements of the world’s fastest swimming technique. Each waterproof workout card incorporates the Olympic swimming drills, kick sets, and drylands that develop speed in the world’s fastest swimmers. Swimmers will refine their freestyle with the most effective hand entry, high-elbow catch, underwater pull, stroke finish, core drive, and propulsive kick.

Sheila Taormina’s Swim Speed Series™ reveals the world’s fastest way to swim. Both books are available in bookstores, swim and tri shops, and online. Click below for online retailer links.

Swim Speed Secrets for Swimmers and Triathletes book coverSwim Speed Workouts for Swimmers and TriathletesSwim Speed Secrets reveals the swimming technique used by the world’s fastest swimmers.

Swim Speed Workouts provides waterproof workout cards, drills, and training plan so swimmers can get in the pool and learn the fastest way to swim.

Sheila Taormina is a 4-time Olympian, gold medalist, ITU triathlon world champion, and internationally recognized swimming coach. Learn more about Sheila here or at sheilat.com.

Ironman and Ironman 70.3 are trademarks of World Triathlon Corporation. Rev3 is a trademark.

Stay Dry During Your Next Swim Workout with a Swim Tubing-Only Workout

A friend on Facebook asks Sheila, “I’ll be missing my workouts next week due to travel, but plan to bring the tubing. It seems like I should do more than the ten minutes since I won’t be swimming. Will you please consider writing a blog post detailing a good tubing workout for when we are on the road? Thanks!”

Halo swim tubing

Halo swim tubing

Sheila replies:

Great question: If you do two times the tubing workout listed on the Swim Speed Workouts sessions (choose later sessions as those are longer/more challenging than earlier sessions), I think you’ll find that will leave you begging for mercy.

If not, then try this set: 4-5 x 1:30 with 2-3 minutes rest between. You can even tack on :30 additional at the end of each repeat that are Tricep-Only.

If you do that workout, you might regret you ever asked this question

Enjoy!

Sheila Taormina’s Swim Speed Series reveals the world’s fastest way to swim. Both books are available in bookstores, swim and tri shops, and online. Click below for online retailer links.

Swim Speed Secrets for Swimmers and Triathletes book coverSwim Speed Workouts for Swimmers and TriathletesSwim Speed Secrets reveals the swimming technique used by the world’s fastest swimmers.

Swim Speed Workouts provides waterproof workout cards, drills, and training plan so swimmers can get in the pool and learn the fastest way to swim.

Sheila Taormina is a 4-time Olympian, gold medalist, ITU triathlon world champion, and internationally recognized swimming coach. Learn more about Sheila here or at sheilat.com.

Now Is the Time to Start Swim Speed Workouts!

Okay, okay. We realize that most of North America’s outdoor pools have just closed. But think of next season — it’s just a few months away!

If you started Sheila Taormina’s 16-week Swim Speed Workouts program on Monday, October 7, you’d be ready to rip out your fastest freestyle on…let’s see…January 5th, just in time for the USA Swimming Arena Grand Prix in Austin, Texas.

Oh…you’re not planning to compete at the USA Swimming Arena Grand Prix?

Maybe you’ve got your eye one of the triathlons, open-water swims, or swim meets on our handy Swim Speed Workouts Start Chart, provided as a courtesy to help you plan your next PR.

Click the image to enlarge it and find your best start date (don’t forget to leave room for taper). Then get started with the first two weeks of Swim Speed Workouts!

Swim Speed Workouts Start Chart

In Swim Speed Workouts, 4-time Olympian, gold medalist, and triathlon world champion Sheila Taormina provides the essential swimming instruction, workouts, drills, and training plan to build all-new levels of freestyle swimming speed.

Drawing from her 30-year racing and coaching career, Taormina’s Swim Speed program is carefully designed to build freestyle swimming speed one crucial step at a time. Over 16 weeks, swimmers and triathletes will swim high-impact workouts to build the critical elements of the world’s fastest swimming technique. Each waterproof workout card incorporates the Olympic swimming drills, kick sets, and drylands that develop speed in the world’s fastest swimmers. Swimmers will refine their freestyle with the most effective hand entry, high-elbow catch, underwater pull, stroke finish, core drive, and propulsive kick.

Sheila Taormina’s Swim Speed Series reveals the world’s fastest way to swim. Both books are available in bookstores, swim and tri shops, and online. Click below for online retailer links.

Swim Speed Secrets for Swimmers and Triathletes book coverSwim Speed Workouts for Swimmers and TriathletesSwim Speed Secrets reveals the swimming technique used by the world’s fastest swimmers.

Swim Speed Workouts provides waterproof workout cards, drills, and training plan so swimmers can get in the pool and learn the fastest way to swim.

Sheila Taormina is a 4-time Olympian, gold medalist, ITU triathlon world champion, and internationally recognized swimming coach. Learn more about Sheila here or at sheilat.com.

Ironman and Ironman 70.3 are trademarks of World Triathlon Corporation. Rev3 is a trademark.

Timing the Finish in Serape Swimming

Reader Ian P. asks,

Swim Speed Secrets enlightened me about the underwater pull. I’m a 54-year old masters swimmer and after just 4 months, Swim Speed Secrets took my 100m time from 67s to 61s.

In Swim Speed Workouts you refer in the finish phase of the stroke, “The hand gives a final flick off the wall of vortices before lifting over the water to recover. This is timed with a dynamic hip drive on the same side.”

My question is this: which direction is the hip drive? Does the hip drive upward or forward? And when: before or after EVF (the catch)?

Sheila replies,

Great question! The hip that is on the side of the arm that has just finished the stroke drives upward. It does not drive upward simply for the sake of getting out of the way or reducing resistance, but rather it is part of the core movement that is tied to the other side of the body.

Your question is great because I can tell you’re thinking of that other side of the body which is obviously connected to the finishing side of the body. So yes, the extending arm is loading tension through extension just before EVF (the catch).

The hip on the side of the body of the extending arm is driving forward, not downward in opposition to the opposite hip that is driving upward. If the hips simply rolled/tipped from side to side as one unit, there would be no dynamic loading nor any dynamic energy.

Here’s what proper hip drive feels like for me: I feel sometimes like I ride my ribcage and the front of my pelvic bone on the side of the arm that is extending. It is a slight spinal twist-like movement that can be felt in the middle of the core and up through the ribcage, not just at the hips.

But the simple answer to your question is that the hip on the side of the finishing hand does drive up just enough to help add power to the finish. But remember, you do not want to get caught on that side. Don’t roll too far. You want to move your core smoothly, meaning that the hip drive should provide dynamic energy without overdoing it and getting stuck for even an instant on the finishing side.

This video shows me demonstrating the Serape One-Arm Drill, which exaggerates the timing that we’re shooting for:

Sheila Taormina’s Swim Speed Series reveals the world’s fastest way to swim. Both books are available in bookstores, swim and tri shops, and online. Click below for online retailer links.

Swim Speed Secrets for Swimmers and Triathletes book coverSwim Speed Workouts for Swimmers and TriathletesSwim Speed Secrets reveals the swimming technique used by the world’s fastest swimmers.

Swim Speed Workouts provides waterproof workout cards, drills, and training plan so swimmers can get in the pool and learn the fastest way to swim.

Sheila Taormina is a 4-time Olympian, gold medalist, ITU triathlon world champion, and internationally recognized swimming coach. Learn more about Sheila here or at sheilat.com.

When Does Extension Become Gliding?

A reader on the Swim Speed Secrets Facebook page made a point recently, “I know there is a fine line between gliding and extension. Could you explain further?”

In freestyle swimming, gliding is holding your leading arm out in front of your body for too long. Gliding makes you slower (see this post The Swimming Equation). Some swimmers, particularly triathletes, glide simply because it feels easier, but when you glide, you are missing the opportunity to take more strokes that will propel you forward faster. Gliding feels easier because it’s slower, just like soft-pedaling your bike or walking up a hill instead of running. Both are easier, both are much slower than racing.

So the reader is essentially asking, “How long is too long to hold your arm out in front?” When does arm extension become gliding?

During her career as a Olympic swimmer and world cup triathlete, Sheila Taormina reviewed archival video of the world’s top swimmers to analyze their swimming technique, stroke counts, and stroke rates. What she found makes answering this reader simple:

Extension becomes gliding at 1.7 seconds or longer.

Many gliders have stroke rates of 2 to 3 seconds per arm cycle. Since they are taking fewer strokes to cross the pool, these swimmers have low stroke counts, but they are also taking a lot longer to do it. (In this post, Sheila explains The Swimming Equation, showing why gliding slows swimmers down.)

In Chapter 7 of Swim Speed Secrets, Sheila includes a table that shows the stroke rates of the world’s fastest swimmers. Top swimmers swim with a stroke rate between 1.15 and 1.6 seconds. Any longer is gliding instead of swimming fast. The most common stroke rate among top swimmers is 1.3-1.4 seconds per cycle.

This may sound like a quicker cadence than you’d expect. When watching the summer Olympics, for example, some of the big guys look like they are hardly moving their arms as they set new world records. Even the elites who extend the most, like Michael Phelps and Ian Thorpe, simply appear as if they are moving their arms slowly. If you got a stopwatch and counted the time from one arm’s entry to its re-entry, you’d find that Phelps and Thorpe have stroke rates of 1.5-1.6 seconds per full arm cycle. Female elites swim on the faster end of the range. Sprinters in the 50m and 100m distances stroke even faster, between 1 and 1.2 seconds per cycle.

How to Time Your Freestyle Swimming Stroke Rate Swimming CadenceAre you a glider? Here’s a simple test to find your stroke rate:

  1. Get a friend, a stopwatch, a clipboard, paper, pencil, and head to the pool.
  2. Warm up.
  3. Swim a series of 100s at your goal race pace.
  4. During these, your friend should time one full arm cycle. That is, start the stopwatch as soon as your leading arm hits the water and then stop it when that same arm hits the water surface in front of you again. (It doesn’t matter which arm.)
  5. Your friendly assistant should time your stroke several times during each 100. She should also occasionally time two full cycles (right arm then left arm) and divide that time by two to minimize error from reaction time.

Now you have some data! Review the stroke rates your friend wrote down. You should now know your current stroke rate. If your rate is over 1.6 seconds, then you are presented with a wonderful opportunity: speed up your cadence and you’ll instantly swim faster!

Turning TV Time into Tube Time

Reader Beth, who has been writing about her progress with the Swim Speed Workouts program through comments on the Test Team reports, makes an excellent suggestion for comparing your stroke rate to the pros: Watch them race on TV or via online video and move your arms along. If their stroke rate feels fast, you probably need to speed up your arm cycles. You can also turn tube time into Tube Time: get your swim tubing and do a tubing set that matches the cadence of the pros on screen.

Swim Speed Workouts includes drills and speed sets designed to improve your stroke rate. If you own the book already, take a look at the green toolkit cards for a discussion of stroke rate and the swimming equation. Workout 5-1 includes sets that help swimmers find that perfect middle ground of short, powerful strokes and proper arm extension.

For a complete discussion of freestyle stroke count and stroke rate, take a look at Swim Speed Secrets.

Sheila Taormina’s Swim Speed Series reveals the world’s fastest way to swim. Both books are available in bookstores, swim and tri shops, and online. Click below for online retailer links.

Swim Speed Secrets for Swimmers and Triathletes book coverSwim Speed Workouts for Swimmers and TriathletesSwim Speed Secrets reveals the swimming technique used by the world’s fastest swimmers.

Swim Speed Workouts provides waterproof workout cards, drills, and training plan so swimmers can get in the pool and learn the fastest way to swim.

Sheila Taormina is a 4-time Olympian, gold medalist, ITU triathlon world champion, and internationally recognized swimming coach. Learn more about Sheila here or at sheilat.com.

How to Find Your Swimming Cadence

Ask any committed triathlete her running cadence or cycling cadence, and she’ll quote you the exact, most recent number. And she might have some Garmin/Polar/Suunto data to back it up.

But ask any triathlete his swimming cadence, and he’ll probably think you’re talking about how many strokes it takes to cross the pool.

Swimming cadence or stroke rate is the time it takes your arm to make one full cycle from hand entry through the underwater pull to recovery and back to hand entry.

And you need to know it. If you don’t, there’s a good chance you’re leaving speed in the water.

How to Time Your Freestyle Swimming Stroke Rate Swimming CadenceSwimming is the most technical sport in triathlon because the medium of water is very dense. Little differences in swimming technique have big consequences. If your stroke rate is too slow, you’re gliding. If your stroke rate is too fast, your underwater pull is inefficient. Stroke rate is half of equation that determines your swim speed. For an introduction to stroke rate, take a look at this post The Swimming Equation.

Then get to a pool and time your stroke rate!

How to Find Your Stroke Rate

  1. Get a friend, a stopwatch, a clipboard, paper, pencil, and head to the pool.
  2. Warm up.
  3. Swim a series of 100s at your goal race pace.
  4. During these, your friend should time one full arm cycle. That is, start the stopwatch as soon as your leading arm hits the water and then stop it when that same arm hits the water surface in front of you again. (It doesn’t matter which arm.)
  5. Your friendly assistant should time your stroke several times during each 100. She should also occasionally time two full cycles (right arm then left arm) and divide that time by two to minimize error from reaction time.

Now that you have some data, review the stroke rates your friend wrote down. Look for the number that shows up most often. This is your stroke rate. Check out this post on what your stroke rate means to your swimming.

For a complete discussion of freestyle stroke count and stroke rate, take a look at Swim Speed Secrets.

Turning TV Time into Tube Time

Reader Beth, who has been writing about her progress with the Swim Speed Workouts program through comments on the Test Team reports, makes an excellent suggestion for comparing your stroke rate to the pros: Watch them race on TV or via online video and move your arms along. If their stroke rate feels fast, you probably need to speed up your arm cycles. You can also turn tube time into Tube Time: get your swim tubing and do a tubing set that matches the cadence of the pros on screen.

If you own Swim Speed Workouts, the green toolkit cards include an introduction to stroke rate. Many of the workouts include drills and fast turnover sets that improve stroke rate. Workout 5-1 includes drills on arm extension designed to help you find the best arm extension for you.

Sheila Taormina’s Swim Speed Series reveals the world’s fastest way to swim. Both books are available in bookstores, swim and tri shops, and online. Click below for online retailer links.

Swim Speed Secrets for Swimmers and Triathletes book coverSwim Speed Workouts for Swimmers and TriathletesSwim Speed Secrets reveals the swimming technique used by the world’s fastest swimmers.

Swim Speed Workouts provides waterproof workout cards, drills, and training plan so swimmers can get in the pool and learn the fastest way to swim.

Sheila Taormina is a 4-time Olympian, gold medalist, ITU triathlon world champion, and internationally recognized swimming coach. Learn more about Sheila here or at sheilat.com.

Swim Speed Workouts Week 9-3: “Time Flys”

The Swim Speed Test Team is a group of volunteers that is reporting on their new swim speed earned over 16 weeks of the Swim Speed Workouts swim training program.

Here’s what testers thought of this workout. You can try out the first six workouts of the Swim Speed Workouts program for yourself! (See below)

Swim Speed Workouts Test Team logoTEST TEAM SUMMARY OF WORKOUT 9-3:

Catherine L. (The Number Cruncher):  I think She-Ra 9-3 is my favorite She-Ra thus far. But you might look back and say that I say that everytime!  I just love the challenging element to these workouts.  I also love the feeling of success when completed. This workout just went screaming fast in the pool.

My confidence with fly is great—I no longer worry about fly in the sets. I look forward to it and I actually enjoy something a little different.  I know I haven’t had any formal training on how to do the butterfly, I will ask the master’s coach one of these times, but i think I am feeling the water correctly and nothing hurts when i do it.  I don’t drown and I do make it to the other end of the pool with whatever I AM doing — so I am just going to keep going with it!

Rebecca B. (The Open-Water Swimmer): Wow, the ninth She-Ra workout.  I got all the way through this EXCEPT for those running portions.  Did I tell you that I am NOT a runner or a triathlete?  Well,  I completely enjoyed the swimming portion of this workout.  I took my pennies again to keep track of 12 hundreds.  In the middle of the 200 set, I took a whole minute rest and then finished the second half..  Loved the speed set and the 25s all out.  Fantastic in all areas except that running part.  I could blame the weather today, too.  I might have walked as Sheila suggested but the wind chill was down in the 20s this morning.  These workouts provide such valuable focus for me.  I try to keep one little technical point in my head as I swim.  For instance I hear Sheila telling me about the catch and how to execute the serape. Or how to use the concept of “trim” as my hand engages the water.  It’s all good.

Jennifer M. (The Coach): She-Ra is trying to kill me! Disclaimer: I did not do the run portion because I already had a specific run workout in the morning before my swim. I was pretty freaked out by the individual medleys and the amount of fly since I am not a swimmer.  That said, again I managed to complete this workout.  Seriously, I would never have been able to do this workout in the past.  Especially the 8×200 after the IM set.  It really does show that these workouts are making me stronger and I can’t wait to test my swim speed in my first race of the season in May.  I might even start going to the Stroke Day master’s workout when all is said and done.

TRY THE FIRST SIX SWIM SPEED WORKOUTS YOURSELF!

These workout pdfs will give you most of what you need to do the full workout. If you have swim tubing and understand the drills (which are linked in each workout description), you’ll be able to do the whole workout as prescribed.

Based on our Test Team feedback, you will be swimming noticeably faster after two weeks on the Swim Speed program. You’ll have developed a high-elbow catch and a better feel for the water. You’ll have begun to strengthen your core, and your swimming fitness will be rising rapidly.

After you test out the first 6 workouts, please order your copy of the waterproof Swim Speed Workouts!

Sheila Taormina’s Swim Speed Series reveals the world’s fastest way to swim. Both books are available in bookstores, swim and tri shops, and online. Click below for lists of online retailers.

Swim Speed Secrets for Swimmers and Triathletes book coverSwim Speed Workouts for Swimmers and TriathletesSwim Speed Secrets reveals the swimming technique used by the world’s fastest swimmers.

Swim Speed Workouts provides waterproof workout cards, drills, and training plan so swimmers can get in the pool and learn the fastest way to swim.

Sheila Taormina is a 4-time Olympian, gold medalist, ITU triathlon world champion, and internationally recognized swimming coach. Learn more about Sheila here or at sheilat.com.