Wouldn’t it be great if we could just attend a swim workshop and or have a few private lessons and “Abra Kadabra” we are great swimmers.
Yes, we all have some immediate improvements in efficiency (which in some cases results in an impressive improvement in lap times or perceived rate of effort). In order to imprint new muscle memory we need to practice the skills that we have been shown and monitor and review (or better yet, get your coach to assess) our progress.
Everybody learns at a different rate so there is no “One size fits all” solution. The general rule of thumb is that it takes about 10,000 “purposeful” repetitions of a single action to imprint new muscle memory. Sounds like a lot, however that equates approximately to 500 laps of a 25m pool or 220 laps of a 50m pool. Failure to swim with a purpose, or to mindlessly swim laps will not achieve any improvement in either condition (might maintain at best) or technique.
So before heading to the pool you need to set a plan.
Decide on 3 things that you are going to focus on for each session. (eg Head position, elbow led recovery and breathing). Perform the drills (Superman, Skate, Slot to Skate, etc ) with and without fins and snorkel just focussing on your head position (or whatever focal point you are working on). Once you have practiced each of the 3 things you had planned for the session, it is time to start bundling the focal points of the session…(ie Couple Focal Point (FP) 1 with FP 2 and then FP1 with FP3 and then FP2 with FP3… and only at the very end FP1 with FP2 & FP3).
Quality sessions such as the example above will help swimmers achieve the improvements they are seeking. Olympic swim coaches will combine quality technique sessions into a number of their training sessions each week.
A nice balanced week of swimming will include Technique, Cardio and Endurance components… Coaches will vary the volume of each component depending on the timing of seasons.
The “off season” is the best time to switch to heavily loaded “Technique” based sessions.
Here at Swimwell we provide you with a detailed Video Analysis so that you know what key aspects of “your” stroke to focus on. Most people left to their own devices will work on areas that they are already strong in (their comfort zone) ….. If top swimmers are continuously working on technique, it makes sense that everyone should work on their technique.
Michael Phelps believes he is who he is because he did what others didn’t do (worked outside his comfort zone) … and he continues to work on the things he believes he is weak at to this day. He knows his best times may have already been swum, but he feels there is still improvement left in him. He may not get any faster, but he can get even more efficient. He FEELS that … the clock can’t tell him that.