by: Wayne Goldsmith and Helen Morris
If you want success in swimming, don’t believe in the myths of our sport.
Instead, believe in yourself.
myth \mith\ n [Gk mythos] (1830)
- a traditional story, esp. one explaining some natural or social phenomenon
- a widely-held, but false belief or idea
- a misrepresentation of the truth
- an exaggerated or idealized conception of a person or thing
Ever hear of a low-fat, great-tasting chocolate cake? There’s no such thing. It’s a misrepresentation of the truth…a myth. How about Bigfoot? Nope. He’s an exaggerated conception of a person or thing…a myth.
And guess what? Swimming has its share of myths, too – untruths that people think will lead them to success. But that’s just it – the following 10 myths are misconceptions, fallacies and false notions.
1. IT’S FASTER UNDERWATER.
It’s only faster underwater if you are faster under the water. Just being underwater does not mean you will move faster.
For example, if you swim freestyle at a pace of two yards per second, but can only maintain a speed of 1.6 yards per second under the water – get to the surface!
2. MORE TRAINING MAKES YOU A BETTER SWIMMER.
We’ve all heard about the magic numbers that supposedly guarantee swimming success – for example, 50 miles a week, 60 miles a week, 10 sessions a week, 20 hours of training a week, 3,000 miles a year, etc.
There is no evidence to say that 60 miles is better than 48 or 56 or 79. There is no solid research to support the idea that 10 sessions is any better than 8, 15, or 127.
More training by itself does not guarantee success.
There is no short cut or easy road to swimming success. It takes a lot of hard work, commitment, dedication and discipline. However, just adding more sessions and more miles is not the only answer.
Swimming fast is about physical fitness and physical factors such as strength, speed, endurance and power. It is also about mental preparation, technical skill and tactical knowledge and execution. Swimming fast requires a balance among physical, mental, technical and tactical elements.
So, hard training is important, but it is not the only thing.
3. VITAMINS, MINERALS AND SUPPLEMENTS WILL MAKE YOU A GREAT SWIMMER.
The word, “supplement,” is defined as “something added, especially to make up for a lack of something or deficiency.”
Research is inconclusive as to how effective supplements are at improving swimming performance. However, research has shown the following qualities and characteristics to be very effective at improving swimming performance – 100 percent!
- Consistent training
- Positive attitude
- Ability to stay strong during tough times
- Great technique
Buy a few bottles of these, and you can’t lose!
4. IF YOU START OUR SWIMMING ONE STROKE WELL, YOU WILL ALWAYS SWIM THAT STROKE WELL.
We’ve all seen the “child champs” – the 9-year-old superstar backstroker who seems destined for Olympic glory. However, rarely, if ever, do “child champs” make the Olympic team and win Olympic gold medals in the same stroke in which they first showed talent. Often, a kid will be a good breaststroker at 8, then a good freestyler at 11, then a top-notch backstroker at 13 before ending up as an outstanding flyer as a senior swimmer.
As kids develop and grow, changes in their limb lengths, their proportionality (i.e., the relationship of their limb length to overall body size), their muscle mass, height and weight, flexibility and strength will all impact their ability to swim specific strokes.
Here’s some advice: become proficient in all strokes – in sprints as well as in distance events – and at dives, starts, turns and finishes. Then, no matter what happens to your body, you’ll be ready!
5. WEIGHT TRAINING MAKES YOU A BETTER SWIMMER.
Weight training, strength training, Pilates, yoga, spin classes, dance classes, etc can all help improve your swimming performance when used in balance with pool training and when integrated into an overall swimming performance program.
However, just throwing around a few weights and getting stronger does not guarantee swimming success.
Question: Why would you take up a weight-training program?
Answer: To improve your swimming performance.
Therefore, the key issue is to ensure that the weight program enhances and supports what you do in the water.
6. BODY FAT MAKES YOU SWIM FASTER BECAUSE FAT IS BUOYANT…OR…BEING SUPER-THIN WILL MAKE YOU A GREAT SWIMMER.
Sports scientists used to talk about percent body fat or skin folds and about optimal body fat levels for swimmers.
These days, the critical concept is YOIPS – Your Optimal Individual Performance State.
There is no magical skin fold number or mystical body fat level that all swimmers must attain to be successful.
The YOIPS concept is that each individual swimmer has an optimal body composition for his or her peak performance, which is unique. For some, that may mean being a lean, mean swimming machine. For others, an extra pound or two may help maintain their general health, allowing them to train consistently. Shedding any excess weight might result in them becoming sick.
Here’s the bottom line: find out what works best for you – and stick to it!
7. LANE 4 IS THE FASTEST LANE AND THE ONLY LANE FROM WHICH YOU CAN WIN.
World records have been set from all lanes.
World championships have been won from all lanes.
Olympic gold medals have been won from all lanes.
NCAA, national, state and club championships have been won from all lanes.
8. A SUCCESSFUL COACH MAKES A GREAT SWIMMER.
One of the big mistakes many swimmers (and parents) make is to change coaches too often for the wrong reasons. A good reason to change coaches might be that you have moved or have gone to college, and you need a local coach to help you with your swimming program.
A poor reason to switch is because another coach seems to have produced a young, standout age group champion, and you believe that simply by moving to his program, you will experience similar success.
Yes, coaches are important. Their training, knowledge and experience are invaluable to help all swimmers improve their physical, mental, technical and tactical skills.
However, a swimmer with a great attitude, who works hard consistently and who seeks to maximize the impact of every training session will succeed regardless of the coaching, facilities or club environment. She has the ability to maker her own luck and drive her own success.
A swimmer with a poor attitude, poor work ethic and negative approach will not succeed even if that swimmer trains with Michael Phelps’ outstanding coaching team!
Coaches and swimmers (and parents) form a performance partnership – together they can achieve anything.
9. IT WILL BE ALL RIGHT ON RACE DAY.
Many swimmers have two-brain disease. It is a terrible affliction.
One brain is the on they use for training. It allows the swimmer to perform sloppy dives, slow turns and always finish a few yards short of the end of the pool.
The other rain – the one they use for racing – only comes out at meets and makes sure all the dives, starts, turns and finishes are perfect.
The problem is that over time, they “training brain” starts to take over the “met brain,” and that’s when things start to go wrong.
Train the way you want to race.
If you execute sloppy dives every day in training, you’ll get sloppy dives at meets.
If you do slow turns every day in workouts, you’ll get killed in the turns when you race.
If you stop a few yards short every repeat at training, you will lose most of the tight finishes in competition.
It’s worth repeating: train the way you want to race.
10. THE MORE MONEY YOU SPEND ON SWIMSUITS AND EQUIPMENT, THE FASTER YOU WILL SWIM.
You need high quality equipment to compete at the highest level, but no amount of money will make up for missed training, poor skills, sloppy technique, a poor diet, a lack of quality sleep or a lack of self-confidence.
Improve yourself first – physically, mentally, technically and tactically – then go and buy a fast suit.
If you are driving a beat-up old car with a broken-down engine, bald tires, a faulty gear box and a low-grade fuel, giving it a $5,000 paint job doesn’t make it go any faster. Sure, it looks a lot better, but it will not win any races.
There is a common theme about all these myths: people are always looking for a system or a secret or something they can buy or do to guarantee success.
There “ain’t” no such thing!
There is, however, something that can make a real difference…something that can make every session outstanding and every day something special…something that can take every opportunity and turn it into a performance advantage.
Republished with permission from Wayne Goldsmith.