Last spring, once it became abundantly clear that I was NOT going to be running seriously for a while I needed something to do.

Enter the summer of OverHaulin’ ….the swim stroke!

When I came back from Galveston, in April, I wasn’t particularly happy with my swim time and realized working on technique was the ONLY thing that was going to lead to any significant improvement.

What I didn’t quite understand was just HOW difficult this would prove to be….

The key was (and still is) basically retraining the brain and that, my friends, is crazy-ass hard!

Research has long proved it takes 3,000-5,000 repetitions to correct an incorrect movement.

To put that in perspective…..

There were 7-8 “little” things I was perpetually doing wrong and I could only work on 1 of them at a time or else my poor brain would never get a handle on ANY of it!

And by the way, it felt like it took at least a million times to grasp things! I don’t know whose on the 5,000 fast track…NOT ME!

So I’d master 1 task through spot on perfect repetition and then move to the next movement dysfunction…repeat the process, then the next, and so on….and so on and so on. You get it…

Finally, in late summer, I was able to start putting it all together….

Only 2 (yup 2!) strokes out of every 18-21 performed were actually done correctly when the process first began. I TOLD you it was crazy-ass hard! I went from swimming 3000 yrds to barely being able to finish 25 yards!!

Eventually, my brain and body began to sync. The stroke itself became easier, more fluent, and my speed naturally picked up….I found my mind wandering off to my “TO DO” list once again….a big ole NO-NO apparently!

When swimming, ONLY think about swimming! Same applies to running, cycling, stretching, yoga, weight training, core work…etc….BE IN THE MOMENT and get the most from the moment! And that’s your tip of the day! 😉

It took almost 6 months of diligent and focused work, but I’m proud to say my stroke has been totally overhauled!

Now here’s another interesting factoid: if you learn the correct movement right from the start, it only takes 300-500 repetitions to master that fresh movement pattern!

THAT would’ve been a MUCH easier way to go!!

The interesting take-away point: If you are a new swimmer….find someone to TEACH you the skill!! Don’t do it yourself and develop BAD habits which will be harder to reverse later!!

Personally, I’d much rather perform repetitions in the hundreds compared to the thousands….wouldn’t you?

And let us not forget as well…..

Never stop practicing the basics! The more correct repetitions performed, the more likely we are to master it permanently! And THAT is a wonderful thing!!

Each and every time I get in the pool, after a nice warm up, I go through a series of fundamental drills to reinforce the neuromuscular pathways that have developed. I NEVER want to forget how to perform these movements and if I slack on the basics, my form suffers. I can tell immediately.

How much has it helped you ask?? Has it really been worth the 6 months of chlorine damaged skin, ruined swimsuits (I went through 3), and the severely bruised ego?

On average, my 100 yard split has dropped between 10-15 secs while my perceived exertion has remained constant, if not easing a little.

If I hadn’t lived it, I don’t think I’d believe it!

There is a lot of work yet to do and I’m still building endurance in the small muscles that are not accustomed to being used and abused for such long periods of time, but overall it has been nothing short of amazing!

Well worth every single stroke, wouldn’t you say?! 😉

I’m now applying this same knowledge and technique to my running form. I’ll keep ya’ posted on how that goes. I’m about a month in and it’s no easier on land than in the water, but I’m already feeling some positive changes!

Swim Happy, My Friends!

13 thoughts on “OverHaulin’

    • Thank you and absolutely share away! I really hope others realize it’s not a “quick” fix. It takes a long time and A LOT of patience, but it DOES work!! AND….the time spent tin the pool is so much more productive than just swimming up and down killing time, making no real headway towards improvement! BTW, LOVE your site! LOTS of great information!!

      • You are ABSOLUTELY right, swimming is a very technical sport and it is better to work technique before shooting for speed. I’m so impressed with your persistence and overcoming something that is quite difficult. I’m really glad you like our blog, I love yours too!

  1. That takes a lot of patience. I mostly learned to swim via YouTube videos from the Total Immersion author.. My stroke is so ingrained in my head that if I tried to change it I swear I’d drown!

  2. Reblogged this on The Water Blogged Triathlete and commented:
    If you’ve got some changes to make to your swimming technique, you are not alone. It takes work, it is better to learn right the first time, but it can be done. The author is now :10 to :15 seconds faster per 100 with the same or less effort due to a complete overhaul of her freestyle. I can’t stress it enough: technique, technique, technique… then speed. I thought her story was inspiring and I hope you do too!

  3. You aren’t making me feel better here – ha ha! I have been thinking about doing a swim overhaul too. I am a decent swimmer but feel like my technique is holding me back from being faster. I have been swimming for so long I am afraid it will be hard to change things up.

    • Karen….it WAS soo hard!!! I’m not kidding, sometimes I could barely eek out 25yards without feeling like I was going to drown….But the off season is the perfect time to do it!! It took about 6 weeks and 1 day something just clicked…I went from doing 100yrd sets to being able to handle 500yrds…Then they had me do 2000 when I survived I knew I would make it!!

  4. Great post and I agree completely that technique is critical. I’ll never have the “raw” talent and strength that many great swimmers and athletes have but I’m hoping a focus on technique will at least keep me moving in the right direction.

    • I’m not sure I’ll ever be as good as I want to be…no matter HOW much I master the stroke, I simply don’t have time to put in hours and hours each day to get it 100%. I think you have the right idea….move in a positive direction and continue to improve. My goal is to continue to “work” on technique at practice instead of just doing laps! It feels so much better to be productive!!

  5. Great article and just what I needed to read! Swimming is my least favorite of all three and sometimes I get stuck just wanting to do laps, instead of drills. But – I always feel so much better about my performance every time I do drills.

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