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Coach Steve being aero! MORE SWIM SPEED: Your swim training has been consistent and your times have kept coming down—until now. You've reached a plateau, what's next? 

You compare times to the fastest swimmers in your age group and feel frustrated. There are athletes who swim less in training, yet go faster than you do on race day. What's going on here?

Keep in mind that some swimmers in your age group started as kids. They swam with teams in High School and college, and many put in as many yards in one day as you do in a week. Some swam twice a day for years. You (we) can't compete with that background, but with motivation and energy we can get close, especially if they're tired of it and we're not.

Swimmers who began at a young age perfected the technique early and their neuromuscular systems will never forget the movement. Their bodies were shaped as they were doing the swim training, so power and leverage developed in the appropriate muscles. They grew into swimming, and also have the advantage of becoming aerobic athletes early. In comparison, few started significant run training at 5, 6, or 7 years of age as many elite swimmers did. Run training is too tough on developing bodies to get serious about it that young.

Have you ever swum on consecutive days? How about open-water swims or dryland workouts on days when you don't get in the pool? Frequency adds depth and helps you master the movement. 

Swim specific weight training can help make up for lack of yardage, especially if your upper-body build is not powerful. If you do have plenty of upper-body muscle, but are still not fast, it's technique work that you need.

What do you do with your pool training time? Do you push it with timed sets, or do you just swim back-and-forth nonstop? To gain swim speed you need intervals going faster than your steady-state race pace. A favorite workout for me when I feel the need for speed are sprint sets. I'll finish with 5-10x 50 after a set of longer reps. Or I might do 20x 50 for the whole set, all with long recoveries. The long recoveries allow you to really push it for the 50s, and many reps give you the distance.

You don't need a great kick to swim well, but it helps. I've only met a couple age group triathlete swimmers with a great kick and they were both women. These athletes with a great kick are faster than most of their peers on race day and it's no coincidence. Improving your kick will take dedicated time in addition to actual swim sets, but it may be worth it.

Strokes other than freestyle/crawl help develop strength, flexibility, and feel for the water. Swim sets can include multiple strokes, or you can use them for your warm up and warm down. It's all good.
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