How to Improve Your 100 Free Time
If you’ve been swimming for years, chances are you’ve stopped seeing big drops in your 100 Freestlye time. And now you may find yourself willing to do….just about anything to set a personal best.
Training and taper obviously contribute to improved performance, as does good freestyle technique. But this doesn’t mean that you have to add 10 hours of training to your week (or even one hour, for that matter), or empty your social calendar for the sake of recovery, or spend thousands of dollars on lessons and clinics.
No, actually, there are some very simple things you can do every day that will help you break through the plateau. Here are five ways to improve your best time in the 100 Freestyle.
You can drop a fraction of a second simply by getting off the blocks a little faster and with more strength. One way to improve the explosiveness of your start is to incorporate plyometrics into your dryland routine. Plyometrics boost your explosive power by isolating and stretching a muscle before it contracts, so that it contracts with more force than it otherise would. (Make sure you talk to your coach or a trainer before adding plyometric exercises into your training, as they tend to be high-impact movements and doing them incorrectly can lead to injury.)
In a short-course 100 Freestyle race, there are three turns. Suppose you could go .1 seconds faster on each turn. Well, then you would drop over a quarter of a second, simply by doing more efficient turns. Start by going back to the basics, and religiously practicing these three elements of fast flip turns:
- Don’t breathe on your first stroke out of the turn.
- Don’t breathe on your last stroke before the turn.
- Accelerate into the wall.
You should see all the other ways you can improve your turns by reading How to Do a Faster Flip Turn.
Off of every wall, you should do some streamlined underwater dolphin kicks. These kicks are so important to fast swimming that many coaches talk about them as the” fifth competitive swimming stroke.” Already doing dolphin kicks off every wall? You can make them more powerful and effective if your do some (or all) of the following:
- Make your dolphins kicks snappier.
- Kick “from the hip,” using your whole body in the dolphin motion.
- Lengthen your streamline, by reaching for the far wall with your hands and head.
- Press your arms against your ears.
- Make sure your hands are on top of each other – use the thumb of your top hand to lock them together.
Underwater dolphin kicks are the "5th competitive swimming stroke." Give them as much attention and focus as you give your freestyle technique!
The way you finish a race can make all the difference. Once you hit the final set of flags, don’t take any more breaths. Reach with your head and shoulders toward the wall, kick harder, and make sure you are looking at the bottom of the pool when your hand hits the wall. (You shouldn’t be able to watch your hand hit the wall!)
Too much focus on a particular race outcome (such as a specific time) can create tension. Maybe you need to just stop trying so hard to get a best time! Most of the world’s elite swimmers would tell you that their best performances came on days when they were relaxed, confident, and simply enjoying the thrill of swimming in a race.
If you can figure out how to truly let go of the desire for a particular time, and focus your energy on staying relaxed and breathing freely even in the midst of a race, you may look up at the scoreboard to discover that you shattered your personal best time.
What advice do you have for swimmers trying to break through a plateau in their 100 Freestyle time?