Crossing my fingers that at least three of you have seen the Christopher Robin movie that came out within the past 2 years and understand the title of this blog post. I’ll wait while everyone else thinks on it for a bit…got it? If not, try saying it in your head quickly. A fish in the sea, a fish in the sea - anything? Let’s pretend we all got it and say it together, EFFICIENCY! Woot woot you did it! Color me impressed. Now moving onto the actual topic: efficiency in swimming. Why is this concept so important? Why does it seem like it’s the only thing I spout off about on social media some times? And why do I like to write these posts with so many questions in them?
Efficiency, or being efficient, put quite simply and as an overall definition, is creating maximum productivity with the least amount of effort. Seems like the best concept ever, yes? At least in terms of swimming we like to think so, which is why I push “being efficient” as much as I possibly can.
People can confuse efficiency with low energy effort. For example, just because you have a lower stroke count across the pool doesn’t mean you’re swimming efficiently. This can be achieved by increasing your kick, or doing the dreaded overextension of your arms and gliding to prolong the moment when you have to take your next stroke. But in terms of these two options, that’s cheating. You’re not reallyyyy being more efficient in that way, especially when you glide - PLEASE DON’T GLIDE. A better measure of being efficient is finding out if you can achieve the same stroke count, with the same level of effort, over long periods of time/longer swimming distances. The point I’m trying to make here is that you don’t want to make wasted movements, you want to make smart and strong movements that maximize the level of energy you’re giving without maxing yourself out for no reason.
A good example is to look at the catch of your stroke. Not catching properly, or simply letting your hand slip through the water each time it enters, forces you to take far more strokes than needed to get across the pool. Not catching properly causes you to spin your wheels without actually pushing yourself through the water. Whereas a proper catch allows you to create your anchor point to push back against and propel yourself forward with a stronger movement and less strokes. Making sense?
Another way to think about it is consistency. As long as you keep a consistent cadence, and find a moderate amount of resistance during your propulsive phase, you don’t have to try to generate powerful strokes. Doing this will improve your efficiency. Not grasping in the swimming terms? Let’s think about cycling for a second. If you compare swimming to cycling, just like in cycling, you want to be staying on a medium size ring - with a consistent cadence - in order to maintain your wattage. As opposed to trying to stay on a larger size ring and pushing as hard as you can. Why? Because cycling on the big ring for an extended period of time will DRAIN YOUR ENERGY, and ultimately not help you get to the end of the race any faster. In fact, it will hurt your race since you unnecessarily drained your energy stores, with no good payoff, and can’t use them later when you really need them.
Being efficient with the movements you make in the water all boils down to keeping your energy up for longer and allowing the movements you make to actually have purpose. This is why we work on proper catch, proper head position, rotation, kick, timing, and so on and so forth. But Lissa, what about technique? Well, think about what you just said. Technique is what, making proper movements in the water to avoid injury. And? These movements are deemed “proper” because they’re the smartest way to move yourself through the water to avoid injury AND be efficient. It all goes together like one, big, happy circle of swimming life.