3. Should I be doing drills?
Drills break up the monotony of pure swimming while allowing you to work on good form. However, Cleaver says you shouldn’t blindly do every drill in your—or your swim coach’s—repertoire. “Take a step back and ask why you’re doing a drill,” she says, adding that some drills can actually promote bad habits if not done properly (or by the wrong person), while other are more universally beneficial. “I like the closed-fist drill because you’re activating your entire forearm for pulling, she says. “I’ll tell people to get angry! Don’t be afraid to be aggressive with your stroke.” On the flip side, she’s weary of suggesting the catch-up drill because “it encourages you to over-glide at the front of your stroke. If you have a catch that’s already good, I’d tell you to do it with a kickboard. Then you can’t do the big, sweeping, over-gliding thing.”
Other coaches, like Brett Sutton, downplay drill work for weaker swimmers, instead emphasizing workouts that more closely simulate race-day effort/distance. “Ninety percent of non-swimmers would be far better served by using aids and instead of drilling, performing swim sessions that specifically address the needs of the physical exertion of swimming nonstop for an hour,” he says.
Bottom line: Approach drills with attention to your unique swimming experience and focus.