There’s a possibly-apocryphal story about Matt Biondi (one of the fastest swimmers ever) that he always made a point of being the slowest person in the pool during warm up, no matter the skill level of the other swimmers surrounding him.
I think there’s something to this idea. In training, most swimmers succumb to laziness from time to time. It’s been my observation (in myself and others) that swim-laziness comes in two basic forms:
- not swimming slowly enough, when you’re supposed to be swimming slow
- not swimming fast enough, when you’re supposed to be swimming fast
There’s an important purpose to slow swimming and drilling: Ingraining perfect technique, and being mindful of each part of your stroke by reducing it to its components. Drilling well requires focus and concentration, and the path of least resistance is to do it sloppily – or just skip it altogether. Sloppy drilling is, of course, self-defeating.
There’s also an important purpose to fast swimming. As my college coach Rob Orr liked to say: You’ve got to swim fast to swim fast. When the coach assigns a 100% effort, the path of least resistance is often to give a bit less – perhaps 90%. People prefer to avoid pain – and 100% is painful. The problem with giving only 90%, though, is the last 10% is where a lot of the improvement happens.
Don’t be lazy! Swim slow slower. Swim fast faster.