Freestyle Sprint Tips
The freestyle sprint can be the most exciting of all the swimming events. No other event has as much speed and is determined by such a slim margin. Because of this, the sprint is an extremely technical race. The slightest slip-up can mean the difference between first and last place. On the other side of the coin, any advantage you can capitalize on can mean the difference between last and first. Here, we briefly attempt to detail some of the possible pitfalls and some of the tips suggested by our sprinters.
Breathing. Don't do it! Think of every breath costing you a tenth or so of a second. Unfortunately, breathing is a necessary evil. But you can limit it! On the 50, you should breath try to cut your breathing to twice at the most. It may take time and practice, but it is well worth the result. And, if you don't buy this, try swimming two 50's at race speed--one with two breaths and one with 5 or 6, and see which one is faster. We are willing to wager the fewer breaths will win virtually every time.
Some swimmers choose to hyperventilate before a race to assist them in holding their breath. The theory is that by over saturating your lungs and blood with oxygen, your body will not have the need for oxygen as soon as it otherwise would. Physiologically, this has been shown to work. However, it is not always recommended, since it can sometimes cause people to pass out. If you train hypoxically (holding your breath), you shouldn't have to resort to hyperventilation. As a result, we do not endorse the use of it, unless it is done in a very mild fashion. We recommend that before a 50 free one should take 3 or 4 deep breaths to oxygenate the blood. On longer events we do not think any advantage is gained.
Head Up. When sprinting, the position of your body is of the utmost importance. Your goal is to get as high in the water as possible. They call it planing. By keeping your head high during your swim you decrease the plowing of your body through the water and increase your planing, thereby making you faster.
Stiff, Long Body. Planing is also increased when the body is stiff and long. This means that your core through to your feet should be more rigid than normal. Keep a good body roll and some flexibility, but don't be completely relaxed. You should also feel like you are stretching out your entire body from head to toes. Your kick should come from your core and work out to your legs and feet. This maximizes the propulsion from each kick and keeps your body very high in the water. If you swim a 50 easy to moderate, and then repeat it at race speed, you should notice that your body retains a stiff-ness throughout the sprint that didn't exist in the moderate 50. You should also notice that the propulsion from your kick seems to come more from you hip and upper-thigh area during the sprint, versus the lower-thigh and knee area for the slower laps.
Adjustable Flip Turns. Good sprinters will modify their spike and glide off their flip turns depending on how they are going into the turn relative to their competition. What that means is that if they are in last place compared to the sprinters next to them they either do a normal turn and spike or try to surface a little early. If, on the other hand, they are leading the pack, they would try to stay under the surface just a little longer than usual before surfacing.
Why? Because whenever a group of sprinters swim in the same direction, a huge wall of water follows them. Swimmers that are winning will often surface a fraction of a second too early and receive a smack in the face from the oncoming wave. If they would have stayed under for just a little longer they would have slid right under it. Sometimes these waves are so large that they really do smack the swimmer in the face and can often disrupt their stroke.
Common sense will tell you that if you are behind, then the wave is in front of you or is passing you while you are underwater. But, if you are in front, that wave may be waiting for you when you peek up. Something to consider.
Swim Straight. This tip goes for all swims, but, as with all other factors, they have a larger affect on the short events where every 100th of a second is huge.
Early Wall Sighting. Do this as early as possible. In a sprint you don't have a lot of time to adjust your stroke in order to hit the turn perfectly, but it is vitally important that you nail it. With your head up anyway, it should be relatively easy to do this.
Swim like a bat outta hell! No explanation needed.