Our swimming speed is an equation of: Stroke (L)length x stroke (R)ate minus drag. While sprinting, this equation comes back to haunt us. Speed is about turning our arms as fast as we can while maintaining our stroke length and kicking as hard as possible.
What are the key elements to sprinting? We'll list a couple of them for you:
Swim with high stroke rate and keep your pull-through as long as possible. Stay in control of your technique and don't rush it. Sprinting is about the highest stroke rate in combination with length in your stroke.
Don’t breathe or breathe as little as possible. Breathing disturbs our body position and makes us less efficient. Keep the head still and in a neutral position. There is no need to look up while sprinting.
If you need to breathe, then blow out hard or harder than you usually would. This is no time to be a sissy. If you don’t blow out hard at these speeds, you won’t be able to get enough oxygen on board when you breathe, and you will fatigue faster.
Kick with your legs as much and as hard as possible. Again, this is not the moment to hold back. The distances are short and maximum effort is required. So, switch those legs on and keep them on the whole time. Kicking so much will improve your body position and give you about fifteen percent more speed. Both excellent reasons why you should do it.
Your underwaters need to be spot on. Keep a tight streamline in the underwater phase (maximum of fifteen meters in competition) and dolphin kick hard. Do not breathe on your first one or two strokes after you breakout. If we breathe straightaway, we tend to slow down the stroke rate and struggle to maintain, or up the stroke rate in the sprint.
Visualise yourself sprinting the night before you come to practise. There is nothing more powerful than already have your brain doing the work. It thinks it is real. In a quiet space, close your eyes and visualise a 50m sprint against someone who usually beats you. Now take your marks and swim the sprint in your head and beat her or him, opening your eyes when you touch for the finish. This will help improve your sprinting, or any ability for that matter.
As our speed increases so do the resultant drag forces which means we need more energy to sustain a high speed and hence why sprinting is so energy sapping, but so much fun.