If you want to run faster, simply increase your foot turnover. Bike faster? Increase pedal speed. Faster hockey shot? Apply more force to the stick. Swim faster? Not so easy, right? Swimming unlike many sports is almost entirely based on good technique. According to ASCA Level 5 coach, Scott Bay, "the secret to faster swimming is learning to relax."
Easier said then done you say! Bay explains that finding free speed is a matter of "relaxing the parts of your body that aren't helping you swim and preventing them from robbing you of energy." Muscles that are actively engaged when they don't need to be are using up valuable oxygenated blood that should be going to the muscles that are propelling you forward. The trick is to not waste any motion that is not related to faster swimming. One way to focus on "swimming only" muscle movement is to develop a keen feel for the water. You want to "feel" and be aware of any tension throughout your body. Bay says "carefully monitor your entire body and make a mental note of which muscles are flexed and which are relaxed." Tense legs, for instance, divert more oxygen -rich blood from the prime movers of the swim stroke. The same tension could lead to counter-productive cramps as well.
Remember too, that a rhythmic, relaxed breathing pattern provides much needed resources to swim muscles. Do not give in to the impulse to hold your breath while swimming. Think of oxygen as your fuel and remember that holding your breath requires its own effort and it flexes many muscles that are not helping your swim motion.
As you swim, try to conduct a head-to-toe body check. Make sure your hands and feet are relaxed, don't over stress your legs. If you feel tension, relax those body parts "creating the tension that are not doing any of the work for swimming."
Relaxation, breathing, releasing non-productive tension.......it all requires you to be a "thoughtful swimmer." Relaxation in the water should be an ongoing process and takes a mindful approach. It will not happen overnight. Mindful swimming takes time and patience but can be achieved...faster times await!
It's like my niece Megan says, "Relax. You got this."