Where did my stroke go?

What do you do when your stroke starts to breakdown in practice or a race?

Over the years I’ve experienced my stroke breakdown (or fall apart) countless times. Most often in practice, but I have had it happen during a few races and even a couple marathon swims. Not pretty!

What is stroke breakdown? It simply means you lose your form and the ability to maintain your desired pace. 

In practice it is ok to breakdown and you should strive to push yourself to your limit, like super star Olympian Katie Ledecky. She often pushes herself into breakdown territory in practice and in doing so has learned her threshold and how to pace her longer swims. 

What do you do when your stroke starts to breakdown? 

1.) Breathe. When things start to fall apart in my stroke I revert back to the first lesson I teach to nearly every swimmer, breathing. Check in on your breath work. Are you holding on to your breath? Or panting like a dog? Do you have a panicky feeling that you can’t keep up and need to stop? 

When things start to get tough in practice and I have only 5-10 seconds to recover on the wall before I am off doing another 100 or 200 I get control of my breathing. My aim is to get out of the panting, woe-is-me mode, and try to get a solid inhalation and exhalation going. Two or three focused inhalations really rejuvenates my fatigued lungs and body.  

2.) Once I regain my breath I can switch my focus to swimming with purpose. If my stroke has broken down from overall fatigue I recall what I’ve been recently working on such as my catch or head placement. The key is to redirect my focus from my overall fatigue by calming my breath and staying present in my stroke. 

Give these tactics a try the next time you feel like you’ve lost your stroke and feel like giving up. You will be able to finish stronger than you thought you could! 

Happy Swimming