My Favorite Trick for Making Swim Practice Go By Faster

My Favorite Trick for Making Swim Practice Go By Faster

Think back to the last time you did a big, “boring” swim practice.

Maybe the set was something you didn’t see the point of.

Your mind wandered. Your focus wavered. Time seemed to slow to a dog-paddle-with-DragSox-on crawl.

And hey, I get it…

I am not immune to my mind wandering outside the lane lines, especially when I am dead tired or I am stressed out or I’m fantasizing about the 16-course dinner I am going to stuff in my gullet when I get home.

But if you want to make your swim practices go by faster, there is something you can do (besides wishing your coach would write easier workouts).

This something will also make you a more efficient swimmer.

And it will also make you a faster swimmer.

It’s counting your strokes.

When American freestyler Zach Apple transferred to Auburn University, he walked out onto a pool deck that was totally stacked with elite sprinters.

Bruno Fratus. Marcelo Chierighini. Renzo Tjon-A-Joe.

Olympians, world champions, and NCAA champions littered the lanes.

In a recent episode of Inside with Brett Hawke (click here for the full interview) Apple rehashed the experience of being fresh-faced and eager to learn from the champions in the chlorinated midst.

One of his new teammates, Kyle Darmody, pulled him aside one day at practice and asked him:

“How many strokes are you taking in warm-up every day?”

Apple, a very late bloomer in the sport, looked blankly at Darmody, an NCAA champion and 6-time SEC champion.

“I have no idea.”

“You just need to take one less stroke per lap in warm-up,” said Darmody.

Apple started counting his strokes.

Lengthening it out.

Eventually, Apple progressed to the point he is swimming each lap of a yards pool during threshold sets with three kicks and eight strokes.

And before long, he was counting medals, top 10- world rankings, and plenty of buzz as a legitimate contender in the 100-meter freestyle for the Tokyo Olympics.

So what does Zach Apple and counting strokes have to do with making practice go by faster?

Welp, it’s actually kinda simple…

Counting your strokes keeps you present

Practice feels longer than a 7-day swim meet when we are thinking about stuff outside of the water.

When we are “bored.”

When our mind is restless.

Counting your strokes is a simple way to keep yourself in the moment.

You stay present.

You swim each length one stroke at a time instead of wishing that you were the end of the set or practice.

When you go to the pool today…

And you want to make practice go by faster…

Count your strokes.

It will go by faster…

And more importantly, you will get faster.

More Stuff Like This

How Swimmers Can Learn to Be More Present in the Pool. Being present in the water helps you swim faster and more efficiently. Here’s how to do it.

Natalie Coughlin: Focus Up and Turbocharge Improvement. Natalie Coughlin is among the winningest swimmers in NCAA and Olympic history. Here’s how she harnessed the power of intense focus in practice to deliver epic performances on race day.

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Olivier Poirier-Leroy Olivier Poirier-Leroy is the founder of He is an author, former national level swimmer, two-time Olympic Trials qualifier, and swim coach.

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