Some Tips and Tricks for Better Distance Swimming

Distance swimming lane counting

Some Tips and Tricks for Better Distance Swimming

Distance swimming. It is not every swimmer’s cup of tea, and sometimes even those who enjoy distance swimming can find themselves tripping up or losing count during their races. Some might even question why they swim distance races in the first place. But distance races do not have to be horrible, and can even be enjoyable, if athletes are willing to focus on the positives of swimming long events.

Mental Motivation

“Swimming is one of those sports that you need to be mentally prepared for, or else your swim will be over before you even start,” writer Courtney Lambert writes in her online article Six Tips to Prepare for a Distance Swim. 

Becoming mentally prepared for a distance race can be tough sometimes. It can be easy to discourage yourself by focusing on how tired the race will make you or becoming too stressed out. As with all sports, it is important to try and calm down, focus on strengths rather than weaknesses, and give yourself positive talk.

“I can do this!” or “This is going to be a great swim!” are simple and easy phrases that young athletes can tell themselves before diving in the water. Focusing on the negatives of any race – not just distance races – can end a race before it begins. As long as the swimmer stays positive it can be much easier to achieve great results.


“If you want to be the best, you have to do things other people aren’t willing to do,” once stated Olympic Swimmer Michael Phelps.

Swimmers who wish to do extra should keep themselves mentally prepared and willing to go the extra mile to swim well at practices, and especially during a race. This can consist of working hard to improve starts, turns, and stroke technique in order to gain speed in the water.

In distance races, milliseconds can add up. Even details such as getting a few more kicks off a turn, can add up and help drop massive amounts of time.

The resilience, strength, and persistence required in order to work on the little things and go the distance, all comes from a strong mental state. As Phelps said, being the best does not come from nothing. While it may be hard to look at a pool before a long race and stay positive, keeping a healthy mindset will improve mental states tremendously.

Just Keep Swimming

When swimming distance races – for example the 500 or 1,000 freestyle – it is important for athletes to stay motivated, while also keeping their focus. Some swimmers from the Trinity High School swim team mentioned that they sing songs in their heads in order to keep up momentum.

“I sing a song most of the time. During the last 100, I tell myself to go as fast as I can and that I can rest later,” athlete Avery O’Sullivan explained her thought process during the 500.

During warmups before a distance race, be sure to keep a consistent breathing pattern. Breathing inconsistently can break a swimmer’s rhythm and  throw off their swimming in a crucial part of the race.  That is why it is important to develop a breathing strategy whenever there is time, before diving into a timed event.

“Many athletes who are unsure of themselves in the water tend to panic slightly (even if they do not realize it) and alter their breathing patterns, hyperventilating themselves into exhaustion,” Alex Kostich mentioned in the article breathing right will put you on your way to swimming right.

It is also a good idea to increase and maintain speed during long races. Distance races can be tiring, but it is important for athletes to not lose focus and to continue swimming even when they are breathing heavy and exhausted. It’s not going to be easy, but it is possible, to push through the discomfort.

Diving In

In short, distance swimming is not easy and it’s not for everyone. But as long as a swimmer can keep a healthy mindset – having a strong and positive race is possible. And who knows? Maybe trying a new event will inspire more swimmers to compete in longer races or even open water swimming. It’s certainly possible.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

1 comment

  1. avatar

    This is a great article! I enjoyed reading a first hand account from a swimmer who actually swims long distance races in swim meets. Thank you, Riley Dunn.

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