The Swimming Zone

Photo Courtesy: Jen Cournoyer

The Swimming Zone.

By Wayne Goldsmith

You’re traveling through another swimming dimension—a dimension not only of muscles and tendons, but of mind…a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s a signpost up ahead—your next stop: the Swimming Zone! (with apologies to Rod Serling, creator of the “Twilight Zone”).

Do you want to improve your swimming?

If you’re reading this article, the answer is a very loud, clear, emphatic “yes!”

But how? How can you find a few valuable fractions of a second and turn your personal potential into the perfect performances?

Do you do more training?

Should you buy some better training equipment?

Could you find a new coach?

Perhaps you should purchase a new super-fast swimsuit?

Or maybe you need to become committed to maintaining a healthier diet?

Or what about getting more rest and having better quality sleep every night?

Sure. All these things may help. They might give you an advantage. They could even help you to swim a little faster.

But there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to work—one thing you can do to ensure your swimming performance improves.

And it’s free…and it’s easy…and it’s closer than you think.

It’s the way you approach your training.

You are now entering…the Swimming Zone.

The Swimming Zone.

There’s five “zones” in swimming, and each one of them plays an important role in your swimming success story:

The Preparation Swimming Zone;
The Power Swimming Zone;
The Practice Swimming Zone;
The Performance Swimming Zone;
The Post-Pool Swimming Zone.

Each Swimming Zone can give you an edge in your preparation and an advantage in your racing performances.

Zone 1: The Preparation Swimming Zone

As soon as you arrive at the pool, you enter swimming zone 1—the preparation zone. This is the zone where you and your swim team meet immediately before training—for example, the locker rooms, the end of the pool, a specific place in the “stands,” etc. This zone is where you start to think about swimming and where you turn on your swimming mind and begin to focus on your swimming and training.

There’s a great saying that goes, “start the way you want to finish.” The preparation zone is the time and the place where you deliberately make the conscious decision that today—right here and right now—will be a great workout.

It’s also the zone where you get your swimming “tool-kit” ready for the session ahead, including your kickboard, pull buoy and band, fins, paddles, water bottle and all the practical things you need to ensure that this workout will be outstanding.

Zone 2: The Power Swimming Zone

Zone 2 is all about power—the area from the walls to the backstroke flags (i.e., the zone where you are either leaving or swimming to the ends of the pool). This swimming zone is called the power zone because it is here—from the walls to the flags—that you can make some remarkable improvements in your swimming performance.

A great way to think of the power zone is to think, “first three, last three” (i.e. make sure the first three strokes you take coming off a wall as well as the last three strokes you take as you approach a wall are powerful, lightning-fast and, in free and fly, done without breathing.

In swimming zone 2, every dive is a race-quality dive; every start is a race-quality start; every turn is a race-quality turn; and every finish is a race-quality finish.

Zone 3: The Practice Swimming Zone

The area of the pool between the flags is zone 3—the practice zone.

Here, the focus is on technique, skills and learning.

A great training habit to develop is to practice your skills, kick and technique work between the flags (zone 3), but when you hit zone 2, swim at maximum speed in and out of every wall.

For example, if you are completing a lap of single-arm fly drill, streamline from the wall to the backstroke flag (zone 2), complete the single-arm fly drill between the backstroke flags (zone 3), then swim full stroke butterfly to the wall (zone 2), including finishing with a race-quality finish (i.e. head forward, hips high, arms fully extended and legs still pumping).

Zone 4: The Performance Swimming Zone

Think of the pool as a stage and imagine yourself to be an actor.

The pool is where you come to perform. It is your stage. It is the place where you come to demonstrate your skills—your art—as a swimmer.

From the moment you arrive at the pool, imagine you are on the swimming stage, and it is here where you perform the skills and techniques of swimming that you have mastered through years of hard practice and dedicated training.

What you do at the pool is more than just swimming laps or kicking or doing drills. It is the place where you demonstrate your capacity for excellence and your commitment to success.

Swimming Zone four is the pool – and everything in it and around it. It is the place where excuses end, where commitment rules and where dreams become reality.

Zone 5: The Post-Pool Swimming Zone

Zone 5, even though it is outside the pool area, is just as important as all the other zones. This is where you help your body to repair, regenerate and recover from the hard work you’ve done in zones 1, 2, 3 and 4.

In fact, the better you are in zone 5 (i.e. the better you are at managing your sleep, rest, recovery, hydration, nutrition and injury treatment), the better you can perform in the other swimming zones.


1. Everyone who swims has access to the same “zones.” They are the same in every pool…in every city…in every nation. It’s your choice as to how you use the “zones”—and it’s your choice as to how successful you will be.

2. Try tapping into each “zone” at a time. Instead of thinking, “I’m going to practice,” think, “Today, I’ll get the most out of the ‘practice zone,’” or “Today, I’ll make sure everything I do in the ‘power zone’ will be outstanding.”

3. By understanding the “zones,” you can systematically and progressively improve every aspect of your swimming: fitness, power, skills, technique, your mental skills and your recovery. All it takes is for you to “zone-in: on the swimming zones.

Wayne Goldsmith