Do you know what’s more important than being faster? Feeling wonderful when you move.
This is not really a personal preference thing. This is about universal physiology and psychology.
Think about it. If you want an athletic movement art that you will want to do when you are young and when you are old, when times are good and when times are tough, when you are feeling strong and when you are feeling weak, then it needs to feel wonderful. It needs to be experienced primarily as a pleasure, not a chore.
When you sign up for a race and you’ve got to get the training done, yes, there are times you may need to do work that doesn’t feel so pleasant, and you may need to work farther into the discomfort zone to provoke the adaptations your body needs for that event. But if you stray too far, or too long from that core pleasure in the movement of swimming, you are in danger. Because that race date is going to pass whether you swim it, swim it faster, or not at all. You’ve got a life of swimming to carry on with after that date.
There are many programs and coaches that can make you faster. But who can show you how to make it feel absolutely wonderful? Arriving at the level of body awareness and control that makes it feel wonderful is really what’s going to make you keep doing it as a lifestyle. It feels good and therefore you love doing it. And when you love doing it, you can more easily get yourself to do the uncomfortable work necessary to go faster and farther too, if that’s what you want to do.
Even if you do want that right now, frankly, you’re not always going to want or care about going faster. When you get along later in life, or at any time when circumstances are tough on the mind, just being able to move weightlessly, to slide freely, without pain or strain, is going to be a treasured time of refreshment. The best time to learn how to do that is now, so that you can prevent or at least delay the day when that body doesn’t want to move so much. Moving better now will make you more eager to move more later.
If you are involved in some intense training toward an achievement with an approaching deadline, and in loyalty to the schedule you feel your love of movement slipping away, beware. I beg you to be careful not to damage your mind for swimming, even if you are being careful to not risk damaging your body. Losing your love for swimming is a serious mental injury.
If you’ve noticed that happening, for the sake of your spirit and longevity, you may need to turn off the intensity for a while and do what it takes to recover that fundamental love of your body moving smoothly through the water. Speed be damned (for a while, at least). What your mind needs is to be in harmony with the body, and that body needs be in harmony with the water. Put those back in place first and foremost and you are in a much better place to pursue speed and distance and all those temporal externals, if you desire.