The dictionary says:

mythmyth (noun)

  1. a traditional story of unknown authorship, ostensibly with a historical basis, but serving usually to explain some phenomenon of nature, the origin of man, or the customs, institutions, religious rites, etc. of a people: myths usually involve the exploits of gods and heroes
  2. such stories collectively; mythology
  3. any fictitious story, or unscientific account, theory, belief, etc.
  4. any imaginary person or thing spoken of as though existing

There’s the Yeti.

There’s the Sasquatch.

There’s the shopping cart with four good wheels.

There’s the low fat, great tasting chocolate cake.

And there’s these….the ten myths of swimming.

MYTH 1: It’s faster under water.

It’s only faster under water if you are faster under the water. Just being under water does not mean you will move faster.

For example, if you swim freestyle at two yards per second pace, but only maintain a speed of 1.6 yards per second under the water – get to the surface!

MYTH 2: More training makes you a better swimmer

We’ve all heard about the magic numbers that supposedly guarantee swimming success, e.g. 50 miles a week, 60 miles a week, ten sessions a week, 20 hours of training a week, 3000 miles a year etc  etc.

There is no evidence to say that 60 miles is better than 48 or 56 or 79. There is no solid research to support the idea 10 sessions is any better than 8, 15 or 127.

More training by itself does not guarantee success. There is no short cut or easy road to swimming success. It takes a lot of hard work, commitment, dedication and discipline. But, just adding more sessions and more miles is not the only answer.

Swimming fast is about PHYSICAL fitness and physical factors like strength, speed, endurance and power. It is also about MENTAL preparation, technical skill and tactical knowledge / execution. It is a balance between PHYSICAL / MENTAL / TECHNICAL / TACTICAL elements.

So hard training is important but it is not the only thing.

MYTH 3: Vitamins and minerals and supplements will make you a great swimmer

The word supplement means “something added, especially to make up for a lack or deficiency”.

The research around how effective supplements are at improving swimming performance is not conclusive. However these things are 100% conclusive for all swimmers:

  • Consistent training
  • Positive attitude
  • Staying strong during tough times
  • Honesty
  • Great technique.

Buy a few bottles of these things and you can’t lose!

MYTH 4: If you start out swimming one stroke well, you will always swim that stroke well

We’ve all seen the “child champs” – the nine year old superstar backstroker who seems destined for Olympic glory.  However, rarely, if ever do “child champs” make the Olympic team and win Olympic gold medals in the same stroke they first showed talent in. Often, kids will be a good breaststroker at 8, then a good freestyler at 11, then a top notch backstroker at 13 before ending up an outstanding flyer as a senior swimmer.

As kids develop and grow, changes in their limb lengths, their proportionality (i.e. the relationship of their limb length to overall body size), their muscle mass, height and weight, flexibility and strength will all impact on their ability to swim specific strokes.

Advice – become proficient in all strokes, in sprints and in distance events, medley and at dives, starts, turns and finishes. Then, no matter what happens to your body, you are ready for it!

MYTH 5: Weight training makes you a better swimmer

Weight training, strength training, Pilates, Yoga, Spin classes, Dance classes etc etc can all help improve your swimming performance when used in balance with pool training and when integrated into an overall swimming performance program.

Just throwing around a few weights and getting stronger does not guarantee swimming success.

Question: Why would you take up a weight training program?

Answer: To improve your swimming performance.

So the key issue is to ensure that the weight program enhances and supports what you do in the water.

MYTH 6: Body fat makes you swim faster because fat is buoyant OR being super thin will make you a great swimmer.

Sports scientists used to talk about % body fat or skinfolds and about optimal body fat levels for swimmers.

These days the critical concept is YOIPS – Your Optimal Individual Performance State.

There is no magical skin fold number or mystical body fat level that ALL SWIMMERS must attain to be successful.

The YOIPS concept is that each individual swimmer has an optimal body composition for their peak performance which is unique. For some swimmers that may mean being a lean, mean swimming machine. For others, an extra pound or two may help maintain their general health and well being and allow them to train consistently and shedding any excess weight will lead them to illness and being sick.

The bottom line is – find out what works best for you and stick to it!

MYTH 7: Lane 4 is the fastest lane and the only one you can win from

World records have been set in all lanes.

World championships have been won from all lanes.

Olympic gold medals have been won from all lanes.

NCAA, National, State and Club championships have been won from all lanes.

Enough said.

MYTH 8: A successful coach makes a great swimmer

One of the big mistakes a lot of swimmers (and parents) make is to change coaches too often for the wrong reasons. A good reason to change coaches might be that you have moved states or gone to College and you need a local coach to help you with your swimming program.

A poor reason to switch is because another coach seems to have produced a stand out young age group champion and you believe that simply by moving to their program, you will experience similar success.

Coaches are important in the scheme of things. Their training, knowledge and experience are invaluable to help all swimmers improve their physical, mental, technical and tactical skills.

However, a swimmer with a great attitude, who works hard consistently and who seeks to maximise the impact of every training session will succeed regardless of the coaching, facilities or club environment – they make their own luck and drive their own success.

A swimmer with a poor attitude, poor work ethic and negative approach will not succeed even if they go and train with Michael Phelps’ outstanding coaching team!

Coaches and swimmers (and parents) form a performance partnership – together they can achieve anything.

MYTH 9: It will be all right on race day

Many swimmers have TWO BRAIN disease. It is a terrible affliction.

One brain is the one they use for training. It allows the swimmer to perform sloppy dives, slow turns and to always finish a few yards short of the end of the pool.

The other brain, the one they use for racing, only comes out at Meets and makes sure all the dives, starts, turns and finishes are perfect.

The problem is that over time the TRAINING BRAIN starts to take over the MEET BRAIN and that’s when things start to go wrong.

Train the way you want to race.

If you execute sloppy dives every day in training – you get sloppy dives at meets.

If you do slow turns every day in workouts – you get killed in the turns when you race.

If you stop a few yards short every repeat at training – you will lose most tight finishes in competition.

Train the way you want to race.

MYTH 10: The more money you spend on swim suits and equipment, the faster you will swim

You need high quality equipment to compete at the highest level but no amount of money will make up for missed training, poor skills, sloppy technique, a poor diet, a lack of quality sleep or a lack of self confidence.

Improve yourself first – physically, mentally, technically, tactically………then go and buy a fast suit.

If you are driving a beat up old car, with a broken down engine, bald tyres, a faulty gear box and low grade fuel, giving it a $5000 paint job doesn’t make it go any faster. Sure, it looks a lot better but it will not win any races.

There is a common theme about all these myths – that is that people are always looking for a system or a secret or something they can buy or do to guarantee success.

There ain’t no such thing!

There is however, something that can make a real difference.

Something that can make every session outstanding and every day something special.

Something that can take every opportunity and turn it into a performance advantage.


Wayne Goldsmith and Helen Morris