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James Gibson's swimming sprint tips

When we were looking for swimming sprint tips for the Hub we thought we’d ask former world 50m breaststroke champion James Gibson to share to share some of his secrets. So here are his six steps to a lightning-fast sprint.

Tip 1. Less is more

In preparation for the big competition, make sure you taper. Drop down the distance of your sets and sessions – you could even try cutting out one of your sessions if you swim many times a week. Instead of sets of 100s, switch to 75s or 50s, focusing on short sharp bursts of speed.

Tip 2. The bigger the better

Make yourself stronger in the gym. This is more of a long-term plan rather than in the weeks before a competition because you don’t want to be straining your muscles in the run-up to the big day.

For the sprint events, focus on your core muscles (these exercises are a good start) and your arms and shoulders (try these gym workouts).

Tip 3. Every breath you take slows you down

Do breathe, but do it as little as possible. Each time you take breath, particularly in a freestyle race, will cost you valuable milliseconds which could be used powering through the water.

Practice your ability to hold your breath during max effort swimming. Also, take a few deep breaths before the race to help oxygenate the blood.

Tip 4. You can sprint but you can’t hide

In truth, small faults in your technique will be very costly to your overall performance because the race is so short. Normally the most efficient swimmer with the best technique will touch the wall first.

Are you dropping your legs? How’s your arm recovery? In a sprint race, even the tiniest tweak to your technique could knock valuable tenths off your time.

Tip 5. Get pumped

Psych yourself up, feel the rush and energy poolside, be nervous and excited and ready to swim like you’re being chased by a hungry pack of piranha.

You’re about to leave everything in the pool with no regrets and you want your fast-twitch muscle fibres to answer the call.

Tip 6. Nutrition, nutrition, nutrition

Muscle recovery is vital in the run-up to competition so be sensible with your diet. Eat a mixture of protein and carbs after a workout / pool session then don’t mix things up too much around competition.

No need to go overboard with pasta the night before. Just eat something familiar and keep your blood sugar levels steady.
The morning of the competition, eat something easily digestible and give yourself plenty of time to properly wake up before the race