Sheila's book isn't new (2012) but it was new to me. Sheila Taormina is a 4-time Olympian, an Olympian in 3 sports, a gold medalist in swimming, and a triathlon world champion. Though she is without peer her conversational style is intimate, as if she was addressing a small group. Early on she states the obvious: “You can only get faster in swimming in one of two ways: 1.) Reduce the number of strokes you take. 2.) Turnover the strokes more quickly.” If only swim time improvements were that easy.
She coaches the readers to focus on her secret areas for the best speed improvements like “developing a great pull” instead of every aspect of swimming. Sheila instructs how and why to change stroke technique to catch the water during the pull phase. “The catch is essentially the very first moment that we get our hold, or feel, for the water…… This is the part of swimming that is most like art rather than science.”
Sheila combines learning swimming skills with economics: “Around 95 percent of the swimmers and triathletes I know are showing up to practice and working on diminishing returns.” She shares just enough skills in the book so as to not overwhelm the reader, then encourages us to head off to a pool to concentrate on what will yield the best swim speed returns. Shelia reinforces the benefits of thinking about each workout to become more skilled, stronger, and faster.
Each chapter ends with a simple summary page of the key content covered in the previous pages. Her written messages are supplemented by pictures illustrating her targeted concepts such as the subtle differences in elbow positioning to keep them high in the water during the pull phase.
Sheila told how swim stroke philosophy changed over the past few decades, and offered four prime theories on swim propulsion. She added minor tips such as streamlining off the pool walls, and that this translates to open water by actually helping swimmers improve catches.
She writes: “Spend time looking closely at the photos in the book. You will learn more from studying those than from anything I could write in words.” I agree. I looked at the pictures and visualized my new stroke to catch water. I went to the pool with more focus, my mind more engaged and my stroke now holds more water combined with a quicker turnover. The clock does not lie.
In the appendix there is a brief listing of swim lingo. Any new swimmer would benefit by learning the language before showing up to his first masters workout.
Swim Speed Secrets for Swimmers and Triathletes by Shelia Taormina is published by Velopress and sells for $18.95 with pictures throughout. This paperback is 7" x 9" and is 179 pages in length.