When is that last time you swam as fast as you could for say, 25 meters?
If it's been a bit, give it a try, and tell me how you feel right after? I'm going to forecast your response and bet that 99% of you will describe a feeling of being absolutely gassed.
While swimming fast can leave you soon after you stop training, being able to swim recreationally is something I really enjoy. Speaking of enjoyment, I also love reading stories of triumph, overcoming the odds, and sticking to a training plan when the external noise creates some doubt in your mind.
Today, we're doing to provide some recommendations on books to improve your swimming. If you're like me and don't swim competitively anymore, we're also going to highlight some of our favorite stories from lives in the pool.
Whether you swim competitively or enjoy a good story, you'll be better for having read one of these books.
Why Read One of These Books?
Before you do anything, I've always felt it's a good exercise to ask yourself, "why?" Are you reading for knowledge, entertainment, or because someone told you you have to? For me, I read for 3 main reasons:
1. Books on any topic provide perspective. Being able to swim is a lot different than being a great swimmer. Some of the people that you'll read more about below have a perspective on the sport that most people just don't have. Whether it's the recollection of thoughts seconds before the starting gun is about to go off in an Olympic gold medal race or learning to train when you're over the age of 40, getting the perspective of someone that's different than your own is a powerful thing for your brain.
2. Knowledge. For every one of these books, I learned something. At any age, it's easy to say that we know it all, but wisdom tells us that we don't. Being open to learning and having resources like these are a tremendous gift.
3. Last, I think it's important to have an expectation of enjoyment when you pick up a book. Nobody wants to read a bunch of boring recollections. If a book keeps me engaged, gives me the feeling that I'm learning something, or takes me on a journey, I'm all in.
With that, the list below is broken up into two sections: books to improve your swimming and memoirs/biographies. By splitting them up, hopefully it will make it easier to navigate to your desired section. Enjoy the list!
Books to Improve Your Swimming
The Swim Coaching Bible
The Swim Coaching Bible is a comprehensive guide to coaching and training swimmers at all levels, from beginners to elite athletes. Written by renowned coach Dick Hannula, the book covers everything from stroke mechanics and training methods to psychology and nutrition. The book also includes contributions from other top coaches, providing a wealth of expertise and insights. If you like this book, Hannula actually wrote a second version as well.
Total Immersion is a classic book on swimming technique that has helped countless swimmers to improve their form and efficiency in the water. Laughlin, a swim coach and founder of the Total Immersion method, teaches swimmers how to swim with less effort and greater ease by focusing on balance, streamlining, and mindfulness. I love Laughlin's focus on making swimming "comfortable." A great book for both competitive and non-competitive swimmers.
Swimming Anatomy is a unique book that combines the science of anatomy with practical advice for swimmers. Written by Ian McLeod, a certified strength and conditioning specialist, the book provides detailed illustrations and explanations of the muscles used in swimming, along with exercises and stretches to improve strength and flexibility. As someone who believes in sports science, this book was fascinating to me and gave me a better appreciation for weak spots that I wouldn't have normally associated with swimming.
Swim Speed Secrets
Swim Speed Secrets is a book that focuses on the technique and training methods of the fastest swimmers in the world. Written by Olympic gold medalist Sheila Taormina, the book provides step-by-step guidance on how to swim with greater efficiency and power, including drills and exercises for improving technique and endurance. Given the success of this book, Taormina actually wrote two subsequent books: Swim Speed Strokes and Swim Speed Workouts.
Swim Smooth is a comprehensive guide to swimming technique and training, written by coaches Paul Newsome and Adam Young. The book covers everything from stroke mechanics and body positioning to drills and workouts for improving speed and endurance. It also includes tips for triathletes and open-water swimmers, making it a valuable resource for athletes of all disciplines.
Swimming Memoirs & Biographies
Swimming to Antarctica
Swimming to Antarctica is a memoir by open-water swimmer Lynne Cox, who recounts her incredible journey of swimming a mile in the freezing waters of Antarctica. The book is a testament to the power of the human spirit and the resilience of the human body, and offers insights into the mental and physical challenges of long-distance swimming.
Michael Phelps needs no introduction. Let's just call him the most decorated Olympian of all time. This book details his journey from a young swimmer to an Olympic champion, and the challenges he faced along the way.
Age Is Just A Number
Torres, who won 12 Olympic medals during her career, talks about her training regimen, her approach to nutrition and fitness, and the mental toughness required to succeed in such a competitive field. She also shares personal stories about her struggles with injuries, relationships, and her decision to come out of retirement to compete in the 2008 Olympics at the age of 41.
Age Is Just a Number is not only a memoir of a successful athlete, but also a guide for anyone looking to achieve their goals, no matter their age or circumstances. Torres' story serves as an inspiration for anyone looking to push past their limits and achieve their dreams. As someone pushing 40, this served as a great reminder not to make excuses and continue to challenge myself.
Man vs Ocean
Walker, a British open-water swimmer, became the first person to swim the seven ocean channels. In the book, Walker details his incredible journey to achieve this feat, including his training regimen, his struggles with injuries and self-doubt, and the various obstacles he encountered along the way.
Through his personal anecdotes and reflections, Walker offers readers an intimate look at the mental and physical challenges he faced as he pushed himself to the limit in pursuit of his goal. He also shares valuable insights and advice on goal-setting, resilience, and the importance of mental strength in achieving success.
Beisel recounts her journey to becoming an elite swimmer, including her training regimen, her experiences competing at the Olympics, and the lessons she learned along the way.
Beisel also shares her personal struggles, including her father's battle with cancer and her own mental health challenges. She speaks candidly about the pressures of being a high-profile athlete, the sacrifices required to reach the top, and the importance of maintaining a healthy balance between training and rest.
Through her personal anecdotes and reflections, Beisel offers readers an intimate look at the life of an Olympic swimmer, as well as valuable insights on perseverance, determination, and resilience.
Swimming is a tremendous "life sport," and something I'm glad my parents emphasized when I was a young kid. Being comfortable in the water has led me on some incredible adventures, whether it be a trek through the water in Zion National Park, a triathlon, or challenges to "swim across the lake" at the cabin.
Speaking of adventure, there is a really cool 3-part book series called Wild Swimming about unique places to swim in Croatia & Slovenia, France, and the Alps. If you're based in Europe (or traveling there), you should check it out!
Whether you swim competively or simply enjoy reading about the sport, I hope you found some value in this list. If there's a book we should check out, please let us know below in the comments section.
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John Willkom is the author of Amazon best-selling basketball books: Walk-On Warrior and No Fear In The Arena. John is an avid reader, sports fan, and father to two incredible little girls.
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