PVC Technical Strategy 10

No Pain – No Gain

Question: Why do the fastest swimmers in the world work so hard?

Pick One:

  • Answer 1: Is it because the fitter they are, the harder they can work in practice?
  • Answer 2: Is it because the fitter they are, the harder they can work in competition?

If you choose the second answer you are correct! Training hard is not the “end game” or secret to success, racing hard is! So the main reason they work so intensely in practice is so they can work that intensely in a race. Many swimmers believe that the world’s best are in such great shape they don’t feel pain when racing and just cruise to victory, but nothing could be further than the truth! Swimmers like Ledecky and Dressel experience double, triple, maybe even quadruple the amount of pain the average swimmer does. That’s because higher racing speeds bring about higher racing pain!

I’ve put together a simple pain scale to help you understand what elite-level swimmers experience when competing in 50, 100, and 200 distances.

Pain Scale

  • White = Low Pain
  • Yellow = Medium Pain
  • Orange = High Pain
  • Red = Intense, Body Numbing Pain


  • 1st 12.5 = White
  • 2nd 12.5 = Yellow
  • 3rd 12.5 = Orange
  • 4th 12.5 = Red


  • 1st 25 = White
  • 2nd 25 = Yellow/Orange
  • 1st 12.5 of 3rd 25 = Orange/Red
  • 2nd 12.5 of 3rd 25 = Red
  • 4th 25 = Red


  • 1st 50 = White
  • 2nd 50 = Yellow/Orange
  • 5th 25 = Orange
  • 6th 25 = Red
  • 7th 25 = Red
  • 8th 25 = Red

Now that you know how the “big dogs” race, it’s time to find out how you do it. Be perfectly honest with yourself because only truth can lead to positive change!

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