Race Strategy for the 500 Free

By Meghan Satterstrom

The 500 is often one of those races that swimmers either love or hate. If you're a distance swimmer, you know that it's vital to swim smart during this race. It’s not only about good technique and speed, but about nailing the turns and an overall strategy.
It is important that you do not start out too fast and lose steam, but also that you do no start out too slow and find it impossible to catch up. The 500 yard freestyle is all about finding the perfect balance. It may seem confusing when you first start swimming this race, but endurance gained from your workouts, along with close attention to proper technique, will prepare you for the race. It will likely take a few meets to perfect your own strategy.
As with all distance events, there are different theories as how to maximize your performance and drop time. For instance, some prefer to keep a steady pace for the entire race, while some believe in the practice of negative splitting.  
Coach Mark Crouch of Riptide Rush Swim Team in West Des Moines, Iowa offers an effective race strategy you might find helpful in preparing for the 500 free. 
Race Strategy

  • Control your legs early in the race, focusing on kicking in and out of the walls, but backing off the legs in between to conserve energy. Good turns are crucial and an effective way to get ahead of the competition.
  • Use this strategy until about the 300 or 325 mark, and then start to build your kick until the 375. Now you can get your kick going until the finish.
  • Get out and keep up with the other swimmers during the first 100, but stay in control. You can get the lead back during the last 100.
  • During the second 100, start your pace, but remain in control of your speed.
  • After third 100, begin to negative split and start taking control of the race. Your first and last 100 should be the fastest.
  • Unless you are a seasoned distance swimmer, the 500 freestyle is a longer race that most people are not used to. Because of its length, it is important that you stay focused on your strategy and pay attention to your body the entire time.

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