It's not how many yards you put in, it's what you put into the yards!
We can start with the following 3 pointers to help us become faster swimmers!
Pace Awareness. In our workouts, you've seen the terms fast, sprint, all-out, Threshold pace or T-Pace, descend, build, easy, etc. Each of these paces should feel different in the water. Anyone can swim for an hour at one speed! It's important that we are pushing ourselves or letting our bodies rest--when it's needed.
I've put certain sets on intervals and designated a speed for that set. It's important to take advantage of the pace intervals, get your time after each repetition, and try to remain consistent. If you can hold 33s for 10 x 50s @ 1:00 one week, next week try to hold the same time with less rest 50s @ :50 or hold a faster time (32s for 10 x 50 @ 1:00). These are just examples.
For more anaerobic sprint sets (i.e. sprint 25s and 50s) it's important that we are getting 1:1 swim to rest ratio. This allows our body to swim at it's best for each repetition. For more aerobic sets, it is a continuous effort with minimal rest! Science! It's a beautiful thing!
Stroke Rate. We talk about distance per stroke and long strokes, however, too long of a stroke may be less efficient, it's a fine line we walk in swimming. Good propulsion (from your catch, pull and push), low drag (straight body and effective kick), and a 'glide' or 'reach and roll' are all factors in a good, long stroke. Additionally, rhythm and timing are important parts of our stroke--that is developed over time with practice.
Effective Kick. Kicking in swimming comes in many sizes! We use 2, 4, or 6 beat kicks. 2-beat kicks may be used more during a distance set while 6 or 8 beat kicks are used in sprints! The key to a well-timed kick is when the hand enters the water at the front of the stroke, the opposite leg should kick. This typically happens naturally with most swimmers--so don't focus too much on it but rather one pointed toes and power from the hips (not the knees!). Experiment with your 2, 4, or 6 beat kicks in practice!