I have been getting a lot of questions lately about how to get better at swimming. Let me say this right up front.
- YES technique IS important.
- Yes I agree swimming on your side helps
- Yes I think you need to maximize stroke length (more on this in a min)
- Yes I think doing drills are important
If you look back at Memphis in May from the earliest results, you will see I was definitely not that great of a swimmer. Trying to get down to a 20 min 1500k took YEARS for me, and was a huge goal. I think I started about 25-27 min, eventually 23, etc.
I wanted to break 20 min, I also wanted to swim with a lead group when possible.
Look, I worked very hard on my “Stroke” but at the end of the day the sets that helped me the most were not Masters Classes, were not the really fancy sets, etc. They were the roll up your sleeves and do the sets nobody else likes to do. You want to do 10 x 100 on the 1:20??? Great, then try to do them. If you only make 3, then add 5 seconds and finish the set. Keep trying them week after week until you get your goal. Not literally, but you get the idea I hope.
It has to be a realistic goal. If you are swimming 2:00/100 now, then make 1:55 the goal. If you do it on 10 seconds rest, and even 5 seconds, it gets to be too long. This is the problem with masters, the interval is made for the group so if you are getting 5+ sec rest on anything shorter than 200 it’s TOO MUCH REST for trying to identify your pacing strategy for your 1500.
Build endurance. Swim a straight 4-5k every week and vary your freestyle stroke. So for example I will do 500 bilat, 500 weakside, 500 bilat, 500 strong side. And just keep rotating through. Boring? Yep! But if you don’t do these types of sets, you are not going to get faster.
PACE! I do a swim where I see how far can I swim at my goal pace without any breaks. I look during a breath cycle each time I come into the wall if I am on pace or not. If I am teetering by a second, FIGHT FOR ANOTHER 100. It may be 700 meters, it maybe 1200. You don’t know. This is one of the reasons why groups do not work all the time. It would have to be way more structured, or you would catch a draft, or swim too hard, too much rest, etc.
Now I think Masters groups are very beneficial, just not for ALL YOUR swims. Use them to push speed and some breakthrough swims, and technique work, but your blue collar sets need to be solo or with one buddy close to your speed.
Keep things very simple too, if you get too fancy, you can get more fit, but not building specificity.
- 40x50 on 2 sec rest.
- 10x200 @ goal pace on an interval with 5 sec rest.
- 500 at goal pace, then 5 x 100 on goal pace interval, then right into 400 @ gp... all the way down.
- If you start to fall off, use paddles for help.
Open water? Sure practice for a lot of swimmers it isn’t going to help as much UNLESS YOU HAVE A GROUP. This would be a time a group will help to keep you honest. By yourself I think you look around too much, the clock is a non-issue, and you just do not get the same work in.
I hope this helps. It isn’t always the sexiest answer but I promise it will be effective.
We will also go over this on our podcast this month. You can look for that on Itunes “training bible coaching” as search.