As a triathlete, there is a constant battle between lap swimming and open water swimming. In the northeast, it’s hard to be in the open water during the winter time and early spring. The closest simulated activity to open water swimming is using an endless pool. These may not be readily accessible. That just means it’s imperative to maximize your workouts in the pool.
Pool swimming gives a swimmer the benefit of stopping between reps and pushing off the wall during sets. That is a big difference from open water swimming when the swimmer only has ground at her feet at the beginning and end of the race. The main part of a workout should have longer distance reps. It is great to do some speed work with 50s and 100s but the focus should be on distances of at least 200, especially if the race distance is in the olympic, 70.3, or 140.6 range.
- Workout #1 (4100 total)- this is one of my favorite workouts. It’s important to keep the recovery time tight so you learn how to recover quickly and then start up again.
- warmup: 1000 build – progressively faster each 300 with the last 100 at 90% effort; recover with an easy 50 or 100
- mini set: drill and stroke work
- 4×50 drills – these can be any type of drills that work for you
- 4×50 – fly/back
- 4×50 – back/breast
- 4×50 – breast/free
- main set: ladder up and down
- 100, 200, 300, 400
- 400, 300, 200, 100
- cool down: 200 easy
- Workout #2 (2800 total)- it’s important to give yourself a chance to gauge your distance progress through a time trial. Every month, you should try to swim an 800 hard.
- warmup: 400 distance per stroke – focus on nice, full strokes and gliding through the water + 4×50 descend – this is just to get your heart rate up and your body moving a little faster before the 800
- main set: 800 – find a pace that you can sustain for the duration of the set so you don’t blow up
- drill work: 4×300 pull – use a pull buoy if possible
- cool down: 200 easy
- Open water swimming is extremely different than lap swimming. You don’t get to rest anymore and you need to conserve energy throughout the swim portion since you are away from the shore. Terry Laughlin, via an Ironman post, shared his shift from swimming from the shoulders to swimming from the hips.
- 7 tips to improve your swimming – This article helps frame the swim portion of training. Swimming tends to cause the most angst for athletes. Focus on fundamentals. It’s not about slamming out as many 100s as possible. Technique and strength will go a long way to improving your efficiency, decreasing effort, and gaining speed.