Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Building Swim Endurance

In this article, I share ideas on how to structure your longest swim workout to effectively build your swim endurance.

This should be a technique oriented swimming session that builds your base endurance. As with all endurance swims, it is best done LCM (long course meters).

Warm up with a pyramid structure using three-stroke breathing
Bilateral 50/100/150... ...150/100/50
# 5s rest at the end of each swim
# Pyramid up based on length of desired warm-up
# Variation -- every other 50 non-free for the even swims
# Half IM athletes up to 150/200
# IM athletes up to 200/250
# Elites up to 300/350

Main Set
# Odds -- 100IM / 300 free steady/mod-hard on 15s rest
# Evens -- Bilateral easy/steady on 20s rest
# Half IM Athletes start at 2 and build up to 6
# IM Athletes start at 4 and build up to 8
# Elites start at 6 and build up to 10

Cool Down
200 non-free
# If ending with an "even" then you can make that your cool down, insert some non-free and back right off.

Work on a single technique point at a time.

While swimming bilaterally you can work on the following items:

* Head position -- head should be steady, in line with the spine and looking down. When breathing, rotate the body and swivel the head by moving the chin. Focus on keeping head down. If you lift your head when you breathe then this should be your sole objective until mastered!
* Exhale underwater -- this is excellent for warm up, many people that have trouble with bilateral swimming are trying to exhale/inhale with their face out of the water. As a result, they only get a partial inhalation. This will help you resist the urge to lift your head. Even when swimming normally, exhale in the water.
* Off side arm -- in an attempt to push our heads out of the water, many swimmers will push down with their offside arm when breathing. Remember to let the leading hand float for a little bit when breathing. The first movement should be to "cock" the arm/elbow -- when done correctly, the hand, forearm and arm are rotated away from the swimmer.
* Pressing the T -- If you have a tendency to drag your butt through the water (uphill swimming) then keep your head down and focus on pressing your chest down in the water, while maintaining a long body line. Now that you have your head down, this should be your next objective.
* Distance per stroke -- Focus on a long, relaxed, smooth stroke. Count your strokes and try to maximize distance per stroke.
* Hand entry -- swimmers that have a tendency to crossover should focus on skating from hip to hip. Swim on two rails, rotating from rail to rail.
* Legs together -- for scissorkickers this is an excellent time to relax and work on keeping your legs in your body shadow. Each time your breathe, touch your two big toes.
* Hips and shoulders rotate together -- Remember that the hips determine swim cadence and the shoulders/head should have no vertical movement.

I really like bilateral swimming because it forces me to relax and slow down. Perfect for when I am working on improving stroke mechanics and building a deep swimming base.

In the 300 steady/mod-hard make sure that you are going at a steady aerobic pace. It is important that you keep this much slower than threshold (as determined by a 1K TT), on the order of 3-7s per 100 slower. Areas where you can focus:

* Entry -- enter down, have your wrist and forearm vertically aligned and quickly pointing at the bottom of the pool.
* Pull Through -- Once the catch is set up, focus on maintaining a high elbow as you pull through the stroke. If you drop your elbow then you will feel the water "slip away" as you hand/forearm are no long pulling.
* Stroke acceleration -- focus on accelerating through the entire stroke and "pushing through" the back half of the stroke. In my technique swim workouts, I call this "rear emphasis".

Maintain proper stroke mechanics even when you are swimming easy. Back off a little with the force of your pull but maintain the integrity of your stroke. Once you achieve proper body alignment, you will be amazed at how little energy it takes to cruise. Body alignment and relaxation -- your tickets to faster swimming!

Learning a new swimming pattern can be frustrating at first. Stick with it! The new movement patterns will reveal new areas for stroke improvement.

Remember that the goal of this session is to build endurance while improving your technique. If you feel uncomfortable at any time then please SLOW DOWN. If you think that you need more rest during the main set then SLOW DOWN.

Good luck,

PS - No pullbuoys. No fins.

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