Friday, January 13, 2012

Making the Conversion from a Fitness Swimmer to Competitive Swimmer

I think that the main difference between a fitness swimmer and a competitive swimmer is in the way they train.  A typical fitness swimmer usually swims non-stop for most of their workout session, and does so with little regard as to their pace or time.  The only thing that matters is the distance they are able to cover.  Competitve swimmers, on the other hand, concentrate on interval training done in concert with the pace clock.  With the annual open water season fast approaching, how do you convert yourself from a fitness swimmer to someone that can compete at an open water swim or triathlon event?
Choose a lane that allows you to clearly see the pace clock

After learning to use a pace clock, you'll need to find a base interval by doing a test set.  The idea is to find out the pace you can hold indefinitely over the course of the one hour workout.  The test set doesn't take up the whole hour:

Try 8 x 50 on 1:00   -   If you are finishing at :50 and getting 5-10 sec. rest, then we'll decide that our base interval is 1:00 per 50 yards.   That means that you can base your workouts on the following intervals:

60 x 50 on 1:00
30 x 100 on 2:00
15 x 200 on 4:00 
6 x 500 on 10:00

Along with the 1:00 per 50 yard base interval, you can also note that the total for the hour adds up to 3000 yards.

Anthony McCarley recently visited and trained in Tampa Bay and did a 6 hour cold water swim to qualify to attempt the English Channel.  He takes the interval practice to the extreme, doing the same workout each time he's in the pool.  "I do 100's on the 1:40."   That means that he would swim 3600 total yards for a one hour workout.   For those of us that need a little more variety, here are 4 sample workouts that concentrate on swimming on intervals: 

200 warm up
200 kick
200 drill
30 x 50 on 1:00
8 x 25 sprint on :45
200 cool down swim easy
2500 Total short course yards

300 warm up
5 x 100 on 2:00
100 kick
6 x 75 on 1:30
100 pull
7 x 50 on 1:00
100 drill
8 x 25 sprint on :40
200 cool down swim easy
2300 Total short course yards

100 warm up
100 kick
100 pull
100 swim
2 x 500 free on 10:00 Descend (do 2nd one faster than the first one)
100 swim easy
100 kick
100 pull
100 swim Ascending  (build up and go faster at the end)
3 x 200 free on 4:00  Descend (moderate, fast, faster - try to make the 3rd 200 best effort, fastest time)
200 cool down swim easy
2600 Total short course yards

600 warm up  on 14:00
300 kick
8 x 25 swim on :30
600 pull on 12:00
100 swim easy
10 x 50 on :55
200 cool down swim easy
2500 Total short course yards

Over time, be sure to re-test yourself, and lower your intervals as you progress.   Eventually, you'll get to the point that you'll know your pace even without looking at the clock.