Long Distance Swim Training Made Fun

Keep on Swimming

Keep on Swimming

I was doing one of the long distance swim training practices that I’ve been writing for my triathletes yesterday, and the main set called for a 1,500 yard aerobic swim.  It was a recovery week, so I thought a longer swim would help work out the kinks and help to build technique and fitness without causing further breakdown.

Unlike many of the triathletes and many of my Total Immersion colleagues, I’m not a fan of distance swimming.  I always focused on middle distance stroke (non-freestyle) and individual medley swims during my competitive days and I still lean to those events at Masters competitions.  My problem with doing a straight, aerobic, 1,500 yard swim is that it is so freaking boring!  So when I wrote the practice for my triathletes, I used some of the techniques that we Total Immersion coaches use to keep our swimmers both mentally and physically engaged in their swims.

The technique that I used was alternating focal points by 100.  I chose 3 focal points — “swimming with weightless arms,” “spearing forward,” and “finishing at the pocket with an elbow circle.”  In my warm-up, I did some drill/swim 50s using Skating, Under-Switches, and Over-Switches, respectively, on the first 25 to focus my feel and then carry it into a 25 freestyle swim with that same focal point.  When I did the 1,500 yard swim, I changed the focal point every 100 yards.  In other words:

  • 2 x 50 Drill/Swim — 25 Skating + 25 Freestyle (Focus:  Weightless Arms)
  • 2 x 50 Drill/Swim — 25 Triple Under-Switch + 25 Freestyle (Focus:  Spearing)
  • 2 x 50 Drill/Swim  — 25 Triple Over-Switch + 25 Freestyle (Focus:  Pocket/Elbow Circles)
  • 1,500 Freestyle — 5 times through the following pattern
    • 100 Freestyle — Weightless Arms
    • 100 Freestyle — Spearing
    • 100 Freestyle — Pocket/Elbow Circles

The best part about it is that I didn’t lose count because I was able to break things up into chunks.  By changing the focus of my attention, I was able to keep on task and it kept things changing as I did my swim.

AquaPulse Real-Time Heart Rate Monitor by Finis

AquaPulse Real-Time Heart Rate Monitor by Finis

To further make the set interesting, I clipped an Aquapulse Heart Rate Monitor for the pool by Finis to my ear lobe.  The Aquapulse would call out my heart rate every 20 seconds to make sure I kept my heart rate in an optimal aerobic range — 121 to 131 is my target range based on fitness and age.  Hearing a nice gentleman’s voice tell me my heart rate at least 1 time per length gave me some additional feedback on my intensity level so I didn’t swim too fast or too slow.

When I see some of my triathletes swim practices from other training plans, they look something like this:

  • 6 x 50 Stroke Drills
  • 1500 Easy Swim

Maybe I’m not wired for distance freestyle, but I think my way is a little bit more fun, accomplishes the task, and doesn’t make me wonder if I did 56 lengths or 64 lengths.

See you at the pool or lake.

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