The season is over, when should I start training again?
Now, swimmers who make the biggest improvements follow a rounded programme throughout the year, covering three critical areas of swimming development:
They develop their stroke technique in the pool using drills and visualisations specific to their individual stroke needs.
They consistently train their swim specific fitness (see below for the different types of fitness training)
They regularly practise their open water skills such as drafting, sighting and rhythm either in the pool or open water.
Don't be tempted to focus on each one at different times of the year (otherwise known as periodisation). Separating them out into different periods during the year becomes a lot less effective than working on them simultaneously all year round.
Training in this way isn't complicated. In fact it adds a variety of challenges to your brain as well as to you body so you won't get bored. Many swimmers focus purely on technique in the pool and avoid any hard training for fear it will harm their stroke. They may make some initial progress but soon reach a plateau in their swimming performance beyond which they are unable to progress.
If you neglect your open water skills over the winter you risk developing a long stroke at a slow stroke rate. When you get in the open water for the season, you would soon be left behind by swimmers with a slightly shorter, faster stroke rate that is more suited to the environment. By performing regular open water skills in the pool over the winter, alongside your technique sessions, your stroke technique will naturally develop in the right direction in order to be efficient in the open water. This is especially important if you are a triathlete.
How will the different types of fitness training improve my swimming?
Session Type 1: Pure Speed or Sprint Work
If you will be racing over short distances (up to 200m) doing training sets where you swim at near maximum pace with large amounts of recovery between each interval should form a good proportion of your training time as they are specific to your event. However if your focus is on distance (over 400m) in the pool, open water and triathlon, too much training at this intensity can actually limit your endurance ability. If you are swimming five or more times per week you probably have time to incorporate this type of training into your weekly programme so long as it doesn't replace more essential threshold-based training.
Session 2: Endurance training or continuous swimming
Simply, this is an endurance session designed to build up your ability to swim for a prolonged period of time without stopping. For swimmers and triathletes attempting longer distances (open water events longer than 2.5km and triathletes training for a full Ironman) long continuous swims are useful in helping you build confidence that you can cover your target race distance. It is important to incorporate training sets that work towards building your base endurance whilst maintaining good form and technique.
Session 3: Threshold or Sustainable Speed Sessions
Threshold pace is a pace that is tough enough to develop your aerobic capacity but not so strong that you need significant recovery between intervals. Developing your ability to swim well at this intensity is a key determinant of how well you will swim in races of 400m and longer. This form of training is known as CSS - Critical Swim Speed.
Swimmers with poor pacing always say their swimming feels easy and smooth in the first couple of 100m but then their stroke falls apart. Inaccurate pace judgement is one of the main reasons swimmers fail to reach their potential in the water. Tuning into the feel of your own threshold (CSS) pace at the start, middle and end of a training session will help you to better gauge your efforts. This will pay dividends in a race environment where others start off too fast and then fade.
Check out the Swim Dynamics Schedule for weekly squad sessions. We run two sessions per week. Wednesdays are typically Technique sessions and on Saturdays we alternate between Threshold, Endurance and Open Water skills.