|Sustained speed training is critical to reach your|
potential as a distance swimmer.
This 'discomfort time' is the critical period where your body's systems are challenged so that after the session they adapt and you gain fitness. Without reaching this point you won't gain the fitness improvements you are looking for. So this 'discomfort time' is not just unavoidable when fitness training, it should be something you are actively seeking out.
The psychology here is very important, don't think: "God, this is really tough."
Instead, replace that thought with: "OK, this is what it is all about. Swim it out, one stroke and one lap at a time."
Embrace the discomfort as a place you want to be and you will have fundamentally changed your thinking. From there on training sets start to feel much easier.
Staying In The Moment
It's a sporting cliché to tell someone to 'stay in the moment' but within a challenging fitness set it's absolutely critical that you do. Never think ahead but simply focus on your stroke movements and your breathing rhythm as the effort becomes challenging. It can be a good idea to monitor your technique but only ever think about one thing and keep it very simple, for instance you might choose to focus on:
- Exhaling smoothly into the water
- Lightly tapping your big toes together as they pass - 'tap tap tap'
- Keeping one goggle in the water and one out when you breathe
- Pressing the water backwards, not downwards
It's essential you keep these thoughts very simple as most of your focus will be required to maintain your effort and pace things out well.
Make Sure You Are Distance Training, Not Sprint Training
If you've been following Swim Smooth for a while you will know we are big fans of CSS / threshold training. This involves sustaining a strong pace for longer periods will short recoveries and is quite distinct from sprint training which is attacked at a faster pace but with longer recovery periods.
Swimming at this pace does not feel like sprint training and the effort progressively builds over the set while holding the same pace. Initially it may feel around 6 out of 10 for effort but progressively builds up to a 9 out of 10 by the end of the set. Pacing these sets well is essential (with the same pace for each repetition) even if you have to start a little slower, that way you will get the right fitness gains and can maintain your stroke technique throughout.
CSS / threshold pace targets the energy systems critical to distance swimming performance so that they adapt and improve. Sports scientists call this training principle 'specificity' and it really works - experience some consistent weekly discomfort in your CSS sets and your swimming will come on leaps and bounds. It could be just what you are lacking with your swimming.
PS. We're very sorry if you couldn't get on our UK clinic series announced last week - the whole series filled up in just 30 minutes with over 200 people on the waiting lists. The level of interest is extremely high which is flattering for us but at the same time also stressful because we know a lot of you feel frustrated to miss out. We'll be back in the UK as soon as we can be, and yes also in the US hopefully towards the end of the year. :)