If you come from a gym or team sport background then you are likely to be quite fast twitch and anaerobic. You might hold a very fast pace for 50, 100 or 200m but then quickly drop off over longer distances. This is akin to a high revving petrol engine, which is great if you are racing over those shorter distances but far from ideal for 800, 1500 or 3800m events.
Your genetics can bias you naturally towards distance events or shorter sprints but with the right sort of training you can shift your fitness in the direction you want to go and for most swimmers reading this blog, that means training to become more of a diesel engine. We'd all love to have the best of both worlds and be great sprinters and great distance swimmers too but that's not possible, otherwise the best sprinters in the world would also win the gold medals over distance events.
We recommend CSS training as the mainstay of your fitness training to develop that diesel engine and become a great distance swimmer. You can find out more about training using CSS here, in our book (chapters 24 to 27) and follow CSS sessions in our waterproof training plans.
Even if you consider yourself quite a slow swimmer this sort of training will be very beneficial to you as it's likely your diesel engine is underdeveloped and improving it is one of the keys to you becoming faster and feeling more relaxed in the water.
When performing CSS sessions always bear in mind that pacing things out well is critical. If you start fast and then blow-up you're just training the petrol engine again!
Aim For Less Than 4% Drop-Off
To check the drop off in your pace as distances get longer you can use the 200m and 400m timetrials from the CSS test. If you have a large drop off in speed during the 400m versus the 200m then this trend will continue and over longer races you'll be much slower again.
A good rule of thumb to see how diesel you are becoming is to aim for a drop off of 4% or less in speed between the 200m and 400m timetrials. Here's two examples:
|Rory proudly wears our Diesel Swimming|
Engine shirt after swimming the
19.7km Rottnest Channel Swim
- If you swim 8:10 for 400m and 3:50 for 200m, you slowed down by 6.5% over the 400m. This says you've got a lot to gain from CSS type training and it should be a real priority to improve your swimming.
- If you swim 6:00 for 400m and 2:55 for 200m, you slowed down by 3% over the 400m. CSS training is still important to you but your diesel engine is coming on nicely - well done!
If you can reduce that drop-off then you're almost guaranteed to be improve your CSS pace and be quicker over any distance swimming event.
We created a quick calculator here to save you doing the maths yourself, if this proves popular we'll integrate it into our site: swimsmooth.com/dropoff
Quick tips on performing the 200m and 400m timetrials:
- Do the 400m first, it will affect the 200m less than the other way around.
- Make sure you pace them out well, if you have a friend or coach to help then ask them to take your splits every 50m to check your pacing.
- Don't use your PBs, test your current fitness and swim each as fast as you can. :)