A good way to visualise your training is that each session you complete takes you one small step up a very long fitness ladder:
Your body only gains a small amount of fitness from each individual session but with a great deal of consistency over a long period of time, you can climb that ladder very high and achieve some great performances.
Consistency is the key word here because if you miss sessions then you start to lose fitness again and start to slide down the fitness 'snake':
Sports scientists call this principle 'reversibility' - your body naturally sheds fitness once training stops. Of course you know that already but it might not be obvious how it happens so incrementally and so quickly?
If you train hard for a few sessions, get demotivated, train again, get sick, start again then your fitness is going to look like this and ultimately not go anywhere:
If you take a long hard honest look at your own training over the last few months, has it been intermittent that?
This is a very simple model (you can see a more developed one here) but you can draw some very powerful conclusions from it with respect to how you should train:
- Avoid the temptation to try and climb the ladder too fast with 'world record sets' or 'monster weeks'. These are extremely physically and mentally taxing and can easily lead to burnout, far better to train slightly within yourself but be very consistent over many weeks.
- Think of your training in blocks of 8-10 weeks rather than individual sessions, this is the ideal period of time to stay focused and you can climb a lot of ladder rungs over that period. What happens in each individual session is far less important than the bigger picture of the block. Shameless plug: it's no co-incidence that Swim Smooth's training plans run for this length of time!
- If you have a busy professional and family life (like us!) then design a training routine you can sustain when life throws a few curve balls at you, even if this means doing less than you might on a good week.
- The less time you are able to spend in the water, the more critical it becomes to do the right sort of focus training to get up those ladder rungs. For any distance swimmer, open water swimmer or triathlete we recommend your key 'hard' session of the week is a CSS session.
- Swim at least three times a week to keep the ladder heading upwards.