In order to improve, a key thing to get right is the balance of your preparation between fitness training, stroke technique work and open water skills. Over a 1500m swim each of these elements is worth several minutes to you (or more); if you've been focusing exclusively on one to the detriment of the others then you are leaving large chunks of time on the table. They literally add up:
To maximise your performance you need to have all three elements in your training every week and the best way is to devote a session to each. This is the structure used by our 5:30am and 6:30am squads in Perth:
Tuesday: 60 minute session with stroke technique and endurance economy focusWe have around 300 swimmers in the squads and each follow this basic structure. All swimmers make excellent progress with this three-way mix, whether they are a relative beginner, an intermediate or an advanced level swimmer.
Friday: 60 minute session with threshold training sets (also called CSS training, see here)
Saturday: 60 minute open water skills session in the pool
|Regularly practising your drafting skills|
is essential to become comfortable
swimming close to other swimmers.
An important strength of this approach to swimming preparation is that the three session types have different challenges and so require specific mental skills:
- Technique elements such as exhalation, alignment, kicking technique and feel for the water require constant re-enforcement during your training week which requires focus, self awareness and concentration.
- Threshold sessions require a sustained high level of effort. Many swimmers shy away from hard work but the ability to sustain a high level of intensity is a mental skill and needs to be practised regularly. As you develop this important skill it actually feels easier to sustain a strong race pace.
- Open water technique sessions require you to swim in close proximity to other swimmers so that you can enjoy the huge benefit of drafting effectively in races. The ability to cope whilst being buffeted or occasionally knocked by other swimmers, all the time holding your stroke technique and swimming accurately around the course, is critical to performing well in open water swimming. The key here is familiarity - if you practise this once a week you will feel comfortable during open water races when everyone around you is flustered.
Combining these three elements in your training is great fun and adds so much variety to your preparation that you'll never become bored. You'll probably always have a favourite session type but as you get into the other sessions you'll grow to enjoy and appreciate them. Even more importantly, you'll move off that plateau and your swimming will start to move forwards again towards your ultimate potential in the water.
If you're wondering how to combine these three elements into your swimming, check out our Waterproof Training Plans, they make this very easy.