Friday, January 11, 2013

Becoming A Diesel Engine!

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When training for any swimming event, you need to make sure the work you are doing in the pool is the right sort of training for the distance you are racing. If you are a triathlete, open water swimmer or pool-based distance swimmer, this means training your ability to hold a strong pace for a long time. At Swim Smooth we call this "becoming a diesel engine".

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 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 shorter distances but far from ideal for 800, 1500 or 3800m events.

Your genetics can bias you naturally towards distance events or short 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.

Going Diesel

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

Rory proudly wears his Diesel Swimming
Engine shirt after swimming the
19.7km Rottnest Channel Swim
The key thing you're trying to do is reduce the drop-off in your speed over longer distances and you can use the 200m and 400m timetrials from the CSS test to check. A good rule of thumb is to aim for a difference of 4% or less between your 200m and 400m speed.

Two examples:

- 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.

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.

- Swim each as fast as you can. :)

Swim Smooth!

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