Thursday, April 02, 2015

The Optimum Three Sessions A Week To Improve Your Swimming

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If you're a triathlete or open water swimmer in the northern hemisphere then the race season is fast approaching. Hopefully your motivation is high and you are swim training regularly and consistently!

One thing we always recommend to swimmers is to swim consistently three times a week if you're looking to take big strides forward. The jump from twice to three times a week is significant both in terms of your skills, fitness and technique.

But what should you do in those sessions for maximum benefit to your swimming? A cornerstone of Swim Smooth's coaching philosophy is that you need a balanced approach split between three key areas of your swimming:

- Your Stroke Technique (e.g. improving body position, alignment, catch and pull technique, stroke rhythm)

- Your Swim Specific Fitness (with an emphasis on distance swimming sets)

- Your Open Water Skills (e.g. drafting, sighting, swimming straight, open water confidence)

So important are each of these areas that we call them 'The Three Keys'. A classic mistake that swimmers make is to concentrate on just one of the keys, perhaps thinking "it's all about technique" or "I just need the hard-yards".

The thing is that each key is worth about the same amount of time to you, so if you're looking to take 3 minutes off your 1500m time, the best way to do it is to gain 1 minute from stroke technique, 1 minute from swim fitness and 1 minute from your open water skills:

Of course, get it right and you could end up taking more than 1 minute from each area - and that's when you get some seriously big improvements!

So our classic weekly structure is:

Weekly Session 1: Stroke Technique

Unless you know very specifically what you need to work on in your individual stroke, this should focus on all areas of your stroke technique. As the weeks go by make sure you include a focus on the following areas:

- Your exhalation technique into the water
- The symmetry of your stroke by breathing to both sides
- The alignment of your stroke particularly how the hand extends forwards in front of the head
- Your kicking technique
- Your catch technique
- Your stroke rhythm

Make sure you include some steady paced longer swims during the session (e.g. 300-800m) where you maintain your stroke technique over a distance.

See technique sessions in the SS Coaching System here:

And fault-fixers here:

Weekly Session 2: CSS Training Session

CSS training sets are the perfect fitness training set for distance swimming as they target your aerobic fitness - i.e. your ability to sustain a strong pace for a long time. In comparison to traditional masters swim sets you might swim further at a slightly slower pace (only slightly) but with much reduced recovery times between swims. These are challenging sets but include one a week and you'll see the benefit as you times drop week on week.

More information on the Swim Smooth website here:

And in the SS Coaching System:

Weekly Session 3: Open Water Skills

Get together with a few friends and practise your sighting, drafting and swimming straight. This can get pretty competitive so it's the perfect way to include a little sprint training into your week whilst you're going head to head!

Remember this can be done just as well in the pool as the open water so you don't have to wait for the lake or ocean to warm up - you can start right away!

Some session ideas here:

Our full guide and sessions in the SS Coaching System:

More Or Less Time To Train?

If you can only swim twice per week then we recommend you rotate through these sessions in turn. So Technique / CSS in week 1, Open Water / Technique in week 2, CSS / Open Water in week 3 etc.

And if you swim four times? Consider adding in a challenging Red Mist or Pink Mist session to build some really deep fitness (and mental toughness)!

Above all else, remember that consistency is key. Keep your training rolling week-in and week-out and you will get the improvements you deserve.

Full Swim Smooth Training Plans

If that all feels a bit overwhelming (and a lot to remember) then you need to sign up for the Swim Smooth Coaching System, it includes extensive Swim Smooth training plans for every race distance from Sprint Triathlon to Ironman and marathon swimming. We've done all the thinking for you to get this balance right, simply follow the sessions and reach your goals! :

Or if you prefer old school paper then check out our waterproof training plans to take poolside:

Swim Smooth!

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