Video of Chicago Triathlon Club member Bryan Mason swimming at an indoor triathlon. Videographer and fellow CTC member Charles Wu analyzed Bryan’s swim stroke. Bryan swims at about a 22 min per mile pace. Look at his head, arm and hip position. That’s pure beauty. You don’t get that from swimming aimlessly in a pool for long periods of time. You get that from perfecting your technique.
So a lot of newbie swimmers I see are using plans I call “Zero to One Mile.” I was seeing those plans so much that I thought I’d take a look at them. Most of them emphasize distance with no regard to technique. As a swim coach this seems a bit off to me. A mile is not a mile, is not a mile. Some miles are more than a mile because of inefficiency. Swimming, unlike running and cycling is more of a “finesse” sport than a brute force one. And though I know distance is important, it isn’t if your swim technique is all wrong. Sure you can learn to swim a mile in six or eight weeks but without focus on your technique that mile will take you minutes longer than it could if you were focusing on correct technique instead. This is guaranteed. Nothing builds speed and endurance in proper swimming than correct technique.
Technique is secondary in running and cycling. You focus on those when you want to get dialed in and really improve. But technique is paramount in swimming. It is the only thing that matters for new swimmers. For newbie swimmers, workouts should emphasize technique right now.
As a new swimmer technique is as important if not more important than distance because the better your technique the better your endurance. Speed isn’t of the essence. That will come later. But if you aren’t breathing properly, if your head position is off, if you don’t have strong pull and a proper kick…well let’s say you’ll be swimming a lot longer than 1600 m come race day or at least you’ll feel like it. That’s because you’ll be wasting precious energy.
If you’re swimming 3x a week your workouts should look like this:
Day 1: Focus on technique – breathing, arm and head position. WU 100-200 m, MS 300 (100 arm drills, 100 kick drills, 100 arm/kick drills) CD 150-200 free style . This should give you about 700-750 m. Drills to help you: Catchup Drill (ABSOLUTELY IMPORTANT catch more water) Fingertip drill, (high elbow drill) Fist drill (elbow and forearm vs shoulder drill) You can find more here: http://www.dixiezone.org/Drills/Freestyle_drills.html
Day 2: Long Swim
WU 100 m freestyle, 3×50 drills
MS 3×400 with 15-20 sec rest between 400
CD 100 m breast or back whichever you can do
Day 3: Intervals
WU: 150 m, 100 m kick
MS 10 x 50 (try to maintain pace throughout each 50 should be +-3 seconds. Count strokes every 4th lap. Try to maintain same stroke count throughout)
Look you can’t do drills all the time. Yes you have to get some distance in there. So if you’re contemplating how to become a better endurance swimmer I saw mix it up. Do drills to help technique. Swim long to help endurance. Swim fast to push your boundaries. But of all swim happy!
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