Off Season Swim Training - How Much Time?

author : garyhallsr
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by Gary Hall Sr.
The Race Club

As a swimmer, I specialized in the individual medley. In fact, I consider myself one of an extinct breed of IMers who could not swim breaststroke very well. Today, one cannot excel in the IM unless one is very fast in breaststroke. The reason is that more time is spent in breaststroke than the other three strokes and it comes at a pivotal time in the order: third.

A triathlon of any distance is similar to the IM in that the importance of the leg is directly related to the amount of time spent to complete it and the order in which it occurs. In the IM, even though butterfly is a hard stroke, because it occurs first and requires less time to complete, it is the least important of the four strokes. The same can be said of the swimming leg of the triathlon. The objective for the butterfly in the IM is to not be either too far behind or too exhausted to win the IM. Ditto for the swim in the triathlon.

As much as I love swimming, it would be unfair for me to recommend you spend a great deal of your wintertime improving the leg that is least important in the triathlon. In the 10 years that I competed in triathlons, I spent very little time swimming and spent most of my training time trying to improve my run and bike. Yet, I had such a strong swimming background, I could finish near the lead with very little training.

The problem is that most triathletes are not very good swimmers. Even if they do not plan on winning the event, they may stand more to gain overall by focusing their training on swimming rather than by spending more time on the bike or run. The answer to how much time one should spend training on swimming in the winter depends very much on how good or bad a swimmer you are.

Putting more time or yards into your swimming training doesn't always make you faster, however. Swimming is not quite like the bike, where one can almost directly correlate the speed with the number of weekly miles one cranks out. With water being about 800 times denser than air, technical proficiency is more important in the swim by far. There is very little room for error.

Knowing this, and without adding any more training time to your weekly swim workouts, here is what I would recommend you do this winter:

Focus on flexibility of shoulders and ankles. With two 15 minute sessions per week you can increase your range of motion of each joint substantially in 2 to 3 months. Great runners and bikers with extraordinarily strong legs are usually bad kickers in the water because they have poor ankle flexibility. For some demonstration dryland exercises to increase your shoulder extension and ankle flexibility visit www.theraceclub.com.

Focus on technique only during one of your weekly practices. By focusing on keeping your head down, pulling with a high elbow, rotating your body more or a tighter faster kick, you may be able to shave minutes off of your swim time with no additional effort. You will also find drills that will help you with these important techniques on our site at www.theraceclub.com. Learning to swim with more power and less drag will enable you to get to your bike sooner, and with a lot more energy for the rest of the race.

For beginners, my theory is two practices per week keeps you even, with three or more you improve, with less than two you get slower ... assuming the same technique. Though I think it is wiser to maintain some presence in the water in the winter.

Yours in swimming,

Gary Sr.
The Race Club


Gary Hall Sr. has held 10 world records. In both 1969 and 1970 he was named World Swimmer of the Year.

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date: December 1, 2011

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garyhallsr

Hall's record is one of amazing successes. Gary has held 10 world records. In both 1969 and 1970 he was named World Swimmer of the Year.

Since retiring in 2006 as a physician and moving with his wife Mary, to Islamorada in the Florida Keys, Dr. Gary Hall has now dedicated his life to coaching technique and training methods to children, masters, fitness and health swimmers, triathletes and others at The Race Club Camps.

Author

avatargaryhallsr

Hall's record is one of amazing successes. Gary has held 10 world records. In both 1969 and 1970 he was named World Swimmer of the Year.

Since retiring in 2006 as a physician and moving with his wife Mary, to Islamorada in the Florida Keys, Dr. Gary Hall has now dedicated his life to coaching technique and training methods to children, masters, fitness and health swimmers, triathletes and others at The Race Club Camps.

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