Fundamentals of a Beginner Swim Plan

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By Gary Hall Sr.
The Race Club

For the beginner triathlete, creating a swimming training program is important. Although swimming techniques may be the least important of the tri sports, it is certainly the most intimidating to most triathletes. Therefore, for the sake of your entire race, it is important to be able to go into the swim with confidence, relatively fearless and somewhat relaxed.  Coming out, you should not be totally exhausted. The swimming training program and the swimming techniques you choose can help you get to that state.

Forgetting for a moment the nutritional and mental aspects of a swimming training program, both of which are important, there are three aspects involved in the physical training of a swimmer. Here is how I rank them in importance:

1)     Technical training (biomechanics and physics)

2)     Aerobic training (physiology)

3)     Strength training (biomechanics and physiology)

Make no mistake about it, there is no shortcut to getting aerobically fit for the swim. If your swim is a half-mile, a mile or 2 ½ miles, then your training distances and time will need to reflect that. It is not merely a matter of swimming laps, however. How you do those meters will make a big difference in how fast you swim and how you will feel climbing out of the water. If you really want to improve your swim, here are my suggestions.

Frequency

Train at least three times per week consistently for an hour to 1½ hours per practice. Less than that and you probably won’t improve nearly as fast. Instead of swimming straight long swims, practice interval swimming training with short rest. Train at race pace.

Intervals

For example, rather than swimming a straight 1000 yard swim, do 10 x 100 yards with about 10 to 15 seconds of rest after each 100. During those ten 100’s try to hold a faster pace than you would during a straight swim, and try not to drop off your pace. If you start out too fast on the first 100, then you will pay later, just like in the race. In fact, this type of interval training will teach you to hold back in the beginning and push harder as the set progresses.  Get in the habit of checking your times on the pace clock (hopefully somewhere around the pool) so you will know what you need to do to beat that the next time.

Breathing

Breathing is also an important part of your swimming training program. Oxygen is underrated as far as I am concerned. Although anaerobic training (breath holding) might help you for a sprint or free diving with me in the Keys, it will do nothing to help your open water half mile swim. You need and should take as much oxygen as you can get. Keep the ATP pipeline flowing.  I am not a big fan of alternate breathing, which means you get a breath on every third stroke. I would prefer you learn to breathe on one side or the other, but breathe every cycle. Even better, learn to breathe on either side, but still breathe every cycle. That way, if the need to change breathing sides arises because of a wave or chop, you won’t get totally disoriented.

Drills

If you plan to swim for an hour, it is worth spending the first 10 to 15 minutes on your favorite swimming drills. You don’t have to know or do a lot of drills…only the ones that really help you do the right things. If you are not sure what drills to do nor why, check out our swimming technique DVD ’s.  Instead of doing a 600 warmup such as a 200 swim, 200 kick, 200 pull or something similar, I would rather see you do 25 drill/25 swim for the entire 600, picking 4 or 5 different drills that will remind you to keep your head down, pull with a high elbow (EVF), rotate your body (hips/shoulders) or whatever the drill is designed to teach you. Then do the 25 swim after the drill, practicing what you just learned. If you do those swimming training program drills at the beginning of practice, there is a much better chance that you will swim the 10 x 100’s with short rest technically better than you would have otherwise. As far as your race goes, the interval training will get you in shape faster than a straight long swim and using better swimming techniques will translate into a faster swim with less energy expended.

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: March 18, 2012

Author


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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