How should I approach swim training? I am a big time sinker. Here's my issue. The only way for me to have good form is to swim faster. I have to swim fairly fast in order to keep my body/legs high. This of course makes me tired faster. If I want to swim 800 yds consecutively I have to swim extremely slow, and as a result, with very poor form. If I swim hard I would be around 1:40/100 yards (going all out). If I'm swimming 600 or more consecutively, I have to go about 2:05/100yds. I've done long races but I've had a wetsuit. Should I just start doing sets of 50 or 100 at fairly fast paces and just see if I'm endurance builds up at that pace?
This is such a great question. The first thing I would look into is efficiency. Is your weight where it should be? Could you lose a few pounds to make swimming easier? Secondly, what does your swim form look like? Is there a way to improve your overall swim stroke?
If you are lean as you can be and aren’t dragging 4-5% of dead body weight (aka being 4-5% over where you should be in terms of body fat), and your stroke is solid, let's look at some other ideas to help you get through the water a little faster.
You say that your best pace for 800yd is about 1:40 pace, but swimming slowly is about 2:05 pace. Looking at athletes I coach, if their 1000 yd time is at 1:20 pace, they are typically swimming about 15” a 100 slower or around 1:35 pace. That’s not much off from what you are doing. When you are moving slower, you are moving slower, no matter what your base pace is.
Now – let’s look at your kick. How much do you kick? In order for you to keep your legs up, you need to have a more efficient kick. It’s going to make swimming easier, period. Having a kick that makes you feel as though you are dragging yourself through the water is a drain from an efficiency standpoint and a mental standpoint. I would add in at least 600 – 1000 yards of kicking to help with that. Start with about 300 yards and then build from there, maybe 1000-2000 yards of kicking a week.
Once you have those three points above addressed (body composition, stroke efficiency, and a solid kick), it’s now time to work on your swim fitness.
Swim Fitness & Example Workout
For starters, if you can swim 800 yds at 1:40 pace, then you can swim 5x200 on rest interval of 20 seconds at the same pace.
Here are a few examples of sets I would build into;A typical warm up for each set is the following:
400 swim – easy pace
4x50 drill, working on great technique
300 kick, with the first 25 of each 100, fast.
6x50 on 1:10 at 1:35 or better pace.
Main sets: #1. 5x200 on 20 seconds rest. You should be coming in around 3:20 or better on these 200 swims. Try to descend the set, so that the first 200 is done at 3:30, and each one is 3-4 seconds faster, so your last 200 is about 3:15 or faster.
#2. 3x400 – the goal here is to swim 1:45 pace on #1; 1:40 pace on #2, and under 1:40 pace on #3.
#3. 20x50, coming in faster than 50 seconds. The first five you’ll do on 1:05, the next five will be on 1:10, next 5 on 1:15 and last five on 1:20. Keep the time under 50 seconds, while increasing the rest.
#4. 15x100 on 2:00. You’ll do these in groups of five. You’ll descend each group from 1:45 down to 1:35. So the first one of each set is relatively easy, and the last one will take some work. You’ll go from #5 right back to #1 without any additional rest between the sets.
From a coaching stand point, I think your fitness is pretty solid, and if I knew what your form looked like, I could obviously make more recommendations. But assuming your form is good, I would work on the kick to get the legs up and keep them up and then I would work through the main sets I laid out for you above. If you have a specific question or video to share, please send me an email and I’d be happy to help you out!