Adventures In Swimming

DSCF1517When I started training for this triathlon back in May of 2012 I realized right away that endurance wise, I had the endurance of someone who barely ever left the couch.  Running, I barely lasted 20-30 seconds. Swimming was worse, I could go 100 meters (4 laps) but that was my max extent. Since then I have improved my running endurance, slowly and gradually and I have been pleased with the overall progress albeit slow.  Swimming though has bee a bit of a different story. 

Initially I set out to relearn swimming and adopted the total immersion school of thought.  Swimming this method proved to be more in the hips and was all about conservation of motion.  From learning and practicing that swim method, if I pushed it, I could swim up to 500 meters.  Often that distance would leave my lungs and arms exhausted.  As I continued running and later biking through the year, I found my lung capacity in the water got better and for a 100 meters or so I could breath with a natural 3 stroke breath bilateral breathing pattern.  But, the arms, shoulders, back and chest muscles still remained the weak element, with very little endurance capabilities. I seemed stuck and unable to swim more than 500 to 600 meters without stopping.  In workouts, I could swim 1000, but only if I did intervals and long breaks between sets.  Sets often consisted of 50 meter laps and rarely 100’s.

At the beginning of November when I started my newest training phase, I set a goal of breaking that endurance blockage in running and swimming.  My swimming goal became focused on swimming a mile.  I know I needed to work on my form, but I truly wanted to swim a mile without stopping.  November’s three time a week swimming schedule became fueled with this goal in mind.  I started a program with fixed length interval sets that contained the distance broken into different size sets with initially longer breaks in between.  By the time I finished the base phase I had gotten up 1000 meters continuously and was swimming 1600 meters total.  I finished November with an exhilarating open water swim in the ocean for a total distance of a mile (details and video here) starting and stopping, but it was a mile.  Then I began December and the next base phase with a bang and swam all 1500 meters without stopping. It was awesome, I did it for both workouts.

Then reality hit and I realized it was time to re-examine the swim workout for the remaining weeks of the base 3 phase, I had achieved the goal I set before me and I could tell my endurance had grown in leaps and bounds.  It was time to split the workouts into manageable goal oriented components.  I not only wanted to continue to be able to swim further, but I wanted to start learning other strokes and I wanted to start to work on my overall form and technique.

I figured I would break my workouts into the following components:

  • Endurance: Next goal is to get to two miles of swimming. I plan on doing this by swimming 1500 meters then doing some 100’s to make up the difference. Initiall 2000 will be the goal so for the first week I will do 1500 straight, then 5×100 with 8 breaths or 20 seconds in between.  Next week I will re-evaluate this and figure out if I can push the 1500 up to 2000 or what should be the  limit.
  • Drills and Form – Time to get back to some good old fashioned drills.  Need to work on stroke by doing zipper drills where I practice leading with the elbow.  Might even add some skulling based on a recent post on the water blogged triathlete.  The whole point is to warm up with 500 meters, either counting strokes or working on bilateral breathing.  Follow the warm up then with drills, drills and more drills. For now skulling, zipper drills, water balance drills ect.  
  • New Stroke – This will be added to drills and form practice but I want to learn some additional strokes. I figure I will start with the back stroke first as it is said to be easier to learn than some of the others.
  • Intervals – Warm up with 500 meters of easy swimming (either counting strokes or trying to do some bilateral breathing).  The goal with the intervals can be ladders, pyramids and other types of intervals.  This should add up to 2000 meters or there about based on time.  From what I understand the advantage of intervals is they let you practice swimming faster than you can doing longer sets.

That is my proposed breakdown. Right now I am sticking with 2000 meters roughly as my workout ceiling, but I might move this up to 3000 eventually, depending on how I feel and time limitations.  I know right now it takes me roughly 40 minutes to swim a mile so my endurance workouts should take just over an hour total.  I think this approach will work well to further my swimming goals.   Adding some additional strokes will allow me to mix up my swim workouts further.  

Here is a small head on clip of my swimming workout on Monday:  Some work is needed, but heck, I can do the distance.

and my recent ocean swim: re-posted with pleasure:

Any suggestions and ideas? Anybody have good sites or suggestions for learning the backstroke?  Anything else I should mix into this workout?

Til next time.

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16 comments

  1. Well I’m certainly not a training triathlete, but in my MUCH younger years I was a huge swimmer and took loads of classes until moving into diving. One of the biggest things I always had to focus on was the “kick”. It takes loads of core strength to properly kick but it aids in your leveling, distance and speed. My teacher always looked for the splash my kick made and would tell me to straighten those legs and pump it. Maybe he was “all wet”. 🙂 but his advice always helped me improve. Good luck. You’re staying strong,

    1. I am sure the legs are an issue. One problem triathletes have is that when swimming you are supposed to use the ankles differently than you do when you run and bike and the two work against each other quite a bit. I am getting a kick out of capturing video and pictures though and I am building quite a collection of my swim workouts now.

  2. Congrats on achieving your goal of swimming a mile! That is quite an accomplishment!!

    1. Yeah, it was a goal I set as I was tired of being wiped out by my wimpy 500-800 meter swim workouts. I Created a plan I went forth and I did it. Thanks.

  3. Hey Chatter, I will get back to you with some ideas as soon as I can. Bear with me!

    1. Thats all good, take your time. I appreciate all the help I can get. I am just happy I can now do the distance.

  4. Firstly congrats on all the improvements.

    Secondly, while I’m no swimming coach I’ve noticed two things that may help: you brings your hands a long way out of the water – practice trailing your fingers in the water (you may have to take them higher in open water to avoid waves); you seem to bring your head right out if the water to breath – try just twisting so you mouth is *just* above the water line.

    Hope that helps.

    1. Thanks. The stroke thing I am working on and trying to get correct, but I agree. The breathing thing I thought might be an issue and I am sure it slows me down. I am going to try to add the breathing lower to the list of things to work on in my drills. I have already added working on the stroke, might look up more eventually. The suggestions are always welcome, that is why I openly put myself out there, to get better and hear from people who have gone before me!

      1. I’m glad they help, but as I say I’m not a coach, so please don’t take my word as gospel.

        But good luck with it all – I got back in the pool this evening for the first time in a few weeks and it felt really good.

        1. That’s awesome. I am happy I can do the distance, now it’s time to nail the mechanics, of course while working on pushing for more distance. Thanks for the encouragement.

  5. I’m gonna try to get some information up for you this week. Keep your eye’s peeled 😉

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