Make your swim set count


 image credit - Kenley Griffith

Make your swim sets count

It’s true the more you swim the better you get… up to a point.  If all you do is swim volume then I’m sure there’s time wasted that could have better been spent putting in effort guided by targeted time based intervals. If you feel like any of the below questions apply to you then keep reading.

Are you a one speed swimmer? 

Are you struggling to get faster?

Do you focus more on the other legs to gain time because so little time can be made up in the swim?

Well have a look at what you are doing during your swim sets.  If the bulk of your swim intervals aren’t ‘ON’ a time cycle then chances are that your swimming program needs adjusting.

What do I mean by ‘ON’

No doubt if you’ve been in a swim squad in Australia the coach has had you allocated in a lane with swimmers of similar fitness doing intervals where you each leave the wall 5-10secs apart with calculated rest periods between intervals.  As an athlete all you really care about is trying to get your foggy early morning brain around what the coach wants you to do.  However, if you have a bit more of an understanding as to your time cycles then it will equip you better to understand what efforts you can hold for any given distance and it will also help you during your solo swim sets where there is no one holding you accountable to a time cycle.

Time cycles explained

This is an abbreviated version of time cycles but you can easily break it down to three types being aerobic, anaerobic and sprint.  Specifically for long course triathletes our aerobic time cycle is where we do a lot of our work.  Before you can start doing intervals you want to know that you’re doing them at the right pace.  I like to have my athletes do a 2k swim time trial but where this isn’t possible we can usually use their 1k time to set their intervals to.  Based off this time I then work out their pace per 100m and do some math as per below:

2k time = 35:20 (1:46/100m)

Aerobic low 100m repeats = 1:40/100m

Aerobic high 100m repeats = 1:35/100m

So based off this 2k time I would set a ‘low’ and ‘high’ aerobic pace for this swimmer.  To keep it simple I’ve just shown what ranges I would give this swimmer for sets of 100m.  As they are only 100m in distance (not a full 2k) we can expect that the swimmer will be able to push a lot harder.  Keep in mind the times above do not include rest.  And this is the critical part.  For aerobic sets I work on giving the swimmer 10sec rest.  So for this swimmer an easy 100m set would be ‘ON’ 1:50s and a hard aerobic set would be ‘ON’ 1:45s and it’s these harder aerobic intervals that make the swimmer faster.

So if you’re trying to become a faster swimmer for long course triathlon then have a think about the intervals you’re doing during the week.  If your times aren’t dialled in then it’s likely you’ll see little improvement in your race speed.

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