So today’s workout consisted of a morning swim, which I was able to convince Angela to join me on. The workout matched what I did the day before, which you can check out here. The best part of this morning session was that it was in the morning when only the most committed and non-psychotic people show up. The hardest part about this morning session is that it is in the morning, when you would rather be doing anything than waking up at 5:30 am to head down to LA Fitness and swim and coming out smelling like a bucket of chlorine. So, I’ll focus on talking about the challenges of training in general, instead of the workout, in hopes that it can better help others get consistent at swim training.
There is so much that goes into packing your swim bag and heading out to the pool, which makes it one of the most daunting to stay diligent at. There is the equipment, which depending on your level will be a few things or a lot. For the basic swimmer goggles and a swim cap are about all you need; oh, and a towel. For the competitive swimmer there are all sorts of swim training aids that can start to weigh your bag down. You may find yourself carrying that extra pair of goggles, extra swim cap, lens solution, kick board, training fins, hand paddles, bottle of water, watch/timer, and so on. As you can see, swimming for sport is as demanding as any thing else and often the main hurdle to many people entering a triathlon. I know it was mine, which is why I paid for professional one on one lessons and I recommend anyone wanting to get really good at swimming do the same; especially if a true beginner.
So let’s assume you can swim a few laps back and forth and bought a bunch of equipment. How then do you find a good training plan and how should you use your new pool toys? I’ve included below an example of a workout used by a few Ironman level athletes that covers 1 mile but can be repeated to whatever your training level is. The workout is broken down into distance groups and identifies what stroke to do and what equipment to use if any. 25 meters/yards is the assumed pool distance. I use this workout about once a week when I am in my heaviest training periods. I have found none better at building endurance and correcting form. In fact, form is the key here. Recovery periods are included so take your time and work on breathing, hands, kicking and cadence as opposed to speed. You may also want to consider getting a proper swim watch like the Finis Swimsense, because once the oxygen deprivation kicks in, you’ll probably start to lose track of how far you have gone. In the meantime, you can use Angela’s recommendation of counting out loud every 100m (or 2 times down and back), to keep track of how far you’ve gone.
Maybe even more important than the workout plan is the preparation required the night or morning before. Since most of us have to actually go somewhere to get our swim on, it is a good idea to invest in a gym bag to carry all your stuff and a swim equipment bag (they are perforated to allow the water to drain). As the saying goes, prior preparation prevents poor performance. I also recommend having identifying the sweet spots in your weekly schedule that work best for your swim training. The days of the week and times that you can afford to spend at the gym and take showers there. Monday and Friday mornings I think are great because they draw out only the most committed so you won’t encounter an over crowded pool.
If you manage to get your workout in, then the last hurdle you will face will be showering at the gym. First, it’s getting your stuff from the pool into the shower area. This is where the pool bag helps, just hang it and your towel on the towel hook. You’ll want to invest in some shampoo and conditioner designed for triathletes that really helps with the chlorine in your hair; especially if you tear your swim cap at the start of your workout like I did this morning (see below). All in all, as consuming as swimming seems it is very doable and just needs to become habit. Like all training, attack it in small bites and build your way up. A quarter-mile swim 3 times a week will grow to 1 mile + workouts eventually. Anyway, tomorrow, its off to the long run. I look forward to breaking down that effort for you.