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Base Training (Swimming) during winter

I am in the process of mapping out what I need to achieve this winter in order to come out in 2010 fitter, stronger and hopefully a technically better swimmer.

Like alot of people, swimming is my worst discipline, however over the past 6 months I have managed to lower my swim strokes by 27-28 strokes per length to 22-23 strokes which I can sustain in a 25m pool, therefore I know that I am slowly improving.

However, what I am struggling to understand, is that during the season we are told that 'junk lengths / junk mileage' is a bad way to train and offers little overall benefit, but 'base training' from what I can understand is long slow stuff??? Can someone please put me right on this subject, the thought of simply turning up at the pool to swim 100 lengths etc isnt too appealing, are there any drills which can be incorporated into a session which allows for 'long slow base training' as well as techincal improvement?

sorry for the garble but I really am confused with the concept of base training - all advise welcome!




  • Alright Dave

    My suggestion would be to not worry about base training for swimming (ready to be shot down here). What are you aims though? Even if you were looking to do an ironman, if you spend the winter months banging out sessions of 100 lengths, you'll quickly lose your mind and end up living in a house full of newspapers and plastic bags.

    Your time and sanity is much better spent improving your technique. Have you ever had any coaching? Gone down the TI route or similar? You need some drills in your swim life. Not only do they improve your technique, but also make sessions more interesting! I do 1hr coached fitness class each week and the time flies. I know for a fact that I struggle to maintain interest past 30mins in the pool by myself.

    Doing drills you can focus on each aspect of your stroke from body rotation, positioning in the water, timing of your stroke, kicking (very important but not for propulsion) through to the elusive catch. The list is endless.

    If you have the cash, I would whole heartedly recommend some form of coaching, preferably filmed. Honestly it will be the best money you've spent on triathlon. From an initial consultation, you can really see what needs improving and put this into practice, hopefully doing the drills correctly.

    It will take time though, but is worth it. Save the base training for your run and bike.

  • Dave that's really interesting to hear. I've started doing up a plan too and was wondering what on earth I was going to do for swimming during that period. I knew that I'd much prefer to concentrate on technique as I'm self teaching at the moment with a TI book, cash excludes the possibility of coaching for a while, so it's good to hear I can save the low intensity high volume stuff for the other two.

  • cheers Dave, that makes alot of sense....

    Currently I have had no swim coaching and I am looking to get some, although cash is a key driver here, unfrotunately not one of the 'moneys no object thriathlete's', however very keen to learn...

    my background is that I have raced a few sprint distances and completed my 'A' race this year, that being the OD at Swanage, therefore the plan for next year is a full OD season, therefore the swimming is an area where i know i can knock approx 5 mins off my time (probably a little optimistic), therefore an investment in some coaching could be important..

    I think I will look around the southampton area for what is available with regards swim coaching, hopefully the boredom of long swims will now be a thing of the past!

    cheers for the advise!

  • Just to add on to this, if you're a 40min 1500m swimmer then yes, 5mins off your time is realistic. If you're a 30min 1500m swimmer though, that 5mins is going to be a lot tougher!

    Initially, you may find yourself going slower, this happens alot from what I've read and you'll find alot of us in the same boat. Don't let it get you down though. At the very least you'll find you come out of the water feeling a lot fresher! More energy for the run and bike.

    So in summary, slow down your stroke, concentrate on the individual aspects, improve technique then start to go for speed but not at the expense of your form.

    It may take one to two years to get where you want to be, but if you plan to be in this fantastic sport for the long term its worth it.
  • Do you have a Tri or swim masters club near you?
    If so, think of joining. Most clubs have coached swims as part of their sessions.
    A LOT cheaper than looking privately!

    I'm trying the same thing this winter. In fact I've started already.
    Target is a 4 sessions with a minimum of 3 sessions per week. It's all pretty short though.
    30 minutes before work a few times a week, and a longer post run swim on Saturday am.
    All family friendly stuff. I.e loads of time for the kids.

    I've got the TI book and DVD and an iPod full of YouTube swim tips!
    My target is 28min 1500's for the start of next season.
    Currently sitting around 34min.
    I know I can do the distances, I'm just too damn slow. The shorter stuff should up speed.
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