distance + speed = holy grail

As noted here before, I’m a newcomer to the world of competitive swimming. I entered my first swim race (open water–I have yet to compete in a pool) shortly after my 45th birthday.  On the one hand, this means that I don’t have the benefit of years of swim conditioning and competition behind me.  On the other hand, I don’t have to reflect back wistfully on lost glory and those good old days when I could really put up the times.  Instead, I can see a steady, if gradual, improvement in my swim pace since I began real training less than 2 years ago.  I swim three days a week, by myself (a master’s team would be nice, but none of the local ones fit my schedule AND location together), so fortunately I’m capable of a fairly high level of self-inflicted suffering.

However, without the benefit of coaching, I’ve struggled with the question of how to get faster while training for distance, since both last year and this year I have had the Bay Swim’s 4.4 miles looming in my future.  That’s a lot of 100 repeats.

So here’s a post from Alex Kostich at active.com that answers just that questions:  How to Boost Your Swim Speed Over the Long Haul.  For my own purposes, I put aside the laughable notion, as suggested within the article, that I could manage even a single 100 at a 1:09 pace, and simply translated the numbers towards my own goals (which include, as I believe I’ve mentioned previously, a sub-25-minute pool 1650).

“This workout is a basic yardage-covering workout, with an emphasis on repeating 100 yards at a consistently faster time than one normally swims in automatic mode. It covers distance without sacrificing quality, and the repetitive nature of the main set provides ample opportunity to swim fast and maintain race pace.”

Here’s another good article, from SwimCity.com, with a lot of good suggestions for training for speed over distance.  OK, and it does all seem to come down to lots of shorter repeats.

“Rely more on repeats of 200 meters and less. It’s one of the best ways to train effectively for longer races. Because you can hold a much faster average pace for, say, 15 x 100-meter repeats than for a straight 1500 meters, you train your muscles and energy systems to do what it takes to move your body at faster speeds for that distance. You also get less fatigued than if you tried to swim the same pace in longer repeats, helping you maintain consistency in your training. Finally, it’s much easier to maintain good Stroke Length (and train efficiency into your muscle memory) on shorter repeats.”

OK, so that means that for today’s distance-day swim (goal: 6750 yards) I’d have to swim… 34 X 200.  That’s a lotta repeats.  Um, I’ll let you know how it turns out.

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