Category Archives: OW Training

Glossary of (pool) swim terms

If you’re new to competitive swimming, then the whole insider language can seem intimidating. There are a lot of people in masters swimming who grew up on swim teams, but while I had enough in the way of informal lessons and swimming experience as a child to be a solid, competent swimmer as an adult, I’d never participated in a swim team in my life when, pretty much out of the blue, I took up open water distance swimming at 45.  What did I know from descends and negative splits?

Today I came across a helpful glossary of terms via the Mountain View Masters web site.

Now if someone could just explain exactly HOW you descend (I mean really — “descend :02 on each 100.”  Seriously, are there swimmers who have such minutely calibrated sense of pace that they can do that?).


Swimming myths

Turnover vs. distance per stroke?  Bilateral vs. one-sided breathing?  And is there one ideal pacing strategy?  Courtesy of Alexandria Masters Swimming, consider these Swimming Myths (and truths).

Per her USA swimming bio (long version), Eva Fabian (phenomenal young OW swimmer–she won the 5K at the 2009 Open Water National Championships and then in July 2010 won the women’s World Open Water 5K) trains 15,000 – 20,000 yards each day, 6 days a week.  Set your training goals, kids!

About that target heart rate

Turns out it’s maybe not so accurate for women.  According to a recent NYTimes article:

Last week, researchers at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago announced a new formula for calculating a woman’s maximum heart rate, a measure commonly used by athletes to pace themselves and monitor their progress. In a study of nearly 5,500 healthy women, scientists discovered that a decades-old formula for calculating heart rate is largely inaccurate for women, resulting in a number that is too high.


The commonly used formula subtracts a person’s age from 220. But based on the data collected in the Chicago study, the right formula for calculating a woman’s maximum heart rate is a little more complicated: 206 minus 88 percent of a woman’s age.

Yeah, whatever.  Maybe this obsessive training-by-numbers deserves a rethinking anyway. As the article also notes:

Of course, the new formula for women also raises new questions about the reliability of the old heart rate calculations for men. The original formula stems from research in the early 1970s that reviewed average maximum heart rates from 10 studies of men. The formula was a general calculation made for discussion purposes among academics, never intended to be used by the public.

However, the simplicity of the calculation appealed to a generation of exercisers who were looking for guidance about how hard to push themselves to improve fitness and improve their heart health. Companies promoting heart rate monitors, fitness clubs and family doctors all embraced the formula as a simple measure of fitness and the 220 minus age calculation became standard fitness advice.

But many researchers say it is ridiculous to base exercise goals on a person’s age rather than individual fitness level.

“The fitness industry, by attaching this to every treadmill ever made, kind of perpetuated this formula,” says Dr. Tim Church, an exercise researcher and director of preventive medicine at the Pennington Biomedical Research center in Baton Rouge, La. “There’s the idea that the formula was somehow not working out for women, but I’d make the argument that it doesn’t work out for anybody.”

In 2001, a University of Colorado team also concluded that the standard heart rate equation was inaccurate for both men and women. They devised a similar formula they said applied to both sexes — maximum heart rate equals 208 minus 0.7 times age — but the equation never caught on with the public.

And don’t bother cooling down, either

First we pointed out you have more to fear from Bambi than Bruce.*   Now, another misconception put to rest, courtesy of the New York Times.  To wit, a cool down is apparently worthless.  Or at any rate, there’s no evidence it does you any good.

…the cool-down is enshrined in training lore. It’s in physiology textbooks, personal trainers often insist on it, fitness magazines tell you that you must do it — and some exercise equipment at gyms automatically includes it. You punch in the time you want to work out on the machine and when your time is up, the machine automatically reduces the workload and continues for five minutes so you can cool down.

The problem, says Hirofumi Tanaka, an exercise physiologist at the University of Texas, Austin, is that there is pretty much no science behind the cool-down advice.

(* The mechanical shark used in the film [Jaws] was nicknamed “Bruce” by its handlers, and the “full body” version tours around museums, while “Bruce II” resides at the Universal Theme Parks and “bites at” tourists on the tour ride.  From

An interview with Steven Munatones

Today we are thrilled to have a conversation with Steven Munatones, who may know more about OW swimming, swims, history, training, competitors, and techniques than any other human on the planet.  He is the man behind 10KSwimmer, the encyclopaedic must-read blog for anyone interested in OW swimming.  We don’t know how he manages to be everywhere at once in the world of OW swimming, but we are thankful he does.

Read on for our interview with Steven Munatones, with a few special tips for newer competitive OW swimmers at the bottom.

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Slideshow from the NYC Pro Swim

We don’t normally focus much here on the pro OW swimmers, but here’s a great slide show from last week’s FINA 10K Pro Swim in NYC that really captures the swimmers mixing it up in what looks like some pretty choppy water.

And speaking of the swim, kudos to 15-year-old Eva Fabian from New Hampshire, who finished a very close second in the women’s race. According to a recent feature on Fabian from, Eva spends a lot of her training time in a 25 meter pool, so there’s some ingenuity in prepping her for open water events.  The article quotes her coach describing some of her workouts:

a weekly set close to the distance she is competing in, for example 50 x 100 for a 5K or 100 x 100 for a 10K, we also do pace-line swimming with long repeats between 1,000 – 2,000 yards.  We team Eva up with 2-4 other swimmers and they all take turns leading the pack for 50, 100 or 200 yards.  They swim on each other’s toes, helping simulate the real-world race conditions at the world championships.  The swimmers exchange leads so they get used to the surges and drafting that are so important in open water racing.”

“Eva also does some great POW [Pool Open Water] workouts where all the lane lines are removed and she races her teammates around the pool….  It teaches positioning and helps develop the ability to have fast turns in crowded conditions which are so important for open water success.”