Another Reason Against Year-Round Swimming (Plus A Challenge!)

 

Red Winged Blackbird on Red/Black Sign
Please Get Out of The Water — Until It Matters
Creative Commons License photo credit: m.gifford

It’s pretty well-known by now that Endurance Nation recommends that you don’t swim during our OutSeason® training cycle. That means for a grand total of five months, our athletes aren’t swimming a single stroke. This approach has generated a lot of buzz, mostly negative, that how we train is in someway incomplete. After all, what’s a triathlon training plan without swimming in it? The Long Answer: It’s an incredibly focused approach to building the required bike and run fitness that will carry you through a personal best on race day. The Short Answer: Re-Learning how to swim is better than constantly swimming and making tweaks.

The Problem

As adults engaging the water, we are at a distinct disadvantage because we simply don’t have the time to train like actual swimmers. And by time I mean the five days a week for years that will allow us to develop an insanely effective stroke. To further compound the issue, most triatheletes spend an inordinate amount of time working on building their swimming fitness as opposed to developing an actual stroke. The truth is, it’s way easier to just pile on the miles in the pool every year than it is to dig down into the fundamentals of what can make you a faster swimmer and eliminating whatever is holding you back.

The Facts: Swimming Is 80% Technique and 20% Fitness

As a triathlete you are very aware of just how much technique plays a role in swimming speed. There’s nothing like being a ridiculously fit athlete on land but getting your butt handed to you on a regular basis by an out-of-shape, former collegiate swimmer with a nice beer gut. Or, as some of our members can attest, by their own 8-year-old kids who are way faster. While Mr. State and your kids don’t hang out, they do have something in common — they have put the time in to learn how to swim, and they started young.

Your goal as an Age Group Triathlete looking to improve your swimming is to find the most time-efficient way of improving your stroke. Your job is to seek out the advice, coaching and learning opportunities that will allow you to improve our stroke given the basic constraints we all face (lack of time, two other sports, job, life, family, etc.).

Inside Endurance Nation we eliminate the time cost of off-season swimming by removing it entirely from the schedule. Now you can sleep in an additional two to three days a week, and you are more rested to hit the run and bike workouts on your schedule. Most importantly, you have the advice and support of 600+ athletes who all are telling you that swimming in the winter doesn’t actually make them any faster than the work they do in the final three to five months before their big race.

Let’s learn more about why that works…

Re-Learning Beats Tweaking

With swimming being such a technique oriented undertaking, your mental and physical focus has to be 100% if you are going to be able to identify and make the changes that will improve how you swim. Nothing dulls this mental edge more than the combination of year-round swimming and group swim workouts with forced distances.

While common sense says the more you swim, the better you’ll get at swimming, actual experience says otherwise for the time-crunched triathlete. Just as in any individual swim set, say a 300, you know that the first 50 is better than the last 50; that the first half is better than the second. Over time your form and skill succumb to fatigue and lack of focus. (Note: This is why we recommend swimming lots and lots of repeat 100s with rest, to ensure that a large part of your swim workouts will consist of actual quality strokes.) But the same effect happens on a macro-level scale as well: the more often you swim as an Age Group Triathlete, the less likely you are to have a technique breakthrough.

In other words, being away from swimming makes you much significantly more prepared to become a better swimmer when you do return. This is not the case for fitness dependent sports like cycling and running, but it is born out in the swim on a regular basis.

“my ‘haven’t swam 1 stroke in literally 6 months’ self swam about 1 minute slower than my PR self from the previous year. Less than a month later, I set a 30 second PR, after focused technique work and some fitness sets. “

Compressed Timelines Make a Difference

Finally, there’s nothing like a deadline to motiveate you to improve. If you only have fifteen weeks to swim, then you make the most of it. Giving yourself all year only means that you are spending more time in the water since extra time doesn’t in and of itself guarantee improvement.

What Can You Do?

If your race is more than 20 weeks away, you can back off the swimming right now. When you do drop into swimming, spend the first 30% of your time on technique alone. Once you feel comfortable with your form, then it’s time to begin adding a bit more fitness each week.

The 1k Time Trial Challenge

We can talk all we want, it’s the performances of our athletes that really sets the tone for what do here at Endurance Nation. To that end we have fired up a 1000 yard challenge. We are asking our folks to:

  1. Record their last timed swim. For many this will be several months ago.
  2. Perform a 1k time trial in the pool. Preferably, this will “cold,” with little to no swimming in the weeks beforehand, so we can quantify exactly how much time they have lost by not swimming.
  3. Repeat these time trials every month so we can document how quickly they get their swim, and then some, back.

Our experience is that their cold TT will be a bit slower then their last season PR, the second TT a month later will be spot on (4-6 weeks of swimming) and the third test will show improvement over last year’s previous best…in just 12 weeks.

But talk is cheap! We’ll record these results and share them with you in a few months after we have many data points!

Want to Learn More? Take our FREE seminar below!

[button color=”red” size=”large” link=”https://www.endurancenation.us/free-training-seminars/the-outseason-seminar/”]The OutSeason® Seminar[/button]

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8 comments
  • Gammy999
    REPLY

    I was an original EN signee until all of the koolaid wore off regarding “we are not like the other guys”…i.e. cost for plans, advice, etc;..well, the pricing changed (kept pace with the economy I guess) so I moved on from EN. (but, I think the board, resources are very nice)…so, with that said…I am not a swimmer, but I do have a 1:08ish Ironman Swim….I don't look at the swim segment as taking time away from my other workouts, but a good FAT BURNER and ACTIVE RECOVERY along with building OVERALL FITNESS..so, whether my 1k swim is 1 sec faster or not…I see it as a plus to swim.

  • Gammy999
    REPLY

    I was an original EN signee until all of the koolaid wore off regarding “we are not like the other guys”…i.e. cost for plans, advice, etc;..well, the pricing changed (kept pace with the economy I guess) so I moved on from EN. (but, I think the board, resources are very nice)…so, with that said…I am not a swimmer, but I do have a 1:08ish Ironman Swim….I don't look at the swim segment as taking time away from my other workouts, but a good FAT BURNER and ACTIVE RECOVERY along with building OVERALL FITNESS..so, whether my 1k swim is 1 sec faster or not…I see it as a plus to swim.

  • Patrick McCrann
    REPLY

    The point of the article overall is that swimming just once a week year round is a really low ROI activity…whatever “feel” you are chasing in the water isn't really there (or can be earned in just a few weeks of consistent swimming when your actual race nears). As for fat burning, swimming is _a_ way to burn calories for sure, but you're race performance will most likely benefit from you putting that time into the bike or run. The big exception is folks who really do need to learn/develop as a basic swimmer…

  • Patrick McCrann
    REPLY

    The point of the article overall is that swimming just once a week year round is a really low ROI activity…whatever “feel” you are chasing in the water isn't really there (or can be earned in just a few weeks of consistent swimming when your actual race nears). As for fat burning, swimming is _a_ way to burn calories for sure, but you're race performance will most likely benefit from you putting that time into the bike or run. The big exception is folks who really do need to learn/develop as a basic swimmer…

  • Nutz4fitness
    REPLY

    Yes I swam the full year before Arizona because I wanted to beat my time. I thought this will be a great swim. No, one year later and crazy time spent at the pool one minute slower. I will never again swim that much!!! My Louisville time and Arizona were almost the same. Also wetsiut in Arizona……..

  • Nutz4fitness
    REPLY

    Yes I swam the full year before Arizona because I wanted to beat my time. I thought this will be a great swim. No, one year later and crazy time spent at the pool one minute slower. I will never again swim that much!!! My Louisville time and Arizona were almost the same. Also wetsiut in Arizona……..

  • Marvin Dittfurth
    REPLY

    I live about 60 miles from a pool and getting my swims in for IM Texas right now is tough with the bike and running I am trying to build. I am not a fast swimmer but swimming is not hard for me and I usually get out of the water with the group feeling good, not trashed at all. However, I do worry about not being to swim for a week or so, sometimes two weeks. Last two times out I swam 2.4 and 2 miles respectively and all well cut off time. Am I taking swimming too lightly?

  • Marvin Dittfurth
    REPLY

    I live about 60 miles from a pool and getting my swims in for IM Texas right now is tough with the bike and running I am trying to build. I am not a fast swimmer but swimming is not hard for me and I usually get out of the water with the group feeling good, not trashed at all. However, I do worry about not being to swim for a week or so, sometimes two weeks. Last two times out I swam 2.4 and 2 miles respectively and all well cut off time. Am I taking swimming too lightly?

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