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Swim Club Blog - Technique Or Fitness, Which Comes First?

The Endurance Store Swim Club provides you with simple swim training plans throughout the winter months. The plan runs October to October and is completely free. We only ask that you pre-register so that your training plans can be emailed directly.

Registration is free and you may unsubscribe at any time from the Swim Club and stop receiving updates. Overview of the swim plan be seen below, but before you start you need to complete a test to set your swim paces, then register and download the sessions. GO HERE to register for swim club.

We all know that swimming is a 'technique' sport and learning the perfect stroke is critical. However, there needs to be a balance in your training as many triathletes in particular can get tied up searching for perfect technique at a risk of poor conditioning.

I've heard many triathletes tell stories of how their children are members of a local swimming club and they are surprised (to the point of offended) that the swimming club don't appear to do much stroke tuition, they prefer instead to just get them swimming.. a lot!! Triathletes, in particular age groupers are fanatical about swim technique, so it's no surprise that when they see their children receive fairly limited tuition, they feel the urge to comment about the poor quality of coaching! My usual reply is... "Yes, but your 11 year old is 3 minutes quicker than you over 400m, so who's in the wrong?" How can that be it swimming is 80% technique and 20% fitness?

Critical V Non Critical Factors

1. First of all, there are some critical factors with swimming which must be mastered. The critical fatcors are the basic/fundamental things which allow you to swim. Once you've got the basics, there are probably another 100 'non critical' things which you can then start to apply to 'fine tune' or 'perfect' your stroke. The reality is for most of us, we'll NEVER get there, so accept it.

2. Once you've grasped the basics, doing some hard swimming goes a long way. People who have the basic principles of front crawl can swim under the hour for Ironman triathlon if they apply some hard training. Triathletes are guilty of talking about all the tiny technicalities of the front crawl stroke and which sculling drill they will do today. The reality is, that at some point, a little 'hard graft' in the pool is what's required.

3. There is a belief that you should always hold perfect form when you swim and if your technique falters you need to stop or you are at risk of just practicing bad technique. The issue is, if you are a weak swimmer, you'll never get past this problem as your technique will falter early due to lack of fitness. Once you have the basics, there's a lot of benefit from becoming well conditioned. If you you have a high level of swim fitness, you will be much more capable of making those small stroke improvements and being able to hold them throughout a full session without your technique faltering. If you don't have that conditioning, your technique will always fall apart as soon as you try to swim hard.

This tends to be the way in which swim clubs/squads will work. They teach the basics, develop a high level of conditioning and then when the swimmers are able to deal with the changes, they make the alterations.

So Technique Isn't Important?

That's not quite what I said. You need to have the basic fundamentals of the stroke initially and you then need to develop your conditioning by swimming regularly. Once you become well conditioned, you should then look at the list of small changes that you need to implement to fine tune your stroke.

So how far should I swim per session?

The answer to this question is generally governed by where you swim and who with. Most triathlon clubs only swim for an hour, so it's common that their target for the session will be 2500m or 100 lengths of a 25m pool. There's generally a warm up and some kick / drills and a cool down, so the main set is 1500m of hard swimming. If you are racing an event such as Ironman, 1500m of hard swimming is absolutely nowhere near enough to prepare you for 3800m of hard swimming, with the hope of exiting the water fresh. Let's consider that most swim squad children will swim 5000m before they go to school, so 2500m is not a lot of swimming by comparison. We'd recommend 10,000m per week is a good start target for making progress in your swimming, or 3 sessions of 3500m per week. If you have limited time, consider reducing or dropping the warm up & drills and crack on with the main set. Go and watch a proper 'swim squad' train and see how much technical work / drills they do, then count the number of lengths.

Final thoughts...

Don't over analyse or become over reliant upon technique work. It can become an obsession and many triathletes spend their entire time in the pool swimming with an over-thought mechnical stroke, or repeating drill after drill. This can often result in poor stroke with lack of fluidity. Focus on then basics, find a relaxed rhythm and keep the stroke fluid and smooth. Remember, your stroke falters when you get tired and if you're not swim fit, you get tired pretty quickly.

The Endurance Store

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