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Swim Club Blog: Don't Confuse High Volume With Garbage Yardage

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.

'Garbage Yardage' is a term which was introduced 20 years ago, to define endless mileage at a slow/steady pace. Historically, endurance sports have tended to favour a 'high volume training' approach, such as the 100 miles per week approach to running. This is also common in swimming, with clubs and squads favouring a high volume of training each week.

This all changed 20 years ago with the introduction of the concept 'quality over quantity'. Sports science research suggested that doing high intensity training for a shorter time period would produce similar, if not greater gains. The result was a shift in training time for many athletes, with a reduction in volume and a greater focus on intensity and quality. Coaches encouraged athletes to reduce the 'garbage yardage' and get more from doing less.

Which approach is best?

It's important to distinguish the difference between 'garbage yardage' and 'high volume training' and the main difference between the two is 'structure'. The main purpose of high volume training is to establish an aerobic base or foundation. It also allows the body to condition itself to repeated movement, without breaking down. The most important thing to understand is that 'high volume' goes hand in hand with 'low intensity'. In simple terms, if you're training long you should be training slow. In fact, it's the 'going slow' which actually allows you to complete the higher volume.

Add the structure

Someone recently commented to me that 40 X 100m front crawl was just 'garbage yardage'. The reality is, it may well be garbage yardage, but alternatively, it might be a very well structure aerobic endurance session. The key is how you complete the 40 X 100m. For example:

Your target pace for a 4000m swim event is 1:45 per 100m. Your 40 X 100m is completed as follows:

5 X 100m in 2:00 per 100m with 15 seconds recovery (leaving on 2:15)

15 X 100m in 1:50 per 100m with 10 seconds recovery (leaving on 2:00)

*If your 4000m race pace is 1:45, then 1:50 per 100 should feel comfortable and you shouldn't need more than 10 seconds recovery.

15 X 100m in 1:45 per 100m with 15 seconds recovery (leaving on 2:00)

5 X 100m in 2:00 per 100m with 15 seconds recovery (leaving on 2:15)

The key aspect of this session is pace judgement and stroke technique. You should swim at the correct pace, using the wall clock as your guide. Each repetition should be swam in the correct time (3 seconds either way is significantly too fast or too slow). Relax and stroke count on the odd lengths to ensure that you are not shortening your stroke as you become fatigued.

If you manage the complete the sessions above, hitting the times 'bang on' and leaving on the correct recoveries, then this is a very structured, high volume endurance session. Admittedly, it's a bit dull, but the point is, it's not garbage yardage.

By contrast, you can complete the same session and not look at the clock throughout. You don't know how fast each repetition is and you don't know if you're getting faster or slower throughout the session. you don't know if you're swimming at the correct 'target pace' and in fact, you don't actually 'have' a target pace, you're just swimming as you feel. You take as much recovery at the wall as you feel you need before starting each rep and don't really keep track of the time at all. There's no focus on any aspect of your stroke and the only thing you're really thinking about is when you're getting out. That's the same session as above, it's 40 X 100m, but it's garbage yardage.

Why is this relevant?

The reason why this is so relevant is that triathletes in particular confuse 'high volume training' for 'garbage yardage'. If you are training for endurance sports, in particular longer distances, you need to do some high volume sessions. You can't simply swim 2500m sessions and expect to be fit enough to race 4000m, simply because your swim sets were 'better quality'. High volume sessions are critical for performance and can't be avoided, but they must be done with structure.

My personal experience is that many people who prefer to focus on 'quality' rather than 'quantity' use this as an excuse as they don't want to do the hard yards and prefer to take a shorter and easier option. There's nothing garbage about 4-5000m pool sessions, if they are done with correct structure. This winter, high volume sessions should form part of your schedule and if you haven't yet tried it, don't knock it until you have.

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The Endurance Store



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