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Swim Club Blog: Variety Is Nice, But Not Necessarily Better

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.

Let's face it, swimming isn't the most interesting sport to train for. You can spend hours staring at tiles on the bottom of the pool and when you get out, your hair (what's left of it) has turned green and has the texture of a wire brush.

Swimmers and triathletes like 'variety' as it keeps the session interesting. Triathletes in particular like drills. No, let me correct myself, they LOVE drills...

The issue is that when you only have an hour to spare, by the time you've factored in some drills, some variety and a collection of swimming toys which fasten to your hands, elbows and feet, whilst an electronic gadget beeps into your ear.... there isn't actually much time left for swimming.

At this point, a few of you are spitting out your front mounted snorkel and ready to make the point that 'SWIMMING IS ALL ABOUT TECHNIQUE'. I hear what your saying, but I'm going to disagree. Once you have the basics of the stroke, swimming is largely about conditioning. If you're racing Ironman triathlon, it's about swimming hard, without stopping, for an hour or more and getting out feeling totally fresh. There's not much variation in that, it's just hard swimming.

Surely technique is the critical bit?

Yes, it is important to some extent and you need to get the basics of balance, streamlining and then stroke rhythm and fluidity. But once you have the basics, you need to stop chasing the goal of perfection, which you'll never achieve (see previous blog post). As an example, if you're racing Ironman distance (3.8k) then your swim sets really should be 4k with at least 3k of hard swimming as the main set. That's still 800m short of your race distance and you're hoping to get out of the swim feeling fresh. Swimming a 2500m swim set with a 500m warm up, 500m drill set and a cool down will probably leave you with 1200m of hard swimming. Lets be clear, it's just not enough.

What about drills?

I know... you love a good drill. If they are absolutely critical to your stroke, then so be it. From my experience, I'd say that most drills don't translate across to the stroke. I don't see people doing drills, then swimming differently as a consequence. They do the drills then they swim just the same as they did before.

You'd probably get better results by trying to make a change / focus on specific aspect of your stroke, whilst your actually swimming. The fact is that your stroke technique breaks down when you're tired, not when you're fresh and taking lots of recovery, so unless you're well conditioned, you're going to fall apart after a few hundred metres of hard swimming.

But technique comes before fitness!!

No, it really doesn't. If you don't have conditioning, your technique falters very quickly. once you have the basics mastered, by doing some hard swimming, it will allow you to make further small changes to perfect your stroke, without it breaking down mid session. The order of progression should be:

1. Get the basics - Balance, Streamlining & Rhythm
2. Increase swim volume and gain conditioning
3. Make small changes to fine tune your stroke

I've lost count of how many times I've been told that local swimming clubs tend to ignore stroke technique. Instead, they just get the youngsters in the pool and make them swim high volume sessions. Most triathlete parents think this is completely wrong (largely because triathletes are infatuated with stroke technique). They perhaps should consider that it may be themselves who have it wrong, especially when your 11 year old beats you by 3 minutes over 500m freestyle!

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