The Keys to Swimming Long Distance:
Alright, you’ve found your way to my article, so I’ll just take a guess that you probably want to be someone who can swim really, really far. You really want to be the guy (or girl) who is capable of swimming long distance!
Admirable. And a lot simpler than you think so long as you make three changes to how you train.
Now I’ll bet that wasn’t what you were expecting to hear.
You probably thought I’d say was something very vanilla like, “it will take years of practice and hundreds of hours in the pool to reach that goal.”
Because that’s what people want to hear. They want confirmation that what they already think is true right from the mouth of an expert.
Today I’ll tell you exactly how to change what you’re doing I’m at the pool to maximize the length of distance you can swim. But I need something from you first.
Commitment to ACTUALLY apply it. Are you tough enough to try this out?
Your swimming workout has to be designed to allow for optimal fitness gains. And the way to do that is to reach a unique balance of distance and style. By style, I mean you need to train in a specific fashion. And you probably aren’t going to like it.
You need to include intervals/ sets that include HIGH INTENSITY. And you need to preserve good technique at the SAME time. That is it. If you do this, you will build good endurance.
Swimming shares a lot with running because they are both cardiovascular activities. Science has shown within the last 20-30 years that you can very effectively build cardio if you train with intensity. HIIT workouts have become immensely popular within the fitness community, and it’s because of one simple fact.
So you need to incorporate them into your pool workouts. And ensure you aren’t throwing your technique to the dogs while you do it. It’s very easy to tense up and find your form go lax when you exert yourself above the average. Relax, and keep your technique smooth with everything else we preach on this blog and you’ll be fine.
So if you want to build distance, set a goal. Maybe two kilometers is what you want to be able to build to in a single stretch. And figure out where you’re at, maybe only 500 meters in a single stretch.
And design the workout to include an aggregate (accumulative) distance of 50-75% of the total distance you want to be able to go.
In this example, maybe 8 x 100 meters or 16 x 50 meter sections with appropriate resting. And finish it off with a 300 meter stretch at the end. Do that and incorporate some of the below tools into the intervals and sets you practice with. And you have your recipe for growing how far you can swim. Slowly modify the intervals to greater distance, and slowly you’ll notice your fitness barrier dissolving away into that harsh chlorine water 🙂
Key # 1: Hypoxic Interval Sets
If you don’t know what these are, you’re in for a real “treat.”
First let me say that most people generally don’t challenge themselves. They hit the gym, but they don’t ever increase the amount of weight they lift. Or they always put the treadmill on setting number 3, never challenging themselves to try out number 4. They don’t ever decide to push themselves to that next level.
Hypoxic Interval Sets are a real challenge. They will increase your bodies efficiency at using oxygen if you train with them. The differences will be noticed very quickly. And because you are challenging your body to use oxygen more efficiently, you will have an easier time swimming a long distance.
Simply because your body will be accustomed to physical activity with a lower oxygen supply. And this type of high-intensity training has been scientifically proven to have a greater impact on your cardiovascular capacity than high rep physical activity.
How do you do them?
What you do is pick an interval (I recommend 60 seconds if you’re just trying these for the first time) and swim to the opposite end of a 25 meter/ feet pool within that interval. Except, you aren’t allowed to breath for the entire length. When you reach the other side, you use the remaining time within that 60 second interval to catch your breath before doing another length.
When you do these it’s best to do at least 15 of them. I will usually do 25 of them on 40 second intervals and they absolutely slay me.
These are a great addition to any workout and they will accustom you to the oxygen scarcity of swimming long distance.
If you can’t make it all the way to the other side the first few times you try them, don’t worry about it. Just try your best. And slowly work down from 2 breaths per length until you can do it without a breath!
And then move onto the next step…
Key # 2: Stop Holding Your Breath
Now, we all know that a common complaint of beginner swimmers is that they feel out of breath after just a few short lengths in the pool. Building distance becomes difficult and everyone seems to reach this brick wall and climbing over it becomes a significant challenge.
So I’d like for you to check in on your technique now. Do you hold your breath when you do front crawl?
Obviously you aren’t breathing in, but that doesn’t mean that you should be holding the breath stagnantly. In fact, unless you are constantly exhaling your breath throughout your front crawl, you will always struggle to keep your heart rate/ breath under control.
Just think about it. If you went for a run, you wouldn’t hold your breath in between your strides. Fantastic runners don’t hold their breath or allow their breath to run rampant and out of control. They control it. They keep their breathing rate slow intentionally because they know that it affects their heart rate. The faster you breath in and out, the faster your heart rate will be. This speeding up of your respiratory system will tire you out VERY quickly.
This same strategy should be used to temper your breathing rate in the pool if you’re trying to swim long distances. Exhale or “blow your bubbles” while you do arm circles. As you swim, exhale continuously under water as if you were breathing “normally”. And time it so that when your lungs are empty, you’re ready to turn onto your side and breath in, maybe after three arm strokes or something like that.
Keep it controlled, and do your best to keep your breathing rate relaxed and slow. And make sure that whatever you do, you aren’t holding your breath because it’s essential to swimming long distance.
If you can do this, you’ll be able to pace yourself and swim much, much farther overnight.
Key # 3: Refine Your Technique
It’s no secret that you aren’t going to cross many oceans with a sinking boat.
Efforts need to be made to refine your stroke if you want to be able to go the distance. If swimming requires a lot of effort from you, particularly after 3-4 laps, then you need to check in and find out where your technique has gone astray.
Elegance, gentleness, finesse, whatever you prefer. This is the quality you want to cultivate.
If you find yourself struggling to build distance, then I challenge you to spend at least HALF of your training time practicing drills that specifically target your freestyle technique.
Here are a few good ones to get started:
If you can make your front crawl “smooth” then swimming whatever distance you want will become a breeze.
And that’s all folks…!
Those are the three biggest keys that I believe will help you swim a farther distance. If you liked them, go and try them out. Didn’t like them, couldn’t care less 😉
If you have any questions, throw them in the comment section below, and I’ll talk with you all next week!