View Full Version : Request for LONG distance training (?)

Leonard Jansen
January 9th, 2004, 03:51 PM
Just a thought/request:

At some point in the future, it would be nice to have workouts posted by someone who specializes in LONG distance coaching with an eye on open water distances (1 mile "death sprints" to ??? miles). The workouts provided are generally excellent, but since open water distances basically start where pool distances leave off, it would be great to have something a bit more specific. This is especially true since there is a relatively small body of printed work on longer distance/open water training and coaches for LONG distances seem few and far between.

Would anyone else be interested and would this be possible?


January 9th, 2004, 08:46 PM
I think I could probably keep you in mind during some of my workouts. I was until last year in charge of the of Santa Barbara Beachguards and we used to do many open water swims as well as set many of the local open water courses.

You could also double many of the distances in our sets or even swim some of the sets with an open water stroke (with you head coming up to sight the wall), while it may look funny it could help bridge the gap. Keep in mind that swimmers who specialize in open water are still a minority in the sport, but I guess we should consider them more as they help coaches stay in business!

Nancy Graham
January 11th, 2004, 07:22 AM
I second the motion for some long distance workouts that will help us open water swimmiers -- even it the distance isn't quite so long:) Periodic suggestions will be a great help. Simply swimming non-stop laps gets old.

Thanks, Nancy

January 11th, 2004, 08:13 AM
For that matter, what about workouts for middle and long distance (400-1500) swimmers?

January 11th, 2004, 10:23 AM
When I first started back to swimming i couldn't even do the 'beginner' workouts. Newbies to this board frequently ask how they can increase their yardage and endurance. The advice is always the same, "start out slow and easy. Don't be to anxious and increase the yardage too quickly," but that doesn't really tell them WHAT to do during a workout. WHAT, is what I wanted most. Suggestions on how to modify even the beginner/slowest levels of a workout DOWN so Newbies could benefit, would also be great for them. Something simple, with an eye toward very low, to low yardage, like, "if you are a Newbie you would likely benefit most from doing 1/2 of the warm up, the first two swims of set 1, and 1/2 of the warm down. Adjust your intervals by (or some other specific modification)..." Then, when a newbie asked a question about how to begin doing workouts we could direct them to yours.

Nancy Graham
January 11th, 2004, 11:18 AM
I think laineybug has a great idea. That way we would have direction from a coach rather than either being confused about what part of the workout to do, or feeling we need to try to completer the entire workout. Forget that!!! When I see these workouts I simply move on to another thread :rolleyes:

Guidance would be appreciated.


January 12th, 2004, 11:18 AM
Id like to address a few of these concerns actually. I think this is a great thread and should be discussed...

first and foremost, with regards to long distance workouts, i had one of the best distance coaches in the game when i was in high school. only occasionally would we do repeat 1000's or 800 pyramid sets. more often than not he trained me at mid distance with bracket sets. these, i found out, increased my endurance substantially. its almost too easy to do a 1650 at race pace for a workout and then call it a day. even two of them. whats not easy is doing multiple repeats of 300 and 400's on 1650 race intervals. thats what does the work for you. Long distance coaches are not as rare as you may think. some of the world's best distance swimmers come from mid-distance IM programs...look at Ian Thorpe who's workouts range from 200-500. he repeats until the cows come home but thats a different story.

secondly, when you look at a workout, the idea is not to freak out when you see it. taken as a whole the workout is designed to reach a goal. though the preferred method is to do the whole workout at once, obviously not everyone can or will. therefore, i absolutely recommend picking it apart and doing what works best for you. i even recommend changing up intervals and distances to accommodate your style. there are thousands of swimmers on here who all have their own styles. to write a workout for everyone is impossible. you have three choices for workouts. mix and match!

lastly, with regards to newbies...you guys have been fantastic over the past year helping people out with recommendations and so forth...to that end i will help whenever i can now that im a member. my tendency though is to not try to coach a newbie too much through a web page. newbies can have significant stroke mechanic issues which could be worsened. i would hope that each newbie has some local person that they could speak to with regards to specific mechanical issues with their strokes.

January 12th, 2004, 11:43 AM
I can only say what I have been doing. Since I don't have the time to spend hours in the pool I save my long distance swim for saturday and/or sunday while during the week I focus on shorter endurance workouts. Now Leonard you know I am new to this sport and don't have a lot of experience to share but here is what I have been doing.

I'll start off with a slow and easy 500yd to warm up and then maybe a brisker 500yd followed by 10 25yders on every 45 and then finish with another 500yd to finish. I mix up the middle distance depending on my mood but most of it is endurance stuff. 50's or 100's but I do it to get me breathing hard and I always run to help my cardio endurance out.

That is only what I do and it probably isn't the best way to do it but it keeps me coming back.

Leonard helped me get through my first long distance swim last year. Look forward to seeing you again this year.

January 12th, 2004, 12:03 PM
I am not a member because I don't have access to a coach/team and can not see an advantage to becoming a member, so maybe I don't have a right to offer this criticism, but sometimes someone on the outside can shed light on what is going on.

I believe more people DO NOT HAVE ACCESS to a coach or Masters team than do. (I am one of them again as the coach who worked with me privately is moving) If USMS wishes to continue to grow its membership then something has to be done for the newbies and other swimmers, who do not have access to coaches and teams, to get them to feel successful, to continue to swim and to want to join the organization. Not being able to do ANY of the posted workouts does not promote these feelings. In fact, it is down right discouraging. When I first started back swimming I definately got the impression that the coaches did not care about any swimmer who could not do the workouts, and that USMS was for more proficient swimmers than myself. However, I'm not the kind of person who would let something like that stop her from doing what she wanted to do, but there are many others who do not share my kind of temperament and probably write off USMS as something that does not meet their needs (which at this point it doesn't) and is not worthwhile. It was the private one-to-one sessions that motivated me in the beginning.

While this does not address the stroke mechanics issue, perhaps a partial solution to the problem is to get a coach to write a series of progressive workouts that would help bring a newbie up to a point where he or she could use the other workouts. At least that would give a newbie a starting point and make them feel 'welcome.'


January 12th, 2004, 12:24 PM
LB, you have a valid point. The last thing anyone wants is for any new swimmer or even veteran swimmers to feel unwelcome. However, I am worried when you say that swimmers can not do any of the posted workouts. I will admit that mine hover around the intermediate level but Mo Chambers writes terrific workouts for ALL swimmers of all levels. I've sent many beginner swimmers the link to her page and they have all said that her workouts helped them tremendously. I would recommend that newbies seek out her workouts and follow her advice on each set. And with regards to mechanics, there are many links in recent posts that point to other websites that have great instruction and tutorials for beginning stroke mechanics. Definitely worth checking out. Best of luck.

Rob Copeland
January 12th, 2004, 12:42 PM
To Leonard’s original question, I have contacted the USMS Long Distance Committee chair, Peter Crumbine, and asked if he could solicit some of his members to get together to develop some basic workouts focused towards open water swimming. I’ll let you know his reply.

January 12th, 2004, 01:34 PM
Mo's workout on this site are way to advance for many Newbies.
Michael Collins' workouts with their different levels were closer to what I could do (but still wasn't even up to the lowest level).

I pulled myself up to the posted workouts by paying for private coaching session. The question to USMS, do you want beginning swimmers who does not have access to a coach/team and whose ability is below the posted workout? If USMS does then put yourself in their shoes and ask this question. Where is the money better spent? On USMS dues or private coaching session? You know my decision. Now multiply that decision by all the beginning and returning swimmers in the nation.

To attract the less than proficient swimmer USMS must offer them some other benefit other than a magazine.

January 12th, 2004, 01:36 PM
Mo's workouts utilize cruise intervals and as such can be used by swimmers of all levels of ability. Emmett Hines' Fitness Swimmer has been mentioned previously and is a great reference, with color coded workouts beginning at a very basic level.

I have not had access to a team or a coach but have found USMS to be a great source of information and very motivating. The fact that any member can swim at Nationals has been a subject of debate on this forum but reflects the philosophy of participation regardless of ability.

The original topic of this thread was a request for workouts for long (and middle?) distance swimmers. No one is disputing the value of interval training, but repeats of 50, 75 or 100 yards are not going to be adequate for the longer events. Unfortunately, as Masters swimmers most of us are limited in terms of time available for training (10,000 yards/day is not feasible, even if our bodies were willing).

January 12th, 2004, 01:46 PM
10K a day? i wish ;-) ...in any event you have a good point and as jeremy (kipp) mentioned he is going to keep that in mind for future workouts as will I. expect to see some more distance-centric workouts at least once a week in the near future at least from me but i expect from both of us.

January 12th, 2004, 01:52 PM
MY POINT EXACTLY! A willingness to help the more advance proficient swimmer but only lip service to beginners.

January 12th, 2004, 02:07 PM
Ah, but I paid my membership dues. . .

January 12th, 2004, 02:25 PM
AHHHH... so you are saying if I paid my membership dues and I asked that workouts be modified down to meet needs below those levels it would happen?

Bull, is all I have to say to that, because if USMS and its coaches truely wanted to encourage beginning/less proficient swimmers then the workouts and modifications would have already been a part of this site, rather than referring them to other sites or references.

There is a great deal of difference between philosophy and reality.

Rob Copeland
January 12th, 2004, 03:54 PM
As a member of USMS for many years who has been an active participant in both in the water and out of the water activities, I can tell you there is no agenda to discourage beginning/less proficient swimmers. The reality of the situation is that with our less then a handful of employees and almost total reliance on volunteers, USMS can not be all things to all people, in fact we can not be many things to most people. USMS employees no coaches, all of the workouts posted on this website come from folks who in many cases are volunteer coaches.

In the 20+ years that I have been involved with the national organization we have struggled with how “to promote fitness and health in adults by offering and supporting Masters swimming programs”. I can tell you that we have made many improvements in that time. Back when I started, there was no web site or workouts on-line, albeit there was no web back in the 70’s. My point is that we will continue to evolve and offer more services and programs. Just remember that these programs and services are being developed and administered by volunteers, so if you want something new it may take time and it may need you to champion the effort. That’s the reality of the situation.

And I apologize for further digressing from the “Request for LONG distance training” thread. But, hey, at least I feel better now.

January 12th, 2004, 04:31 PM

I am simply pointing out that USMS is missing a huge
population of potential members! Probably a group bigger
than the group USMS targets now. While I'm sure there is no
hidden agenda to discourage the beginner/less proficient
swimmer USMS doesn't dp much to encourage the beginning/less
proficient swimmer who doesn't have access to a coach or

As for digression from the thread, I don't see this as a
digression. If someone can request more long distance
workouts why can't someone request newbie workouts?

Champion the effort? Don't you think thats what I am doing now?


Nancy Graham
January 12th, 2004, 08:48 PM
Elaine, I do think you are championing the effort, and I thank you for it. I for one am pleased that Leanord started this topic, and the activity on this thread over a short period of time indicates that others have interest as well.

I am hopeful that Rob's efforts with the Long Distance Committee are successful, and look forward to the workouts that might come from this. Although I am a strong swimmer, I have not and do not swim on a team -- like Elaine, I have no team available to me in my nearby area -- so I guess I may be considered a newbie as well. So I am in chorus with Elaine's thoughts, concerns and requests for workouts for folks like me as well.

For some (perhaps many) of us, it may not be the technique that we are struggling with, but more the endurance, speed and monotony of the same practice we do each time. So ideas and direction from a coach would be a great help.

What a great site this is -- thanks to all.

Gareth Eckley
January 13th, 2004, 05:34 AM
I was recently at the British swim coaches conference, where I heard a talk by Malcolm Straight, the coach of one of the best UK distance swimmers. This swimmer excels at longer distances, such as 5k, 10k and 25k open water swims.

All of their training is in the pool and they concentrate on even pacing. Specifically they do long interval sets, holding a steady pace, stroke count and stroke rate.

Maglischo was also there and he also talked about the importance of even pacing.

For instance if you are doing 2000m sets, good for 1500m races and building an aerobic base. You could do the 2000m as:

40 by 50m, 15 secs rest, all at even pace,

20 by 100m, 30 secs rest, even pace,

10 by 200m, 45 secs rest, even pace,

5 by 400m, 60 secs rest, even pace,

4 by 500m, 75 secs rest, even pace,

2 by 1000m, 90 secs rest, even pace.

When you can hold a steady pace, 50m splits, all ±2 secs from target time, then you can bring the target 50m split time down by 1 second.

Practice it thru the whole sequence above, which will take a few weeks, and then when you can hold that new target then you can bring it down again.

Then later in the season you could do race simulators. These would be 1500m or 800m swims. Initially broken at each 50 or 100m to get split time, with 10 secs rest. Repeating this with less rest until you are swimming with even pacing at your target split time.

Most people "sag" in the middle third of the race. So if you do lots of 3 by 500m swims, focusing on the quality of the middle 500, it should help.

It seems that gradual, progressive, training helps the most in longer distances. You could also do lots of arm circling exercises to keep strength and stamina in the arms so that you can keep up a decent tempo. Stroke rates of 40 to 50 cycles/min should be used for these events.

I, myself have only started swimming the 1500m events in the last year, but i do enjoy them. Not having to deal with Lactic acid overload, is nice !

Gareth Eckley
January 13th, 2004, 05:51 AM

I do think that many masters clubs, do not help the "newbies" as much as they need. Some "newbies", really need a learn to swim program, before they swim the coached workouts. It is hard to help though.

I coach a few "newbie" swimmers, where, i give them progressive drills and swims. I have had some success. My swimmers have good balance now, and most can breathe well to either side. I watch them and give feedback often.

I also get in the water and demonstrate every few weeks. I have less than 20 swimmers to coach so I have the time in a session to do this.

However, in most masters clubs, there is one coach to many ( 100 + ) swimmers. It is natural to concentrate on your best lanes, especially the ones who race in meets.

An assistant coach could help on the "learner" lanes, and some clubs will do this.

This site and the USMS in general are very helpfull to all. There is almost no EGO with the people who post here. They will actually spend time trying to help.

Contrast this with the UK site, where EGO is HUGE and most posts end up with people "dissing" you. My experience is that few there would bother to give you long carefully thought out replies to your questions.

Also it is hard to help a swimmer when you have not seen them swim. There may be stroke flaws and flexibility issues that need correcting before setting harder swim sets. As a coach you are guessing as to what the swimmer needs.

January 13th, 2004, 07:18 AM
Thanks Gareth. It doesn't look like there are any short cuts in distance training. For the Masters swimmer, the question is how much (yardage) is enough? I suppose the answer is, that depends.

Leonard Jansen
January 13th, 2004, 09:09 AM
Thanks to all for the interest. I didn't want to start a tempest in a teapot or make extra work for anyone, but I've often wondered if I was the only one finding that "traditional" workouts come up a bit wanting for longer distances. Since I have coached at a high level in Athletics (aka Track and Field), I can easily periodize my workouts to meet the physiological needs of long efforts. However, my observation is that experienced swimming coaches know a lot of efficiencies, and have better variety of workouts, than someone from a different background, regardless of prior experience. That, plus one gets tired of one's own cooking, so to speak.

Again, thanks to all and I'm looking forward to seeing what comes of this.


Rob Copeland
January 15th, 2004, 10:20 AM
Peter Crumbine (USMS Long Distance Committee chair) reported that his committee would get together some workouts geared towards open water events and post them to the web. It may take a few weeks to get this organized, but it’s coming.

In the mean time, you may wish to look at the Open Water Swimming Clinic Manual on the USMS Long Distance page www.usms.org/longdist
While it doesn’t contain any workouts, it does contain a number of drills and other valuable advice for novice and experienced open water swimmers.

Matt S
January 15th, 2004, 02:41 PM
I think all the participants here have made valid points about how masters swimming falls short of helping some people in some way, or how difficult it would be to do better.

Elaine, you are precisely right about Masters focusing a bit too much attention on the best swimmers. Pick up a copy of Swim magazine, and it's Karlyn Pipes this, and Jim McConica that. Gee, do you think that maybe there might be some interesting stories amongst the 100's of other people at a meet who are no threat to win their age group? You bet there are, BUT digging out those stories takes more time and staff than Swim has available. It's easy to talk about records; you can get that stuff off of the results posted on the web. Real reporting requires resources our niche magazine does not have available.

Same story if you go to most masters clubs. The workout is really designed for the fastest swimmers, and what other people do is a watered down derrivative of that workout. The supreme irony of that is that the coaches focus on the best folks, but they need the attention the least. The people who really need coaching and guidance are in the slow lane, and sometimes they give up, or never come in the first place, because they think they need to be pretty good already to be worthy of a coach's time. How crazy is that?! On the other hand, the fastest swimmers also tend to be the ones who show up for workout most regularly. You ignore the wishes of your most reliable customers at your peril.

USMS has tried numerous times to reach out to the "fitness" or "lap" swimmer and offer them more services for their membership dues. Problem is that many of those people's idea of swimming is: show up for lap swim, do the same distance at the same pace with the same technique (no matter how good or bad it is), repeat tomorrow at the same time. And please DON'T challenge my assumptions about the right way to swim. Getting that herd of cats to show up for or participate in anything outside of their comfort zone can be a real challenge.

And finally (since I have gored everyone else's ox today), I find the suggestion that there are not enough workouts for the purely distance swimmer somewhat curious. Mostly because in my experience, most masters workouts turn into 95% aerobic work (which is what distance people need) as people chase someone else's interval. There is a mind set that the only way to train is to maximize yards swum, and the faster the interval the better. Most age group, high school, college programs (i.e. for those who are serious about swimming their best in a few weeks time) also work on stroke technique, sprinting, or simply higher quality swims with more rest in between, i.e. they work on lots of other areas. But in a Masters workout, I can't count the number of times (on any one of the several teams I have joined as the Navy moves me hither, thither and yon) the coach gives us a drill set, and some gonzo decides this is his chance to keep up with the big boys, and wants to lead the lane on a touch and go interval, completely defeating the purpose of the set. Heck I have been on teams where the coach has been let go because, as I interpret it, his creative get out of your comfort zone workouts did not satisfy the aerobocops' need for more yards, man, just give me more yards.

There, having got my psychotic episode off my chest, what's my point? Well, to the extent I have one, I would say that there are ample OPPORTUNITIES for masters swimming to offer all sorts of new and interesting experiences to its members. However, seizing any one of those opportunities will usually not be easy or cheap, and we have limited resources. We should always ask ourselves "why not?" At the same time, we should not expect the elusive "they" to take on an initiative for us, while we sit back and enjoy the benefits. "They" is us, and we need to do it our own bad selves. Also, we need to appreciate the fine work a whole lot of selfless volunteers put into OUR organization, and thank them at the slightest provocation. All grousing aside, we really are living in the golden age of aquatics for mature athletes, and it is good for us to look up every once in a while and appreciate how lucky we are.

End of homily,


January 15th, 2004, 11:44 PM
Well, Eliane a lot of the workouts don't fit the middle aged and senior groups. I even swam years ago as a kid and lost a great deal of my speed. I can't do the other three strokes at 1:50 intervals since my fastest times are at 1:38 or 1:39 now in them and to do lower 1:40's I need more rest at least at a 2:30 interval. I just get ideas from the workouts and apply them to myself. Like you I swim on my own since its gives me more flexabilty.

January 17th, 2004, 05:14 PM
i used to swim many 1500 breastrokes sets and about 4 months ago decided to try freestyle,same distance,needless to say i struggled at first as front crawl seemed to zap my energy much faster than the breastroke i had done for 3-4years previous,although i often threw a few front crawl sets in as well previously.How i got better was to basically pace myself.I had to stop myself from swimming the first 100m as fast as i could and i did this by slowing maybe to half speed.In the first few weeks it was very hard and i could only manage 500m unbroken sets,but perceverence succeeded and i now swim 1500m freestyle at perhaps not the fastest time of 31mins,but i do this with no rests also i havent introduced flip turns that i used to do in breastroke but plan on doing this soon ...maybe i'll get down to 25 mins with these incorporated.I'm no expert but i hope this info helps.

April 21st, 2004, 04:33 PM
I think Elaine has a good point and I'm glad she brought it up. I liked the workouts by Michael Collins and found them very productive. I have just unsubscribed from the workouts that replaced his because the intervals are unrealistic for me, and I don't need to see that every week. I think I can say for a lot of other swimmers they would be unrealistic as well. Sure I can modify, but it is discouraging to see the intervals that are expected before I do so. It would be more inclusive if three interval options would be provided, and how hard would that be to do?
I pay my dues and I swim on a team. I think swimmers and coaches who post could consider the percentage of people they are reaching when they suggest that 2:30 is an interval for the 200, or that 100 backstroke on 1:10 gives the swimmer a lot of rest. Yes many people are included in that. But many are not.

jean sterling
April 21st, 2004, 05:33 PM
Originally posted by effi
I think swimmers and coaches who post could consider the percentage of people they are reaching when they suggest that 2:30 is an interval for the 200, or that 100 backstroke on 1:10 gives the swimmer a lot of rest. Yes many people are included in that. But many are not.

Good point. I agree, and I find that I like Mo's workouts best - she includes rest intervals. Like you, I find impossible intervals discouraging and a turn-off.

April 21st, 2004, 06:03 PM
but you have 3 choices! ive been watching this forum for some time and this post, of all of them, has irked me to the point of having to respond. i do any one of the three workouts depending on how much time i have and modify each one accordingly. its not hard! if i do mo's workout i just modify the times or the distance to make the set easier or harder for me. same with jeremy and nate. nate's workouts seem to be geared more towards the competitive swimmer but anyone can do them. if you cant make a 100 back on 1:10 then what can you make it on? 1:40? fine. i certainly couldnt make a 1:10 100 back but i can do it in 1:45 and come in on 1:38. This gives me 7 seconds rest which for me is enough, so i modify the set. what's the big deal? if you are a competitive swimmer, im not - too old and slow, but if you are then you might benefit from doing his intervals. but if you are not a competitive swimmer, either don't do his workouts or simply modify them. or take a combination of all three! do jeremy's warmup, mo's main set and half of one of nate's sets at your interval. talk about variety! thanks to all three for taking time out of their busy schedules to give us these weekly workouts. i for one will continue to modify as necessary and hopefully one day, i wont have to! ;-)

April 21st, 2004, 06:57 PM
When this thread reactivated I told myself I would just shut up, but...

I think you miss the point Nopinpool. Newbies need advice on how to modify from a coach, not just, "you've got three choices, modify to your heart is content."

I stand behind Michael Collins coming closer to helping newbies than anyone else. The other coaches who post here should take a lesson from him.

April 21st, 2004, 07:52 PM
As I said, three options for intervals are great. I think coaches who offer that are promoting great workouts for all swimmers. As I said, I don't need to modify a workout set for the highest level. I'm not going to trouble myself to do that. I don't need to see those workouts every week. I think it is discouraging. I prefer to see a workout I can do, so that's what I go for. I am not hurting for options. That said, I did like Michael Collins's workouts, and I think they helped my conditioning. They were well-designed, with well thought-out intervals for all levels of swimmers.
I think Elaine really had a point. Workouts and posters who talk about sets could be more inclusive and it would have a positive effect. Why not strive for that?

April 22nd, 2004, 08:31 AM
Ideally the intervals and sets should be based on the results of a T-1000, 2000 or 3000 swim, which we can do on our own or with a coach on deck. There's no reason why the workouts can't be written with this in mind and thus be applicable to everyone. The T-1000 (or 2000 or 3000) gives you your anaerobic threshold which can then be used to construct the sets. Mo uses cruise intervals which basically accomplish the same thing. I'm not a coach but I read a lot.

April 23rd, 2004, 08:53 AM
Back to the original question. As I have posted before I think swimmers and swim coaches are interval obsessed. The top distance runners do a fair amount of interval training and speed work but they also do much of their mileage in long slow aerobic runs. I am not aware of any physiologic reason why this should not apply to swimming.

Swimming like most sports is bound in tradition. American swimming has tended to ignore the mile and concentrate on the 50 to 400/500 distances especially the sprints. Also it is difficult to coach long swims in a pool but is easy to coach a cross country team on long runs.

As one of the other posters indicated there are some nice benefits of LSD...long slow distance, it is relaxing and efficient. The problem is for many swimmers this is ALL they do I am not advocating that but two or three of your workouts a week can certainly be a straight aerobic swim. This is what the Kenyans and Ethiopians do and they are miles ahead of the competition.

April 23rd, 2004, 11:07 AM
I believe that the concept of interval training began with runners and then was applied to swimming. As for American distance swimming, as Ion posted in another thread we had a great tradition of 1500/1650 champions in the 70's (Goodell, Hackett, and Shaw); they swam 100K or more per week of interval swimming. Not much "LSD" either (unless you consider 100x100 on !:00 long slow distance).

April 23rd, 2004, 11:37 AM
If I am not mistaken (though I might be) the workouts posted here are done on a voluntary basis - so we should be thankful for that alone. If someone has an issue with the interval then they should ask some questions/advice, not expect Mike, Emmet, Nate or whoever to address every possible scenario.
James in regards to focus of training and events - most swim events are under the 400m/500yrd distance. Standard masters meet has 15 to 16 events (not counting relays and depending on pool LCM vs SCY or SCM) of 400/500 and only 2 events of a greater distance. You also answered your own question on why intervals. Swimming is very technique oriented (IMHO), so a break in a swim gives time for a coach to provide feedback. A very common problem/mistake in doing long swims is as you get fatigued your form suffers and unless you correct this the bad habits can become ingrained into your rested stroke performance.

Leonard Jansen
April 23rd, 2004, 11:53 AM
Interval training was formally introduced in the 1930's in Germany by two scientist named Gerschler and Reindell, if memory serves me correctly - to train an 800 meter runner named Rudolph Harbig, but was actually focused more on heart rate response and recovery than the actual distances and rest time. It evolved more towards distance/time as it was a pain to constantly take your heart rate. With the advent of inexpensive, wearable heart rate monitors, there is more heart rate work being done (in track) these days than previously. Due to the water element involved, heart rate monitoring is more problematic and hence the standard distance/time interval that is still practiced in swimming. Track and Field did use extensive (often exclusive) intervals to train distance runners in the 1950's through the early 1970's, most notably successful were athletes like Emil Zatopec, who did do things like 50 X 400 meters (or more). The longest pool race (1500/1650) is roughly equivalent in time to a 5000m run, so the use of extensive intervals is not surprising as it is often done that way in track today.

That was a long-winded way of getting to this point: My original question was about LONG distance swimming (let's say 5k up to English Channel type efforts) and my wondering how a coach would train someone for that. There is little published info on this topic. In that regard, I would expect some longer pace swims ("LSD" would be a poor term for this, I think) would be done analogous to what marathon runners (~10k swim race in time) do. But again, it's just a guess and I still have nothing "definitive."


April 23rd, 2004, 12:03 PM
Originally posted by kaelonj
If I am not mistaken (though I might be) the workouts posted here are done on a voluntary basis - so we should be thankful for that alone. If someone has an issue with the interval then they should ask some questions/advice, not expect Mike, Emmet, Nate or whoever to address every possible scenario.

I think that the point was that the intervals for some of the sets are too fast or not appropriate for everyone; if the goal for the set is stated (basic endurance, threshold endurance, etc.), then the intervals can be adjusted based on an individual's anaerobic threshold (calculated from a T1000 or T2000 sswim).

April 23rd, 2004, 12:15 PM
I have been looking for the answer. I have read higb and low and have not found anything specific to long distance swimming. I have a book on my desk that is interesting, Strength Training for Swimmers. It doesn't discuss the training for LDS or training rather it contests the notion that one needs to do lots of yardage or meters for most swimming events. That kind of leaves us long distance people out of the equation.

I will tell you what I have had success with and why.

I get bored swimming long distances in a pool so this year I have cross trained a lot. I am not doing much pool distance. During the week I do between 1000 and 2000 yards but they are intervals using a heart rate monitor and I mix in running 3 miles a couple of times a week with a cycle class. I do my long and slow stuff on saturday or sunday.

I have to say that the other day I swam 2 miles in one hour with a heart rate that didn't exceed 141 and I could have kept going.

What am I saying here? This is what works for me with the time I have but intervals are a way of getting to longer distances without doing the distance. It saves time!

Hope this helps.

April 23rd, 2004, 01:08 PM
The book "Swim Fastest" has some good ideas you could use. The point about Zatopek is interesting as he certainly did more than intervals (running through snow fields for miles at a time) and he won an Olympic marathon.

The ideal about fatigue will make you lose form in long swims I frankly don't buy as an argument against long swimming. If you swim with a pace clock and make sure your pace and stroke count are constant it is unlikely your form is going to pot. Secondly how many of us train with a coach closely watching. Thirdly these are long aerobic swims when it is easy to keep your form these should not be hard swims. When you do threshold or lactic acid build up sets this is when it is hard to keep your form.

April 23rd, 2004, 01:20 PM
Maglischo makes the point in Swimming Fastest that you need to train at different speeds in order to develop the different types of muscle fibers. Long slow swimming is nothing more than basic endurance (or recovery swimming, depending on the speed) and will only train the slow twitch fibers (and will not develop other parameters like buffering capacity, lactic acid removal, etc.). None of this is relevant if you're not planning to compete.

April 23rd, 2004, 03:00 PM
Originally posted by gull80
...None of this is relevant if you're not planning to compete.

I don't compete and I love all of this stuff. If I get in and do 2000 yards continuous, all at the same speed, I get boooooored. And I won't keep it up. I do some longer swims (not open water long, but pool long - say 750-1000 yards) once or twice each week and I also to a couple of workouts that have me gasping at the end of a 100 or 200 with enough rest to get my breath back and do it again. Add in different strokes and the variety keeps me interested.

I guess I do compete with myself though. I keep trying to improve my own times!:)

April 23rd, 2004, 05:31 PM
Even if you do not plan to compete I think you can make an argument for some interval training. It will help build muscle, it may lead to more growth hormone release etc.

April 23rd, 2004, 06:08 PM
What I meant was that someone swimming purely for fitness may not be that concerned about or interested in intervals and training categories.

April 23rd, 2004, 07:39 PM
O.K., so what is a "bracket set", and what are some examples for long distance training.

A confused newbie

April 27th, 2004, 12:38 AM
When I swim, which is mostly in the public length time, there is a swimmer who swims continuously around and around for an hour plus.
I too am mainly a long distance swimmer, but I do train all energy systems. I will do LSD sets, increasing in distance as I get closer to my open water season. these will still be pace sets, working on holding an even pace in different distances.
The swimmer who swims continuously has demonstrated clearly what happens when this is your main workout. 5 years ago we were very close in time held for 50's. Our times in open water were quite close as well. Now I am a good 10-13 seconds per 50 faster, and several minutes faster in the 5km event.
I have seen this pattern many times over especially when the triathletes hit the water. Swimming training is different from biking and running as it is so highly technical. If we don't keep working to be the most efficient we can be in the water then our progress will grind to a halt. We need to challenge all energy systems and as distance swimmers, we must wake up those fast twitch fibers by including speed in every workout.
Seems to work for me.
My times are getting faster each year, despite aging ;)

April 27th, 2004, 08:38 AM
I am not sure I buy your premise that swimming training is so different. I ride with a guy who does the same thing except on the bike and for much longer distances and he is not nearly as fast as some of the other cyclists I train with.

I think swimming training is not really that different. The top cyclists and runners worry alot about power and form. In some ways swimming is more technical than cycling but in some ways less, you cannot crash swimming, the terrain does not vary etc

April 27th, 2004, 08:58 AM
I am not sure what you mean by "main workout". Heart rate training is welll tested and I think it applies to swimming. Most of the distance of a distance swimmer should be at aerobic pace. the problem with the swimmer in your example isn't that he swims 5K at a time, the problem is this is the only type of training he does. The premise that swimming is somehow different and you need to do interval training instead of continuous distance has no support in physiology.

April 27th, 2004, 09:03 AM
I mix it all up. Since I do longer sets. 250's and up and with this thread making me think I have spent the last week doing shorter intervals. I got in with a friend who is fast and tried to keep up with him for short workout which consisted of a sprint 50, sprint 100 and sprint 50 with 1 minute rest between. Now I swim a lot so I am in good shape and after that set my arms were on fire. Shoulders felt like they should look like the hulk. This to me tells me that I am working my arms so l continued to do some short sets but not as fast to help make them stronger. Is it working? I am not sure but I can tell you this-the short intervals worked a different muscle or worked them really hard which is making them stronger.

April 27th, 2004, 11:19 AM
When I swim at lunch unfortunately there is some time pressure so a workout I like for a lunchtime workout is 2,000 yd swim aerobic pace, then 10 X 50 on a minute, a little cool down swim and stretch.

A good workout in 45 minutes counting changing time can be in and out in under an hour.

April 27th, 2004, 11:27 AM
Send me some of your lunch workouts. That sounds pretty awesome. I never can figure out good workouts to do.

April 27th, 2004, 01:29 PM
I realize each sport has similiar and different training progams. I am familiar with cycling and running training as well.
I am also familiar with those who believe LSD is the only way to train for distance.
With regards to training and physiology:
I do believe, and have read a lot about, using the 5 intensity symbols for training for endurance sports. I have also read alot about, and have years of experience in training for distance swimming.
However, it is not my intention to begin a debate. I am sure there are many well versed and more experienced posters who can debate this.
Simply from my experience over several years, and by training for endurance sports myself combined with my background, I do believe that training all energy systems has a definite physiological and therefore a training effect.
I also realize that all bodies are different and what works for one, may not necessarily work for another.
Just that my training is certainly working for me. Perhaps others may benefit from learning about all the ways distance swimmers train and find a way that works for them.
Happy training.

April 27th, 2004, 08:36 PM
I think we agree more than disagree and in fact I know many cyclists and runners who could benefit from a little interval training. They do sometimes have hills which is a little interval training whether welcome or not.

My only point is it seems like swimmers seem so adverse to continuous swimming as part of training for reasons that relate more to tradition than science, more to the practical problems of coaching 30 swimmers at once than to science.

I think with most of us having jobs, families etc and often under some time pressure when we work out masters swimmers need to seriously look at continuous swimming AS PART OF a workout program.

The whole idea of being in the aerobic range is that you are not working too hard so a rest interval makes no sense to me. What is it you are recovering from? When training in this range you should not be building up lactic acid or oxygen debt.

April 28th, 2004, 08:19 AM
No question that distance swimmers need to do a lot of basic endurance (maybe this is what you mean by long slow distance; it depends on your definition of slow). But to get faster and stronger, you also need to apply the principles of overload and progression, which is where the intervals come in. If you don't overload a physiological system, you won't see improvement. When adaptation occurs, it's time to progressively increase the load.

April 28th, 2004, 11:09 AM
All swimmers need to have a good aerobic base from competitve sprinters to fitness swimmers and most of the mileage should be done at an aerobic pace...heart rate 120 or so depending upon age.

I am not saying there is no need for interval training I am just saying that most swimmers are obsessed by it and should look at continuous swimming as it has certain advantages as part of their training program.

When I suggest continuous swimming as part of a training program all the responses talk about the need for interval training and overload training. I am not disputing that just suggesting that probably more than half of the mileage could be done by continuous swimming

April 28th, 2004, 11:42 AM
An example of one of my many LSD workouts is 180x50m on 50. (the goal to hold 43 secs continuously) I break these into 3x60 as I need to stop every 45 mins to refuel. (I refuel every 45 mins during a marathon swim).
By doing this type of a set, I can stay focused on technique and pace. If I do very long, say 3km-5km sets I can get into the 'zone' and not concentrate as much on technique. My goal is to hold my technique over the distance.
Usually my LSD workouts are outside the master's time as there are not many who 'like' longer distances. ;) We do do timed 30 mins swims, timed 1, 2 3 and 5km swims during our season ( mid September- early August for indoor, July-late September outdoor)
I do my longer distances in the lake as soon as the ice melts !! The lakes I swim in, one has a wonderful 1km loop, with certain markers, (like an overhanging tree, a submerged log etc) so I can do 'on the way' swims. I will do 12.6kms a workout sailing up and down the crystal clear and quite warm lake. And build up to 5 hour workouts, tapering back depending on what race is coming up.
I get my 'intervals' in the river when I swim up the current, while still doing longer distance sets. For me, doing overloading and interval sets keeps my stroke stronger and is also necessary to hold body balance in waves.

April 28th, 2004, 12:46 PM
Hey James,

So just a thought in regards to interval training. Depending on where you set the interval and how hard you swim depends on the type of work (aerobic or anaerobic). I can set a steady pace interval where I get 5 seconds rest between repeats and my heart rate will not vary that much, so would have the same benefit as a long slow swim (I also admit that I am more of a sprinter or maybe I might be ADD so I can't stay focused on a long swim of 1000 - 3000, I need that constant change.). Another thought is that even when doing hard interval sets (lactic tolerance, etc.) there is aerobic conditioning happening. Interval training can even be aerobic based. One of the sets we do is a series of 5 to 10 100's where at the end of each 100 the swimmer does a 10 second pulse check, if their pulse is below their anaerobic / aerobic threshold then they swim the next 100, but if there pulse is above then they rest 10 seonds and then recheck for 10 seconds (like a 20 second penalty) once their pulse is back down then they can start their next 100. This set is fun because it's not necessarily the fastest swimmers that finish first (they tend to go too hard and after a few 100's end up having to do extra pulse checks).

April 28th, 2004, 01:44 PM
2go + h20
I am jealous as your lake swimming sounds great.
I like to zone and I will start many workouts with an hour swim maybe stopping to refuel once or twice. But I check the pace clock every 500 yds so I know what I am doing if you know your pace you don't even need to count laps.

Different strokes for different folks, to me a set with over 20 of anything is torture. From my reading and studying it seems continuous swimming is the most efficient way to build that aerobic base if it is done right.

April 28th, 2004, 08:59 PM
I think James is referring to fartlek training, which from what I've read is probably underused by middle and long distance swimmers in particular and can incorporate different speeds to train different systems. It's easier for me to adjust my pace doing intervals, and it's also less boring than long continuous swims. My dad alternates workouts, swimming intervals one day and a continuous swim the next. He posted two scm top ten times for his age group last year, so maybe he's on to something. I imagine it would be difficult to coach using a large percentage of fartlek swims.

April 28th, 2004, 11:27 PM
The stuff I read and the people I talk to would agree that most of your mileage should be of the low lactate level variety think of it as "glycogen sparing". A good source of information is the "Swim Fastest" book here Maglischo puts the figure at around 60% but this includes warming up and warming down. That's the good news.

The bad news is some of the interval training should be very intense, very painful. In fact this is one of the reasons why the easy stuff is easy, you are saving your muscles especially the glycogen in your muscles, because the hard stuff is so hard and you need to be able to swim all out.

July 2nd, 2004, 11:48 AM
I am new to posting; so bear with me. My training for the last two years has been to prepare for a 2.5 ocean swim. For background I swam competively through college and masters till 40 retiring due to shoulder injuries; after 8 years of running and two knee operations the doctor suggested easy distance swimming; we swim 5 days a week each day a different workout but the same workout each week all on the clock; each workout has a 500 yd warmup; mondays is a straight 1 hour swim; tuesday is 2x 1,750 swim with 30 seconds rest; wednesdy is 3x 1000 starting on the nearest 30; thursday is 7x 500 with 15 seonds rest and friday is 35x 100 on 1:30, the rest interval is anywhere from 5 to 10 seconds; after two years some of th 100s are now done on 1:25 with the goal to drop them all to that interval; in the beginning we could only due 5 without a break. Over the two years our times have steadily dropped as we got in better shape. It really helps to have a swimming buddy; we have no coach but as I said we both swam competively in college.

Kevin in MD
July 15th, 2004, 04:34 PM
Peter Tanham has a good book out ostensibly on swimming the rottnest channel.

It isn't much of a book, a lot of filler material. However ti has a 10 week progression of workouts that he used to get ready for the swim.

I use them often.

Marcia cleveland has a few main sets on her website.
They would be found here (http://www.doversolo.com/opnwtrtrng.htm) she has some open water and pool workouts on that page.

July 23rd, 2004, 03:13 PM
Just thought I could add a little knowledge/experience to the subject of distance training, particularly for open water events (say 5K, 10K's or more.)

I've done my share and all of which I have trained for in a pool (mostly short course but long course is better!) I am coached by a very successful Open Water distance swimmer who has National recognition and many records posted!

Of course first off, you have to "go the distance". The trick is to maintain quality as well, i.e intensity. For example if you are training for a 5K swim, one would presume is to do some 5K swims (5,000 meters) in the pool. Well, that might be ok to do periodically but its hard to keep the intensity. Typically, going this distance in a pool, swimmers tend to go to easy and do not maintain a steady pace. I (and my coach) agree and have demonstrated results that it would be better to go 50 X100's holding a goal pace with limited rest (about 10-15 sec.)

Another way to look at distance training is to do a typical interval workout but really limit the rest. Your body (cardio. system) needs to be accustomed to what it will experience on race day where your heart rate will be elevated for 1 or 3+ hours at a time (depending on the distance.) So, cut your intervals down to limit the rest period.

I just got done training for a 10K and what I did was a lot of typical sets/workouts but only gave myself 10 sec. rest between each interval (whether it was a 50 or a 1500) AND, only about 10-15 seconds rest between sets! The goal being to keep your heart rate elevated during the entire workout.

You should build up so that at your peak training period (which should last several weeks) you are mixing in workouts with limited rest that last as long as your projected swim time. For example if your projected swim time for the 5K is 1 hr. 30 min., this is how long a lot of your workout should be lasting not letting your HR drop to much!!

Don't be afraid to mix in some easy long swims, drills (mostly stroke count) and kicking!!


July 24th, 2004, 07:41 PM
Swim, swim, swim, after you are physically in condition, swim some hundreds and some fiftys. After a good warm up I liked 50m in 37sec x 30 with 15 sec rest, and 100m in 1:18 x 15 with 30 sec rest. Lake swims 1 hr. 2hr. sometimes twice a day. In the 1hr swims I tried to get as close to three miles in the hr. On Saturday never more than 3 hr. swim, rest on Sun.

When training in the lake 60 to 65 strokes a min. and every 15 mins I took it up to 75 strokes a min. for 5 min. then back to 60 or 65 strokes. Remember this was in 1964 til I quit racing marathons.

George Park www.swimdownhill.com

September 13th, 2008, 06:51 PM
I found this thread fascinating! My background is from cycling - got to pro ranks then retired at 30. I love swimming and now have the chance to have a go at the masters distance events.

I'm taking the cycling way of training to swim faster for distance swimming. For example training for the 10 mile time trial is surely similar to the 1500m swim in time and so therefore effort is similar (between 20-30min effort). Also the 25 mile time trail event is similar to 5k event in time and effort (1hr-1hr20 or so efforts). Both are very tough events as you know.

It's just that we cyclists don't train like most swimmers - not in any way like it - the whole approach is different. I've never seen so much emphasis on short sets when the focus surely should be on pace awareness and lactate threshold sets lasting and building: 5-10-15 minute efforts to train lactate buffering and Vo2 3-5 min efforts all built upon/within slow volume work at 75% effort etc..I could go on and on...but I am just so surprised at the way you guys train - I mean, yardage stuff - that was all tried out decades ago - what's happened to quality workouts with the goal of adaptation not overtraining and over duplicating workouts like a.m and p.m workouts - what DOES that do? What's this 'train every day for months and then taper'? Hey - don't workouts loose a hec of a lot of quality doing that over time and does not one get so fatigued that overtraining sets in? wow! Obviously it works for some but not me I'm afraid.

Anyway, I am loving my swimming and I will let you know how I get on with my cycling approach to the 1500m (and I may one day a 5k).