View Full Version : Competitive Open Water Swimming at Age 65

December 9th, 2013, 06:18 PM
I am a long-time OW swimmer. I do most of my training in a 25 yd pool with once weekly OW swims (mostly spring, summer and fall). I'm gradually getting away from wetsuits. I would like to enter 5K & 10K swims this coming season and want to train accordingly. Mostly, I just do straight laps (typically 1.5 miles/4-5 times per week); there is no interval training. I'm fairly competitive for my age but I just feel that I'm stuck in my workout routine. I need to be convinced that introducing some high intensity interval training - if that's what is called for - will get me to the next level. Any thoughts and experience? Any authoritative reading? I really want my workouts to count!

December 10th, 2013, 11:37 AM
I'm not an exceptionally experienced swimmer but am quite competitive in the OW, racing at least 10 OW races each of the last two summers, including 5ks and 10ks, so I'll chime in here with my 2 cents.

Training for a 10k is quite different than training for a 5k.

To be competitive swimming a 10k, which takes me about 2.5 hours to complete, I have to do much longer sets in the pool and do some longer (3 to 4 mile) open water swims to build my endurance.

For a 5k, which is only around 1:10 for me, I can pretty much keep my normal routine of 3 days in the pool doing interval training and three days in the OW doing longer (2 to 2.5 mile) swims.

So, the answer to your question depends on which distance you'd prefer to race hard. You could "fake" a 10k on shorter training, but it does hurt much more. I don't think high intensity training is going to help much in a 10k due to the fact that the pace is so much more conservative (unless you're an elite), but it certainly does help in a 5k (or shorter), which has a faster pace (I can almost hammer at my mile pace the entire time).

December 14th, 2013, 09:51 PM
You asked about books; I'd recommend Swim Smooth's book.

At your age, you could be competitive in 5Ks and 10Ks with some interval training. Hell, depending upon the race, you could place w/o interval training. Last two years in the Swim for the Potomac 10K, I think the oldest swimmer was in his low 50's.

Good luck and have fun. OW is addictive, and longer is even more addictive. ;)

December 17th, 2013, 04:46 AM
Quick reviewed the " Swim Smooth" Web page. Good information. Worth some serious study. It always goes back to basics:; good stroke technique.

December 17th, 2013, 04:50 AM
Not interested in faking a 5- or 10k, just want to train efficiently. I'm slowly ramping up my pool distance but so far am stuck with my no interval training technique. Looking for something very authoritative regarding the benefits - if any - of interval training for the type of distance events I'm planning.

December 22nd, 2013, 11:27 AM
I have read that pro long distance swimmers do a variety of intervals. For a 2-mile swim, I have swimmers I coach do sets of 100's.
It is the best way to check your pace. 30 x 100 or whatever number gets you to the right distance. For swimming the mile, I like (15-18) x 100. Sometime a set of 400 or 500 helps. But be sure to do intervals to see how well you hold your pace.

December 22nd, 2013, 01:54 PM
Betsy: Thank you for your reply and recommendations. Do you think that interval training alone is best or some mix of distance only and interval training works. Why is "pace" so important? I think I'm holding a pace when I do my 3,000 yard pool swim which I think is key to completing an event of similar distance; learn not to go too fast, to control my breathing over time/distance, and to experience the effect of a prolonged time nonstop in the water. That's what pace means to me but not sure if my version squares with the competitive swimming world's version. Thoughts? And, thanks again for your reply.

December 26th, 2013, 07:44 AM
ChuckL, I have a client your age I am training for an 8k. He is one of my smoothest swimmers. No straight laps or distance only/swimming for time - ie; getting in the pool and swimming for an hour straight. Ever. Even on OW work. Create a loop or set distance. It is all sets and interval on the clock. First perfect your technique, make it textbook. Learn to bi breathe and flip-turn, or open turn very well and fast and streamlined. Then build conditioning, then speed. You have to swim 50m at a very good repeat pace before you can swim repeat 500's, then hold 5k at that same pace. Then you can do longer training sets in the pool and OW (5 X 1000). Train your full race distance, and then some as you close in to race; if you are aiming for a 10k, do some 11-12k workouts in the months leading in. Make a 10k race distance feel shorter, great confidence builder.

December 26th, 2013, 09:34 AM
Todd, that's some great advice on the training repeats for distance building, thanks!

December 26th, 2013, 12:56 PM
Thank you for your reply Todd. Just so I understand, I should swim intervals only working up gradually to more interval length, and each stage and interval to be sustainable at the same pace. My workouts should eventually equal my workout lengths (plus some to make the race seem shorter). This seems to make sense to me if that is what you are saying. I believe my stroke technique is very good and I'm constantly working on keeping good form. Also, I'm solid in the flip turn department. Bilateral breathing is very difficult for me and I'm afraid that I'm stuck in my ways after 60 years of breathing on one side only. Any thoughts on how many workouts per week? Thank you again.

December 27th, 2013, 08:55 PM
@ flystorms: Thanks!! @ ChuckL: Yes that is basically what I am saying. That is excellent your form/technique is good, and flip turns are solid. Start bi-lateral breathing. There is only one way to do this: start bi-lateral breathing. > All training immediately and stay with it from now on. This is a very important skill for OW training/racing and high volume swim training. 'Unlearn' what you have learned and drilled. I would not recommend you swim less than 3X a week year-round and 6 swims a week as you come up on race season. Plus some cross training 2-3X a week; weights, core, yoga, stretching. Nutrition is key here, recovery, performance, injury prevention. A lot of swimmers neglect it. Use it as your weapon.

December 28th, 2013, 06:08 PM
Todd: Again, thank you. I'm going to immediately start rethinking my workout regiment relying mostly on intervals at a sustainable pace for each interval. Initially, I'm going to make these intervals equal about 3000 yards which is equal to what I'm swimming now. I'll probably start with 10 x 100s and maybe 5 x 200s and watch the clock to maintain my interval times. I can build up from there.

As to bilateral breathing, I'm going to give it a serious try. In the past, it just threw off my symmetry but I do know it is a superior stroke method.

I also appreciate the cross training which I've already started. I agree completely how important it is. Unfortunately, I love food too much to compromise. I will just have to swim more, burn more calories, and take my chances in this department. Life is not perfect.

Thank you again for taking time on this important subject matter. I love swimming, open water swimming, and see myself doing it well into my 70s. Interestingly enough, I see myself actually getting better (more speed and endurance) over the next several years, thanks in part, to comments such as yours. Those of us who do OW really consider ourselves a lucky lot.