View Full Version : work outs for a non-racer

May 16th, 2002, 12:57 PM
I am 45 years old and swim 2 to 3 times per week. I swim for aeobic benefits and general fitness. I do not race and don't feel a need to improve my speed. I only have 30 minutes in the pool for each workout session. Does anyone have ideas on good workouts that are challenging but do not go overboard? Thanks.

Mo Chambers
May 28th, 2002, 09:34 AM
Great question Albertino!

Even though you have no interest in racing, I am sure that you are interested in keeping your shoulders healthy and doing a workout that will keep you fit from your head to your toes.

You can acheive that by selecting workouts from any of the ones posted by the USMS coaches, but simply do the warm-up and/or early sets that they recommend and skip the rest. The sets early in the workouts are not intended to improve your speed, but do focus on proper technique. Good technique will keep you injury free and swimming longer. Just do what you can complete in your 30 minute swim.

Happy swimming Albertino!

May 28th, 2002, 12:50 PM
I am a non-competitive (except with myself) fitness swimmer and I enjoy following this basic paradigm for workouts in the shorter time zone.

warm-up 200 - 400 yds
kick/drill 150 - 300
nice swim 300 - 800
drill/focus 100 - 200
[2d nice swim 200 - 500]
cool down 100 - 200 really mellow

totals 1050 - 2400

I usually then vary the details of each set for different emphases--

warm-up: I do a min. of 200 free ... and then other strokes or more free or move on

kick/drill: About twice a week I do kicking here ... sometimes I substitute vertical kicking for some of the yardage. I do my kicking without a kickboard, saves alot of lower back strain, and then I can focus on balance at the same time. Also, I wear fins about once a week for the kick set. When it's drill it might be head-led dolphin undulation ... especially if my nice swim (next) is going to be breaststroke that day ... or IMs ... to get a flow for the fly.

nice swim: sometimes I do all free, sometimes IM sets (100 IM x 5 or something), sometimes breast. sometimes alt free/back.

drill/focus: I said focus because sometimes I just do 100 yards thinking something like "high elbows", weightless arms, downhill swimming or else I actually do a recovery drill, or some other stroke drill. I only do one thing at a time though! If you like to pull this would be a good time. I've given up the pull buoy, again my lower back doesn't like the strain.

If time permits I do another nice swim ... I call them nice swims because I really don't watch the clock for them ... somedays I feel like pushing a faster one so I do and somedays I try to get a really smooth rhythm and not hurry. You can make it more interesting by bringing the clock into play and pushing yourself accordingly.

I have found that no matter how I peice together a workout, my swim is much better if I go in with a plan and follow it. I usually rest between sections anywhere from 30 secs to 1:30 so I can catch my breath and get refocused for the next thing. I often make a theme day ... like backstroke and then do some in my warm-up. Kick drill with one shoulder out of the water six beats and turn to other side ... for kicking. Then swim alot of backstroke (usu. w/ some others, esp. free and so on).

I find I can make infinite variations on this basic format. The change of stroke or activity keeps the workout interesting. And having a plan and following it gives me a much great sense of satisfaction after the workout.

Good Luck!!!

Philip Arcuni
May 28th, 2002, 03:42 PM
Why work on technique if you don't care if you swim fast? This question is for both coaches and 'non-competitive' swimmers. Are the reasons practical or philosophical?

May 28th, 2002, 05:26 PM
That's a bit like asking why most golfers (or cyclists or tennis players or ballroom dancers, or bowlers etc) wish to improve?

Over 40% of my 1-on-1 lesson clients are people who do not compete at all and have no intention of competing. But they enjoy swimming as a fitness tool nonetheless and want to be as good at it as possible - enough that they are willing to pay my confiscatory rates to enhance their skill base :).

In my estimation, there are a number of reasons:

Swimmers with excellent technique enjoy swimming more than those who have poor technique. To be able to swim with ease, grace, relaxation and precisely ZERO struggle is positively FUN. I do not know of a single person who has learned excellent swimming technique say they do not find swimming very enjoyable. On the other hand, if you line up 100 people who do swim, but profess not to enjoy it, I'll wager that 95 or more of them have poor swimming skills.

Vanity is one of the strongest motivators known to the human species. EVERYONE wants to look like they have at least decent skills when they do some athletic activity in public. MOST swimmers would like to look like they are amongst the best swimmers in the pool.

Energy consumption - in several ways: 1) Swimmers with excellent technique can swim for relaxation at extremely low energy consumption rates - akin to the amount of energy one might use on a leisurely stroll to the mailbox. Swimmers with poor skills typically must exert large amounts of energy to make any forward progress at all. 2) Swimmers with excellent swimming skills involve large percentages of total body muscle mass in the swimming exercise. Thus, when they are swimming "for a workout" they are enervating more muscle mass and increasing metabolism in more muscle mass (and as we all know, that metabolism remains elevated well after the workout ends). 3) Swimmers with excellent skills can typically endure longer workouts than their poorly skilled counterparts because localized fatigue (especially in arms and shoulders) is much less of an issue for them.

Lane deference - I know this sounds weird, but I've had indications from a goodly number of people that now that they have vastly improved their skills, and are swimming faster as a byproduct of that skill acquisition, that the people where they swim seem more likely to move over and give them more/better lane space. A lot of people with poor skills like to swim farther away from th "good" swimmers, perhaps because they won't look so poor by comparison. Of course, I'm sure lots of people seek to avoid the guy whose progress in a lane looks like one big, slow-moving splash/wave machine, too.

Also, triathletes who really understand the energy dynamics of their sport realize that the BIG payoff for them in technique improvement is that of energy consumption, not the speed. The typical triathlete can cut the energy consumed in their swim by over 50%. That typically makes a bigger impact on their overall triathlon than does getting out of the water sooner.

I'm sure there are other considerations for wanting to improve technique.

May 28th, 2002, 05:57 PM
Another good reason for proper technique is injury prevention, improper technique can cause joint injuries (mainly shoulder from improper arm pull).


Philip Arcuni
May 28th, 2002, 06:31 PM
Good points,

I had envisioned the swimmer who is good enough to swim a mile nonstop, but not too fast, and who was in it just to keep in shape. That would be a subset of the people you discussed, and probably a small one at that. I didn't think such a person would be all that interested in swimming gracefully or easily or fast when the point is to get tired. But Emmett and Jeff have changed my mind.

Except, perhaps people who have good technique have it because they enjoy swimming, not the other way around. And that golf thing - - I practice my swing (every four months or so) to be better than my wife and not be last (or *so* last) in any foursome I might be in - that sounds like competition to me (as does the vanity argument). Otherwise the only reason to golf is to get a good walk, and the worse I do the more walking I get. But maybe that's the attitude I expected from the fitness swimmer . . .

May 29th, 2002, 09:56 AM
I got hooked on improving because when I started I was so bad ... could do a couple laps and then huff and puff while these old folks, (like really old, I'm only 41) would chop on by and keep on going for an hour. In an effort to keep up with them I had to improve my stroke. I'm extremely lazy so I work very, very hard to get a smoother more efficient stroke. :rolleyes: Vanity, is big, I want to look decent, and to keep up with the rest of the geriatric pool. Once the technique improvements started to show some real progress and deliver results ... I remember vividly the day I made it 800 yds ... I was hooked. Maybe that is Phil's "people who have good technique because they enjoy swimming". I really do enjoy it and I enjoy doing it better than last month. (My learning curve hasn't flattened out too much yet.) The better I swim the better it feels to swim. I also like the stroke count game ... can I get my 14 spl down to 13? Or my abyssmal backstroke under 18? I'm hoping so. The variety of different strokes is nice ... and different sets like drills and kicking.

The injury prevention thing is also a big factor. I suffered a pretty sore shoulder in the beginning. The better my stroke got (thanks Emmett for all the tips here and on your site) ... the pain diminished. There is also an appeal of using more body in the workout ... core muscles and the like. It's nice to give them some exercise, too.

So, I think I just added my personal ramble to totally agree with Emmett's post.

I do see these other swimmers at the pool ... doing the exact same thing they were doing 18 months ago. A very boisterous 20-24 spl, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, a metronome ... all freestyle. I can set my pace by them every time. They go about 2000 yds in an hour. I think that is who you had in mind, Phil ... and I just have a lot more fun finding something new to learn while getting my exercise.

May 29th, 2002, 12:42 PM
I'll add another aspect that draws MANY people into the technique improvement mindset: Simple, mindless lapswimming is BOOOOOOORING!. But you'll find that most people who are constantly working toward more effective swimming are very mentally involved throughout the process such that there is simply no time to be bored.

A Jerry Heidenreich quote: "To swim effortlessly requires great effort." That "great effort" part refers predominantly to mental effort. It is not uncommon for a swimmer, so engrossed, to be aware that they are more mentally tired than physically tired after a highly successful training session. And I think it was Eddy Reese who said "This isn't a sport for dummies."

May 29th, 2002, 10:31 PM



June 29th, 2002, 10:54 PM
I was pretty bad when I started working out again in swimming. And I was a fair swimmer as a kid in age group and high school and community college swimming. There were probably many old folks at the beginning that could beat me that swam laps almost daily. At the health club I'm the best breastroker and probably one of the few that can swim butterfly. There are a few that can beat me at freestyle or stay even. At the public pool where I started doing swimming one a week there because it is 25 yards versus the health club pool at 2o yards I can beat most of the people. There are some that beat me in freestyle and fewer in breastroke.

April 20th, 2003, 03:12 AM
Hi all, there is tons and tons of good advice on this page. My friend recommended me to this site when I started to bug him with lots of questions about swimming. The question that I had is quite similar to the first question in this thread except that I am 25 and have been swimming for 1 1/2 year with about a mile of swimming every alternate days. I normally try to swim longer than getting pressed on time.
The question is, the weekend before last I swam 150 laps in a 25 yards length pool at a stretch for diabetes in the period of 3 hrs. The reason why I swam that many laps that day was 'coz I really wanted to help fund raising for diabetic people and surprisingly, I didnt get sore, none of my body parts were aching next day. I definitely had a tremendous increase in my confidence level and now that I dont want to lose that kind of stamina that a person who would swim 150 laps would have, I am just curious what should my schedule look like so that I can maintain my stamina and still swim 3ice a week?
Kindly advice,

April 21st, 2003, 09:54 PM
Well, with your diabetes you need to watch things a little more. But I don't see any problem with you swimming 150 laps. By the way on my vacation I swam 16,590 yards in one week, since I was able to swim 6 days. This week one of the pools is close, so I probably swim around 9,000 yards. Usually I swim from a low of 7,500 to a high of about 12,000 yards. You have youth on your side many of use are middled aged or older.