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Thread: Looking to take my swim workouts to the next level

  1. #1
    Participating Member
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    Jan 2016
    Santa Monica, CA

    Looking to take my swim workouts to the next level

    I am a 34 yr old male who has been looking to start swimming laps again for fitness over the last few months. My schedule has been hectic, so I'm not able to make it to the pool often, but when I do I'm able to swim a mile with little rest. Since that feels easy for me, I'm ready to ramp things up and make the time to swim a few times a week. My goal is to build up my fitness and stamina so that I can take surf lessons and start surfing, and in general I want to challenge myself and get an adrenaline rush during my swim workouts. I made a couple workouts with breath control and sprint sets that I can do, but I have no idea how much yardage I should be doing now or how much I should build up to. I've read plenty of articles about fitness swimming and looked at plenty of workouts on the internet, but I can't get a good read on how many yards I should swim.

    1. How many yards per workout should I aim for right now and also in the next few weeks? Is 1750 enough, or should I be swimming say 2000, 2250 or even 2500 yards per workout right now?

    2. In the long run, how many yards per workout should I target? Most of the workouts I've seen for fitness swimmers are at least 3000 yards.

  2. #2
    Very Active Member JPEnge's Avatar
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    Sep 2017
    St Louis, MO
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    Re: Looking to take my swim workouts to the next level

    That's kind of hard to say. How long does it take you to swim your mile currently? Are you doing it as a bunch of single lengths or laps with rest in between each or as much straight through as possible? If the former, you may want to focus on building toward a constant swim for the mile rather than trying to up the yardage/intensity first.

    What's your level of general fitness? If you are in good shape otherwise, you might be able to up yardage/intensity faster than if you are trying to get in shape in the first place.
    400 IMer/200 backstroker in another life, now sprinter/breaststroker... Yeah, I don't know how that happened either!

  3. #3
    Very Active Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
    Knoxville, TN

    Re: Looking to take my swim workouts to the next level

    I can't tell you for certain what will work for you, but I'll tell you what I did and the results I got. I'm 44, and hadn't been able to keep a routine fitness regimen for 20 years. A bit under a year ago, after gong on a pretty intense crash diet to lose some weight and try to recalibrate my stomach, I started swimming. I wanted to lose 15 pounds, and I did in a little over a month, then I started swimming. At first, I would swim 500 yard sets. And maybe I got in one the first time I swam. Within a week, I had doubled my yardage. And after a few months, I was doing anywhere from 6-8 of those sets (500Fr, rest a few minutes, 250Br/250Ba, rest a few minutes, repeat). I kept losing weight, another 10 pounds or so. My resting heart rate fell from low/mid 70's to mid 60's. And I was pretty much stuck there (note I have very low blood pressure, which results in a higher resting heart rate).

    Then I went over to the workouts board (after paying the small fee), and started following @Swimdogs' basic training workouts. They average about 3000 yards, and are more similar to a high intensity training system than to going out and running a few miles. Once I started doiing that, my conditioning became drastically better. My muscle definition improved greatly, and the better measurement, at least to me, is that my resting heart rate fell. It is now right around 50, maybe a tad below.

    So that is what worked FOR ME. It may for you, it may not. I will say two things. One is that I have a very hard time pacing myself for longer distances. I can hold a 43second/50 pace for a mile (23:40). But finding that pace for a 200 or a 500 is pretty difficult for me. Mark's workouts don't give too many sets of anything over a 50, so I imagine that is a contributing factor. The other thing is that we have a new coach authoring those workouts, now. I'm used to Mark's workouts, and I still follow them, though I am planning on trying some of the new ones. They are very, very different. New ones do more of those longer reps. But the new ones rely on swimmers with a bit more feel for their pace for those swims, and I just don't have that. Mark gave intervals, which I have found easier to either use, or modify to hit my capability, whereas the new ones do not, but instead give rest intervals.

    I don't know if that helps. The reason I answered like that is because it is very difficult to say one needs this many yards or this system is right. I think a lot of Masters swimmers, especially those of us who are focusing on fitness, rather than competition, swim what we can fit into our timeframe. For me, that would be probably 4000-4500 yards if I just swam, or an authored workout that is around 3000 yards. But those fewer yards at higher intensity with more rest have done much more for me than the longer, less intense workouts.

  4. #4
    Very Active Member Swimspire's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2013

    Re: Looking to take my swim workouts to the next level

    slavavov, it's great that you are seeking to take your swimming to a new level and to challenge yourself! Looks like you're interested in both developing stamina for surfing and in improving your swimming in the pool. Regardless of your specific goals, it is important to make sure that you are avoiding injuries and making your stroke - and your workouts - as efficient and beneficial as possible.

    I would strongly suggest starting out with an analysis of your stroke technique. If you do a video-based analysis, you'll also get the opportunity to see yourself swim and get a sense of what your stroke looks like. The coach performing the stroke analysis will be able to identify areas of weakness in your stroke that could potentially lead to injuries or that are creating inefficiencies. Regardless of whether you want to surf or to swim, staying injury-free is important to maintain swimming fitness in the long run.

    As far as yardage goes, swimming is a unique sport. Simply putting in a specific amount of yardage is not a guarantee for improvement or increased strength. The content of your workouts is important and needs to create the perfect balance between technique work and fullstroke sets. How much yardage is right for you is also dependent on a variety of factors, including your goals, your overall level of fitness, your swimming ability and the content of the workouts.

    You also mentioned that you don't have much free time for swimming, which is why making your workouts as efficient as possible becomes even more important. Working with a coach who can assess your stroke and your yardage needs will give you some ideas on how to balance the time you have in the pool. And if you can't get to the pool, the Vasa Ergometer/Trainer is an excellent dryland machine that is very swimming-specific and will allow you to continue to build the strength and stamina you are looking for, even in the gym. If you can't get hold of a Vasa or don't have one at your pool, you can find exercises that target muscles used in swimming (such as lat pulldowns, rowing machines, etc).

    Finally, even if you're just looking to do swimming for fitness and for surfing, you should give a Masters meet a try - it'll help provide some additional motivation for your workouts and give you benchmark times by which to measure your progress.

    Hope this is helpful. Good luck in taking your swimming to the next level!

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