When I played collegiate water polo, we would often go for an entire 2 hour practice without touching the bottom or side of the pool. Talk about building endurance! In retrospect, this type of training was an integral part of making me a better open water swimmer - because if you think about it, there really aren't any “bottom or sides" in most open water swims. After graduating college and leaving water polo practice behind, I was forced to find creative ways to maintain this endurance with a more structured lap swimming pool workout. Especially in the winter, the type of intervals I discuss in this article will be crucial in maintaining both the physical and mental effects of going the distance. I'll be giving you three different workouts. These workouts can be incorporated as part of a longer swim routine, or as a single workout, depending on your time and distance goals.
Workout 1: Freestyle “No-Touch" Repeats. Begin 5 feet away from the wall, treading water so that you cannot touch bottom. Propelling your body with one powerful whip kick, begin a 100% (Zone 5) freestyle sprint towards the other end of the pool. As you near the end of 25m, do not touch the wall for your turn. Instead, when you are about 5 feet from the wall, forcefully pull the legs underneath the body and flip the body sideways to face the opposite direction. You will find that this rapid change of direction produces an enormous core torque. After changing directions, accelerate as quickly as possible back to your start, again initiating the acceleration with one powerful whip kick. Upon reaching your starting location, tread water for 20-45 seconds, depending on your recovery capacity. For added difficulty, tread water with both hands clasped on top of your head. If the pool is too shallow to tread, hold onto the edge and perform a horizontal flutter kick for 20-45 seconds. Perform 8-12 50m repeats.
Workout 2: Freestyle “Ladders". Starting position is the same as Workout 1. Accelerate as fast as possible to the halfway point (about 12.5m). Immediately change directions and accelerate back to the starting point. Change direction again and swim to the end point (almost 50m). Before reaching edge, perform a similar turn to the no wall touch turn in Workout 1. Again, swim to the halfway point, change direction again, and swim back to the end point. This is one rep, and you should now be at the opposite end of the pool. Like Workout 1, tread without touching bottom or sides for 20-45 seconds. Perform 6-10 repeats.
Workout 3: Partner Resistance Repeats. This workout requires a deeper pool. Begin treading water at the edge, but have your partner apply downward pressure on your shoulders, almost like a piggyback ride. Try to stay afloat for 20 seconds. At the end of 20 seconds, turn and swim a 25 sprint with your partner holding on to your ankles. At the end of the 25, switch positions. Perform 8-12 repeats per person.
You wouldn't train for a marathon by using 100 yard sprint intervals. Nor would you train for a cycling time trial with 2 minute hill repetitions only. So why would you train for a distance swim with “push-off-the-wall" lap repeats only? Try these type of swimming workouts in your program at least once a week and feel both your endurance and force levels climb. Feel free to e-mail me with questions at email@example.com. And be sure to check out the endurance athlete training specials at Pacific Elite Fitness, the web's top source for smart training!
Ben Greenfield runs Pacific Elite Fitness at http://www.pacificfit.net , an online portal for personal training, triathlete coaching, and free fitness and multi-sport advice. He resides in Liberty Lake, WA, where he works as director of sports performance for Champion Sports Medicine, a training and testing lab for athletes. Ben graduated from University of Idaho with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in sports science and exercise physiology, and is certified as a personal trainer and coach by the National Strength & Conditioning Association. Ben also offers individualized personal training, multi-sport coaching, training program design for athletes, lifestyle wellness and diet advising, and corporate consulting for workplace fitness programs. To learn more, visit http://www.pacificfit.net or e-mail Ben at firstname.lastname@example.org .