So you signed up for your first distance swim (or a swim within a triathlon) and yea, you were pumped while filling out the registration forms but then it hit you that you need to train and you don’t know how. It’s easy to jump in the pool everyday, swim lap after lap, but you wouldn’t train for a long distance race by just running miles on end with no technique, strategy or workout plan. So where to start training for a long distance swim? Luckily, in today’s digital world, namely YouTube, training resources are plentiful. But when it comes to swimming, there are a few key basics you need to focus on no matter what kind of training you do. Here are 6 tips to help get you prepared for your long distance swim.
Reaching, pulling and gliding from one side of your body to the other will help streamline your body with the water and will save loads of energy and endurance. Sign up for a private swim lesson with an instructor to go over technique or join your local masters swim team. Working on your stroke is crucial and will make the difference in a race.
When coming up with a training plan, interval swimming is a must for building endurance and strengthening the lungs. Incorporate drills that focus on breathing, like short sprints that limit the number of breaths you can take. Look for a practice structure that includes a warm-up, heart rate set, main set, kick set, distance pull set, sprints and then warm down. Don’t just stick to swimming either- add some weights (but be careful with the shoulders), running or yoga to supplement. A good place to start is researching swimming workouts that are available online.
Stop breathing every stroke, and while we’re at it- you better be turning your head to the side, not lifting, and if so- shame on you. But back to breathing- mastering your stroke technique is a waste without proper breathing. Practice bilateral breathing- breathing every other side or breathing to one side but taking a breath every couple of strokes to start.
Your legs are just as important as breathing and stroke. While you are getting those laps in, don’t forget to add a couple of kick sets. Practice kicking at intervals and supplement with leg exercises. Don’t ever forget the golden rule: Kick from the hips, not the knees!
Building yourself up for a big swim is extremely taxing on the body. Do your research and create a diet that works for you and your body. Whole grains, vegetables and plenty of lean protein are important along with drinking ample amounts of fluid- more than the average eight cups a day. Healthy protein rich snacks such as power bars are good to have on hand during your before, during and after workouts.
Swimming is one of those sports that you need to be mentally prepared for, or else your swim will be over before you even start. Before a long distance swim gets to know where you will be swimming and learn how to “spot”- or keep an eye on your surroundings with a quick look around when you breathe during the swim. You will get tired- remember not to panic or give up. If you must take a breather, flip on your back and kick for a minute. Keep pushing yourself, think positive thoughts no matter how hard it may seem and get into a groove. Think Dora from Finding Nemo: “Just keep swimming.” And the most important tip of all- Have fun, enjoy the fruits of your labor and kick ass on your long distance swim!