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Swimming Fitness

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Whether your aim is to swim the channel, do a triathlon, play waterpolo or simply achieve a personal swimming goal, improving your level of fitness is obviously crucial. Even if you’re a speed demon it’s still high up there because you’ve got to be fit enough to prevent fatigue compromising your sprint training.

All swimmers need to keep their weight down – imagine swimming any distance with half a kilo strapped to your back and then imagine how fast you could swim it if you lost half a kilo!

A continuous steady swim of around about 20 to 30 minutes is the most obvious way to get fit for swimming. One way to get around the biggest problem of pacing is to use a waterproof watch with a countdown repeat function.

Take the strap off and put it in your swimming hat just above your ear. You can set it to bleep at a pace that suits you every 50m.

The problem is that continuous swims can get boring even for the most dedicated of us. A bit of variation is what’s needed so here are a few suggestions for other fitness sessions you can do in the pool:

Session 1 - 100m reps

A standard club fitness training set is to swim reps of 100m off a given time (e.g. 2 minutes for front crawl). This means that you have to start a new 100m swim every 2 minutes and therefore you obviously have to complete each of them in less than 2 minutes.

The time you choose to go off obviously depends on your standard and how many you want to do but you should have about 10-15 seconds rest between each swim. It is likely to be somewhere between 1:45 and 2:30 (for front crawl).

The most you’d want to do in a set would be about 20. So a good starting point would be 10-12.

If you’re the kind of person that loses count, a good variation of this is to work around the clock. For example, if you decide to go off 2:10 and start at the top of the clock, you know that six reps will take you around the clock and your seventh will be starting off the top again. So you could work around the clock either once or twice. Of course, if 100m is a bit too far for you, you can always do reps of 50 or 75 m in a similar manner.

Session 2 – Overlapped IM

IM stands for “Individual medley”. The order of the Individual Medley event is : fly, back crawl, breaststroke, front crawl.

A basic overlapped IM set would therefore be 4 x 50m as follows:

1) 25m fly, 25m back

2) 25m back, 25m breast

3) 25 breast, 25 front crawl

4) 25 front crawl, 25 fly

where each 50m rep is followed by 10-15 seconds rest and you can work through as many sets of 4 x 50 as you like.

The hardest part is obviously the last one where you have to come back on fly but you can always substitute it for something else if you don’t fancy it.

Alternatively, if you’d like to have a go but don’t know how see our teach yourself butterfly section.

Cross training.

If you’re really keen on your swimming and find yourself going more than 3 times a week, we can’t emphasise enough the importance of cross training.

By cross training we mean doing an alternative type of exercise to support your main one. Going out for a run or a bike ride, for example, is a very good way to keep fit and lose weight for swimming whilst allowing your arms to fully recover from the actual swimming training sets.

The cross training thus reduces the risk of repetitive strain injuries.

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