Swim Endurance Tip: How Technique Will Only Carry You So Far

Swim Endurance Tip:
How Technique Will Only Carry You So Far


I failed.

I got into the pool for the first time in a very long time to do an actual swim workout.

And I suffered badly.

I get into the water from time to time to test drills and progressions or a piece of a set to make sure they work for my athletes. But the truth is I don’t actually workout in the pool anymore.

Until three weeks ago.

A local Tri coach who’s following the SwimFaster Program challenged me to do one of the workouts after sending me his times.

The test was a 750m time trial.

Knowing I have done no swim training I guessed I’d be able to go somewhere in the region of 9.30ish for the 750m. That sounded reasonable and achievable.

Full of confidence I pushed off after warming up and doing my drills.

The first 450m felt like chocolate.

Smooth, long and efficient.

And then someone dropped a Grand Piano on my back.

My shoulder, lats and abs started to BURN. My breathing shortened up and so did my reach and the finish of my stroke. My kick slowed and my head started to creep higher out of the water for each breath.

It all fell apart.

I was was eternally grateful to get my hand on the wall on the last length! Stop the watch, pull off the goggles, taste some fresh, sweet O2, and look down at the time…

10.04

What the actual hell?

I got back in the pool the next day.

And again the day after that.

And have continued to swim three times a week until that time changes.

Here Are 4 Endurance Tips About Fitness & Technique You Can Learn From My Sufferfest:

1. Great technique will only carry you through about 400m before you need fitness.

You already know this. Technique will set the limit on where your fitness will take you. But technique on it’s own will only carry you through 4-5 minutes of swimming. After that you better be fit or you’re going to suffer. 

2. Consistency is the key to success in swimming

It’s been close to 4 years since I followed a regimented training program in the pool. And I felt every day off I’ve taken during that 750m.

The water is a wicked mistress if you don’t pay your respects to her on a very regular basis. The more you get in, the faster you will get. I wish it wasn’t the truth, but it is.

3. If your shoulders burn when you swim, you don’t need strength work, you need to swim more

I’ve done nothing but strength work for the last couple of years. No swimming, just strength. When I hit 450m the fire that consumed my arms and shoulders was like nothing I remember. Strength work won’t take that burn away, more swimming will.  

4. Accept where you are right now

After reporting my time back to the Tri coach that challenged me, he asked “Are you happy or not?”

The answer is no, but, it is what it is and I need to do something about it.

That time isn’t good or bad. It’s the starting point.

You may look at me and say “yeah but your pace is worlds ahead, if I swam like that I’d be happy”.

To which I will reply; “there are people just starting out their swimming journey that say the same thing about your stroke and the times you swim”.

Where you are right now is just the starting point for what’s to come. It’s neither good nor bad, it just is.

My time will change in the coming weeks and months, it’ll either get faster, or it won’t. Whichever way it swings, the responsibility lies firmly on my shoulders. Just as the responsibility for your times lies with you.


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The Freestyle Breath: How To Keep Your Head Low

The Freestyle Breath: How To Keep Your Head Low

Many triathletes I work with complain about taking on a mouth full of water during the freestyle breath. Especially when I have asked them to keep their head low during the movement. If they do manage to keep their head low, many feel like they don’t get a good breath in and get winded and run out of air too fast.

As a result they lift their head up for the breath or over rotate and look up to the sky as they breathe. Both of which result in slowing them down.

Learning to stay low to the water during the freestyle breath will ensure that you carry your momentum from stroke to stroke. When you don’t slow down each time you take a breath you’ll be able to sustain your pace with less effort. You’ll also find you can hold your speed for longer periods of time.

By keeping your head low to the water you are able to limit the amount of resistance you work against. The lower your head can stay the less you will slow down as you take a breath.

But keeping your head low to the water is a challenge!

So here are 4 ways to help you with the freestyle breath. Especially if you’re lifting your head or over rotating to breathe and struggle to stay low to the water like this☝🏼triathlete .

1. Get Your Hips Up

If your hips sit too deep beneath the surface when you try to stay low during the breath your mouth won’t get out the water.

Watch me nearly drown as I attempt to demonstrate this in this video:

Raising your hips up to the surface will level your body out. That means as you rotate for the breathe your mouth will clear the water and you’ll breathe in fresh air!

2. Make The Breath Faster

You’ll struggle to hold your low breathing position if you are taking too long to inhale. You have a very short window of time to get that breath in. You want to use that window to inhale only. To do this, make sure you have sufficiently exhaled while your face is in the water. That way when your face comes out the water you only have to inhale (as opposed to exhaling first then inhaling) before it can return back down.

3. Start The Breath Earlier

Breathing late in the stroke will cause you to rush the breath and lead you to feel winded very quickly.

Your head should start to turn for the breath just after your fingers have entered the water. You rotate from the neck first and then the rotation of your shoulders will take over. As your arm extends out in front of your shoulder and your body rolls to the side your mouth will clear the water. Breathe in and then return your head down before you begin to pull back with the extended arm.

Freestyle Breath - Keep Your Head Low

Staying low to the water as you breathe will ensure that you carry your momentum from stroke to stroke. You’ll no longer take on water and you’ll stop feeling winded when you get the rhythm, timing and position of the breath right.

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