Swim Endurance: Why You Need More Than Technique

Swim Endurance:
Why You Need More Than Technique

Written by Rory | Swim Fitness Advice

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…


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.

About The Author

Hey, I’m Rory!
I write and record everything on ICanSwimFast.com. It’s my way of giving back to the sport that gave me so much for so many years. Thanks for reading and hanging out on my site, I hope you’ve found it valuable!

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How To Better Use Your Workout Time In The Pool

Are You Frustrated About Spending Hours in the Water Without Seeing Tangible Progress?

Written by Rory | Swim Fitness Advice

Time is a luxury as a triathlete. There are so many training pieces to fit together each week! To plan your swim/bike/run workouts amongst work, family and some sort of social life can be mission impossible!

When you finally get the piece to fit together, you want to make damn sure that you’re not wasting any of your workouts!

improve my swimming

I receive coaching requests every day from triathletes here in Dubai and around the world. All of them with the same goal:

“Coach, I need to improve my swimming”.

The next step is where a lot of you get caught up. Figuring out how!

Every workout you do should help you improve. Every swim should move you closer to your ultimate goal.

Think about someone looking to invest some money. The goal is to get the biggest possible return on the investment. In the same way, you want to see the most progress possible from your time spent in the pool.

The more progress you can make in the time you have available the quicker you’re going to achieve your goals! And achieving goals is AWESOME!

So if you’re wondering “how do I improve my swimming?”…

Two easy ways you can make better use of your workout time in the pool:

1. Follow A Plan

Have you ever Googled a swim workout while you’re driving to the pool? Or are you just repeating the same workout every time you hit the water?

If this is you, you are not making the best use of your time in the pool!

You need to follow a structured plan.

Get 3 New Structured Swim Workouts Every Week. Join The SwimFaster Program HERE.

If you have a goal, you need a plan.

Training without a plan is like getting in your car and driving to a destination you’ve never been to…  without using a GPS!

You’re going to get lost. You’re going to take the long way around. You’re going to ask strangers for directions even though you’re adamant you got this! And sadly, you’re going to waste a lot of time…

Chances are you may never even arrive at your destination.

2. Film Yourself Swimming or Get a Video Analysis Done

Swimming is very foreign to us humans. Our ability to know and understand what our bodies are doing in the water is very poor.

That’s why seeing yourself swim can be so eye opening and valuable.

Only once you watch yourself swim on video do you realize the areas that need the most improvements.

I film the athletes that I work with at least every 10 weeks. By doing so, we know exactly what stroke technique points we should focus on during each workout.

Check out how Video Analysis Helped Amin Drop Minutes Off His Swim Time! Read it HERE.

Don’t allow swimming to become a frustrating experience where every trip to the pool is a waste of time. Your time might be limited but you can maximize it to make sure that every workout is helping you improve and moving you closer to your ultimate goal.

About The Author

Hey, I’m Rory!
I write and record everything on ICanSwimFast.com. It’s my way of giving back to the sport that gave me so much for so many years. Thanks for reading and hanging out on my site, I hope you’ve found it valuable!

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How To Deal With A Bad Swim Workout

Slow Sucky Swim Days

Written by Rory | Swim Fitness Advice

“This trip to the pool was a waste… I’m swimming slow and still have so much left to do. I should give up now… I feel like I am exerting a ton of energy and almost getting nowhere… Why is life so hard? This swim is hell. I hate swimming. I am terrible at it and it never gets any easier.”

Have you ever had this conversation with yourself during a workout?

I bet you have.

We ALL have.

Sucky-Slow-Swim Days (SSSD) happen. They even happen to the very best athletes in the world. They also happen to me and I’m sure they happen to you too.

Your swim success on race day isn’t dependent on avoiding Sucky-Slow-Swim Days (SSSD).

Your swim success on race day is dependent on how you deal with Sucky-Slow-Swim Days (SSSD).

Age Group Triathletes are more likely to have SSSD than swimmers or Pro Triathletes, and here’s why;

The more you swim, the less prone you are to SSSD’s.

When I was training for the 2012 Olympics I was in the pool 11 times a week. We’d get through 25+ hours of water time in those 11 sessions.

My training these days looks A LOT different to what it looked like back then. I don’t have the time nor the motivation to swim for 25+ hours a week. Like many other Age Group triathletes, I swim 3 times a week for roughly an hour.

I’ve noticed something interesting with my own training and see it with my clients too. With the lower total swim time each week, my times are far less consistent than they used to be.

There are a lot more SSSD’s and when they happen, I’m much slower than my goal times!

When training 25 hours a week on a SSSD, I would be 1 second off my 100m goal pace… and I remember feeling so frustrated even with 1 second!

Nowadays, on 3 hours a week, if I’m having a SSSD, I can be between 4-6 seconds off my 100m goal pace!! WTF?!

Last week I had a SSSD. Sunday’s session was bang on. Tuesday’s swim was a nightmare, but Thursday, I was right back on pace!

Why Do SSSD’s Happen?

  • You’ve briefly lost your feel for the water
    • “Feel” is a swimming term that describes how quickly and how much water you can grab. How much water you can hold and push back with each stroke. The more the better! The more you swim (less time between your swim sessions), the more your body will remember the “feel” for the water
  • You’re more fatigued
    • Balancing the training of three sports is tough. Very seldom will you be completely recovered from the training you did the day before. This plays a role on your speed and ability to hit your goal times.
  • Other factors
    • There are countless other reasons why SSSD’s happen to AG Triathletes. Changes in technique. Bad stroke habits that creep back in. Stress from work or life. Lack of sleep. Not eating right. Dehydration. Some of them you can control, others you can’t, but they all play a role.

You Have A Choice To Make On SSSD’s

Regardless of the reason, SSSD’s happen and when they do, you have a choice to make.

Going through my SSSD workout on Tuesday, I could have had that conversation with myself. The “…this trip to the pool was a waste… I’m swimming slow and still have so much left to do. I should give up now…” conversation.

But I didn’t. I pushed through, and I want you to push through too.

SSSD’s can be constructive workouts that make you a better swimmer. Missing your goal times doesn’t always mean that you are wasting you time with a workout.

How To Deal With SSSD’s

Think of your fitness like a savings account at a bank.

Each time you work out you are making a deposit into your account. Over time you’ll build up enough of a reserve to be able to write a nice big cheque on race day.

Let’s say your goal is to deposit $100 into your account every time you workout. When you hit all your goal times, $100 gets deposited and saved.

On some days, you’ll have a SSSD and for whatever reason you miss your goal times. Perhaps you’re stressed at work and didn’t sleep well. Today you only have $50 (or less) to deposit.

You Make The Decision

On SSSD’s, you have two choices:

1. Choose not to make a deposit today.

Because it’s not $100 (which is the goal) you could say, “…this is a waste of time, I won’t make a deposit today”. You then quit your workout and leave without adding any amount at all to your bank account savings.

2. Decide that $50 is better than $0 and make the best of what you’ve got to deposit today.

If you deposit $50 on two days this week, you’ll have $100 saved. Not quite as much as the $200 you might have planned, but 100% more than the $0 you would have had if you quit and left the pool! Whether its money or fitness, it all adds up no matter how small.

Switch Your Focus

Training is not a continuous upward trajectory in a straight line. If you only swim 3 hours a week, you’re not going to have $100 to deposit every time you hit the water.

That is ok! Take the SSSD’s in your stride.

Switch your focus to effort and maintain your intensity. Put forward the best effort you can, today. Deposit whatever you have to offer. Over the long run, with time and consistency, you will be richer and fitter because of it!


Having a few too many slow sucky swim days? Leave me a comment on what’s happening each time you swim.
~ Rory

About The Author

Hey, I’m Rory!
I write and record everything on ICanSwimFast.com. It’s my way of giving back to the sport that gave me so much for so many years. Thanks for reading and hanging out on my site, I hope you’ve found it valuable!

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goal of effortless swimming

Three Simple Steps To Faster Swimming

Three Simple Steps
To More Swimming Speed

Written by Rory | Swim Fitness Advice

We all want to swim fast.

Let’s be honest, at the core of your triathlon quest (and your swim quest) is the goal of getting quicker.

But Rory, “I’m just here to have fun.. and for the community.”

I call BULL!

If I offered you a legal “magic pill” that made you a little faster when you woke up tomorrow, you’d take it. You’d love the speed, it would make everything more fun.

You know it would.

Here’s A Promise

Whatever your version of fast looks like, you that you can have it.

But like most things in life, it won’t come for free.

This Is How I Know

I’ve spent nearly 14 years working on pool decks around the world. I have helped athletes of all shapes, sizes, ages and motivations… I’m yet to meet anyone who isn’t capable of their own version of fast, efficient swimming.

And yet, not all of them have achieved their potential.

There is a reason for that:

They Didn’t Pay The Mistress


Yes, that’s what I said; “They didn’t pay the mistress”.

Get your mind out of the gutter or wherever it is you’ve taken that statement.

Let Me Explain

The water is a wicked mistress.

 “A woman in a position of authority or control.”

The water is a woman. This is a fact. She is beautiful. She controls most of what you do with her. She can make your life and your swimming very difficult.

But if you treat her right… If you spend quality time with her… If you follow her rules she’ll reward you with fast times that feel easy.

Disrespect her and you’ll pay with pain and frustration.

“Pay Your Dues”
 “To earn the right to have something because you worked hard.”

Nothing in the water is given, nothing. It’s earned.

We are land based animals and we do not swim instinctively.

The ability to move through the water (which we call “swimming”) is a skill. Like any skill it must be learned and mastered.

You must earn the right to have speed in the water. You pay for your efficiency and the ability to move through the water effortlessly.

If you want to swim well, you must pay your dues. It’s as simple as this:

You Must Pay The Mistress.

Start Right Now

Here are three ways you can start paying right now.

1. Schedule Your Swims.

Open your calendar, your diary or your phone right now and decide which days you will be swimming.

Write down the 3 days you will be swimming and the time of the day that you are going to the pool. Mark it as busy and important and don’t let “life” change that appointment.

If it’s not in your calendar, it’s not going to happen consistently. And you’re not going to get the results you’re looking for.

Pro tip;

– Try to swim on the same days and times each week. This makes it easy for you to follow the pattern and routine

– Some people are evening people and others are morning people. Whichever time works best for you will work best for you.

– Success rates are higher for people who commit to swimming in the morning. Because they get it out of the way first thing and then nothing can jeopardize it later in the day. Having said that, I have seen swimmers create success by training at lunch time or in the evenings.

If fast swimming is important enough, you make it fit your schedule.

2. Make Your Goal Effort And Consistency

With everything else going on in your life you won’t always be able to control exactly how you feel in the water. There are times when you will feel amazing and powerful. And other times when it will feel like you are swimming through syrup.

Regardless of how the water feels each day, commit to giving the same effort every time you get in the water.

You can control how you attack your workout. Give 100% of whatever you have to give.

If you can’t hit your goal times or your pace is off, do the best you can. Focus on giving your best effort today, the results will come from there.

3. Log your progress

I track the progress of all my swimmers. I write their times for every repeat in every session. It gets scribbled down in my book while we’re on the pool deck like this:

And then it gets emailed to them the next morning like this:

With their times logged we can look back and marvel at the progress that has been made.

If you don’t write it down, it’s tough to remember where you’ve come from. There’s a lot of satisfaction that comes from seeing your improvements.

Action Step Recap:

1. Schedule your swims

2. Make your goal effort and consistency

3. Log your progress

P.S.  What tactics do you use to help you stay consistent in paying the mistress??

I genuinely want to know. Comment and share below!

About The Author

Hey, I’m Rory!
I write and record everything on ICanSwimFast.com. It’s my way of giving back to the sport that gave me so much for so many years. Thanks for reading and hanging out on my site, I hope you’ve found it valuable!

Share This With A Training Buddy