Year-Round Swimming Fitness – Part 2

16th September 2015

In the previous article, Swim for Tri’s Dan Bullock looked at how to structure a personalised swim session. Here, he discusses in more detail how such regimens might look, how to swim them and potential pitfalls to beware…


The big advantage of devising your own session is it allows you to focus on key areas that will help you specifically. These can be structured in such a way that creates a challenge, and suits the environment in which you’ll be training.

Year-Round Swimming Fitness - Part 22

You are probably only too aware attempting any kind of structure in a public session will lead to frustration and disappointment, so avoid such times whenever possible.

When it’s not possible, still aim to work on problem areas. For example, if it’s increased stamina that’s required you can focus on this. If it’s a stronger kick you need, then add more kick, or swim with fins.

But whether in a public or closed session, there’s no escaping the reality that finding the motivation and enthusiasm to get through these sometimes fairly dull blocks of pool work can be a struggle, especially when all you have for company is the lane line.

I am particularly guilty of this. I start out with good intentions, planning, say, lots of 100m front crawl. But by the time I arrive at the pool this has already dropped to 24. Poolside, it’ll be down to 18 and by the end of the warm-up it’s fallen to 12. If I’m lucky, I might end up doing only eight!

Some structure in a session does at least add variety, and steers one away from the 4km drudgery set I often see when observing a public session. That said, once in a while there’s nothing wrong with the challenge of a long swim, especially when training to cope with the solitude of the longer open water challenges.

A word of warning – the flip side of poor motivation is the danger of over-training; if there’s no one to rein you back it’s easy to complete sessions with too much intensity.

The structure of your weekly swim-plan will depend on how much time you can make between family and work commitments and pool opening hours. This makes it vitally important that you extract the maximum from each session, and ensure that each new session builds on the previous one. It is also essential to rest and rebuild between sessions. Next we look at both how to plan your session, and how to recover from all your hard work.


The oft neglected process of recovery can make all the difference between progress and stagnation

Warm Down You need to return the body to its normal steady state and start the recovery process in the first 20 minutes post-training. The aim is to avoid taking tiredness and fatigue into your next session, because this undermines the fitness, skill development and feel for the water that each session adds.

How many times have you left the pool straight after the main set, and found yourself taking ages to get dry as you continue to sweat? For the swimmers on our fitness sessions I always try to build in at least five minutes post-main set for a few easy lengths. The body needs this time to allow the heart rate to drop, capillaries and blood vessels to dilate, and for breathing to return to normal.

An inspiratory muscle training device, such as a Powerbreathe, is a useful for aiding recovery if you’ve limited time to ‘swim down’, as you can use it to assist your return to a relaxed state as you travel home. Just turn down the load on your device a couple of notches below your regular training level and breathe deeply and slowly.

Year-Round Swimming Fitness - Part 23


Stretching Post-swim, your muscles are warm, meaning static stretching can be used to improve range of motion, help realign fibres and prepare for the next session.

Energise and Rebuild Athletes should consume approximately 1.1 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight, within 15-30 minutes aft er exercise. So an individual weighing 70kg will need around 77g of carbohydrate post-exercise. Leave it much later than this and you hinder recovery.

Hydration Water masks the fact you are sweating profusely. This lost bodily fluid needs replacing during and after swim sessions.

Compress Anything that assists recovery should be worn post-session. Compression clothing is something to consider.

Sleep Swims often take place in the evening. Add to this the desire to eat post-swim and it can make for a late night. Carry something to eat to the pool, so recovery can start as soon as possible. Avoid large late-evening meals.