There are several ways to know if you are improving as a swimmer; the most important part is to master your technique.  This can take years of learning and practice and even then, sometimes bad habits develop which will then need to be corrected. Once strong technique has been developed, it then comes down to two factors: speed and endurance.

Here are five ways to build your swim endurance:

1. Start Slow and Steady

Newer swimmers tend to get in the pool and go gangbusters.  It is the same with newer runners.  In order to be able to go for longer distances, it is imperative to “dial it back” and use a pace that you can sustain for a longer time.  This may mean starting slower than what you think you can do.  It is definitely more beneficial to start slow and build speed than it is to start too fast, build up that lactic acid and then be forced to slow down further than expected or stop altogether.  Focus on a nice, steady zone 2 pace and build to zone 3.  Depending on your distance and goals, you may then wish to build to zone 4.

2. Strength and Dryland Training

Of course you need to get in the pool and put in the yards if you want to build your swim endurance. However, by adding in some swim-specific strength training (what swimmers call “dryland training”) you can help your body more effectively recruit and use the muscles that will give you more power throughout your swim stroke.  Just two short sessions each week focused on the muscles used in swimming will help you build your swim endurance because your muscles will not fatigue quite as quickly.

3. Sets With a Constant Pace

Add some sets in your workouts in which you do a certain amount of repetitions at a set distance with the goal being to maintain the same speed throughout the set. For example:  8 x 100 @ 1:50 pace with :20 rest.  Many people will hit the first 2-3 at the set time, but then start to get slower as the set goes on.  Focus on taking the first rep or two a little slower, but then maintaining the pace throughout the set.

4. Increase the Yards, but Lower the Repetitions

After mastering the above set, then do some sets where you swim longer, but not as many times. For example, you can change the 8 x 100 set to 4 x 200.  It yields the same total yards, but you need to swim longer without your rest.  By focusing on keeping the same pace throughout, you will be building swim endurance.

5. Lower Your Rest Interval

Once you start swimming those longer distances at an even pace, the next step would be to lower the rest intervals you are taking between each repetition. In keeping with the sets above – keep the 4 x 200, but instead of taking :20 rest, then move to :15 rest.  This will help you learn to swim the same pace without rest.  After all, on race day, no one expects to be taking rest intervals!

These are just some basic ideas on how you can structure your workouts to build your swim endurance.  For three free swim workouts to use to build endurance, contact me:  I need swim endurance!  I will send you three different workouts you can incorporate to your training in order to build your swim endurance.

If you are looking for longer, more structured training so you can be your best this season, feel free to contact me.

Train Right, Tri Right!

Coach MJ

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MJ Gasik started competing in the sport of triathlon in 2003 and has completed 12 Ironman distance races including the World Championships in Kona, HI. MJ is a USAT Certified Coach, Ironman U Certified Coach, USMS Level 4 Certified Coach and is the founder and owner of Tri Right Coaching. MJ has coached hundreds of athletes from beginners through elite to personal bests in distances from sprint through Ironman.


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