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Conquer Your Swim Weakness

  • By Jené Shaw and Aaron Hersh
  • Published Oct 21, 2013
  • Updated Oct 21, 2013 at 9:51 AM UTC
Illustration by Matt Collins.

The Pool Plateau-er

You’ve been stuck in the same Masters lane for a while, haven’t you?

Why you have this problem: Reaching a plateau is common for people who have been swimming for a long time without ever really giving the sport special attention. You might be the type to passively get through your Masters session, or maybe you’ve become accustomed to the routine of your favorite solo set. If you haven’t set a PR in a long time, it’s time for a change. “It requires a shakeup,” says Murray.

Fix it! Shock your system with new types of workouts. Your body won’t learn to go faster if you always train at the same intensity. Swim in a lane with faster swimmers, even if at first it’s just for a few hundred yards. If you’ve been chasing an efficient DPS (distance per stroke), you may have become more efficient but not fast. Maybe it’s time to chase it back in the other direction to train your body to be more powerful in short bursts. “Can you swim 22 strokes in a length? Can you swim 24? Stroke count is a great thing to play with, but you have to play with it in both directions,” Murray says. Introduce dry-land strength with cords, doing exercises where you’re creating resistance and pulling. Or, try something more creative: Pull a 400 while wearing a baggy T-shirt.

Try This:

» Swim short and fast. Like your One-speed Wonder cohort, shorter intervals with lots of rest are your friend. Ex: 40×25 on the :30 with every third one as a sprint, or 4x(75, 50, 25) all-out with lots of rest

» Do a swim block. Swim every day and de-emphasize your bike and run workouts temporarily. “If you want to create a breakthrough in something, take 10 days,” Murray says. “You’ll pop out of the other side as a different swimmer.”

» Divert your focus. If you’re 6–8 weeks out from your major race and feel you’ve hit your peak, “quit worrying about it,” says Bernhardt. “Look at it as cost/benefit ratio. How expensive it is, energy-wise, to get a second or two more in the pool as you get closer to the races is so time-consuming. Even if it’s 30 seconds, you can get that much easier on the bike or the run.”.

RELATED: Need Open-Water Practice? Try These Tough Events

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FILED UNDER: Swim / Training

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