So Tuesdays are all about training! Getting the most from training, strengthening, increasing stamina, and also how to improve certain aspects of your stroke.
Ploughing through a distance in the pool the way you would if you were training for a run or cycle, is a) not beneficial, and b) boring. Swimming in intervals, or interval training, gives you time between sets to rest and recover. And this helps build endurance, maintain proper stroke technique and push yourself a little bit harder.
So what’s involved in interval training? It involves periods of working your body at high intensity and low intensity, or recovery. The recovery period is important: over time, your body will recover better and more quickly from the high intensity workout, which builds stamina and endurance, meaning you will be able to swim faster for longer.
During the high-intensity phase, your body mainly burns carbs for energy. During recovery, you burn more fat to give you the energy to help your body recover. What makes this even better, is that this process can continue for hours after training, helping you lose weight – unless, of course, you stop at the chippy on the way home!
Research into interval training has shown that it’s more effective, than longer, moderate-intensity aerobic workouts. Researchers at McMaster University in Canada found that three 20-minute sessions of interval training a week had the same benefits as 10 hours of steady exercise over a two-week period.
There are various resources to help with interval training in the pool. The Speedo Fit app is a good way of monitoring your sessions, and gives you tips to help you train. I also recommend Greg Whyte’s book Swim for Life as a great intro to swimming for health and fitness. The back few pages contain a good training schedule to follow.
For more advanced swimmers, or for the commitment of swimming at specific times a week and camaraderie, I really recommend finding your local tri club. There’s nothing more motivating than swimming with others.
It’s fairly easy to plan your own interval training session. It should include a warm-up, main set and cool down. You can base your set on how long you want to spend in the pool or how far you want to swim. This is the session I did last night in a 20m pool:
A 45 minute / 2.1km interval session
Warm up (600m)
- 120m easy swim
- 20 pull 20 kick x 6 (120m)
- 120m moderate swim
- 60m zip up, 60m kick with fins
- 120m hard swim.
Main set (1300m)
- 200m build – increasing speed each length from easy to hard sprint
- 200m moderate swim
- 20m breathing every 3, 20m breathing every 5, 20m breathing every 7, 20m breathing once in the length, 20m breathing every 7, 20m breathing every 5, 20m breathing every 3.
- 60m hard sprint
- 400m moderate swim
- 100m hard sprint
- 100m moderate swim
- 100m hard sprint
Cool down (200m)
- 180m easy swim
- 20m length underwater.