A Case For Speed Work

I think it is a great idea to mix speed work into your swim practices. Here’s  why:

  1. The most important thing a triathlete will get from swimming fast at practice is a better understanding of their body. Believe me when I tell you that you don’t want to discover new feelings in the middle of a mob of swimmers on race day. New feelings should be discovered at practice so you have a reference point for the way your body is reacting. Swimming fast feels very different than swimming slow. It hurts A LOT more. You need to know what your threshold is so that you don’t do something that costs you later in the race. Race days are exciting and it is easy to get caught up in the excitement. An athlete who is more aware of their body has an advantage over athletes that don’t. Give yourself that advantage.
  2. It will make you tougher. In the water, you can’t just collapse on the ground or walk it out when you get tired. I don’t think anyone ever gets used to a ball of lactic acid in their stomachs, but you can get better at dealing with it. When you start getting your heart rate up in the pool, your swim game will improve by leaps and bounds. Not only will you be able to swim faster, it will become easier for you to maintain speed for longer distances.
  3. Your body gets used to doing too much of the same thing. Mixing up your practices can trick your body into making improvements. Have you ever hit a plateau? Consider, “Quality over Quantity” and avoid too much “Garbage Yardage.” Garbage yardage is too much long, slow swimming (usually Freestyle) without a point of focus. You might try swapping out your regular 500 Free at 80% effort for 6 x 50s ALL OUT at :30 rest. You might try descending your effort or negative splitting – both of which teach you how to pace yourself so that you swim faster at the end of a race, even when you are in pain.
  4. Swimming fast allows you to swim tired and swimming tired is the best time to improve technique. Our quirks (bad habits) tend to manifest themselves more when we are tired versus when we are fresh. Some people start breathing to one side or dropping an elbow or sweeping a hand out during the catch. Swimming fast allows you to discover what your bad habits are – which gives you the opportunity to fix them. Once you fix your technique, you’re less likely to develop injuries which means you’re read to start adding more yardage and speed work to your practices.
  5. You can use speed to your advantage. Kind of like the people that sprint ahead of the mob before settling into a more comfortable pace… in open water.

Categories: Swim Practice

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