Establishing the Sustainable Swim Week
Author: Tim Crowley
Consistency is one of the key contributing habits to developing long-term swim success. By getting in the water regularly, you maintain that all-important feel for the water and swim-specific endurance. Creating sustainable swim workouts week after week is essential to maintaining a love for swimming and increased performance.
This article will give you some ideas and tips on creating a sustainable swim week (SSW). It will also help you develop contingency plans (Plan B) for unexpected things. No single plan to fit everyone perfectly, but with a bit of planning and creativity, you can keep your swim moving in the right direction.
Completing all the training components during a typical week can be challenging for many triathletes. Swimming may be the most difficult of the three triathlon disciplines to plan due to the added layers of logistics, such as lane times, busy times, and swim teams, not to mention closures due to swim meets or weather. Getting in all the training components during a typical week can be challenging for many triathletes. It’s easier to go out the door to run, bike, or have a stationary bike trainer or treadmill at home. The goal is to create an environment where you can get in sustainable swim workouts every week with as little resistance as possible.
Swimming only twice per week can help you maintain fitness. You may make less appreciable improvements in overall endurance and speed. You may need 3 to 5 swim exposures per week. This includes both in-water and out-of-water swim- training. Out-of-water or dryland training can include a Vasa SwimErg, Vasa Trainer, or Swim Cords.
Some things to consider when creating your SSW
- Have a weekly plan– Plan the days and times you plan to swim. Be realistic. Don’t set yourself up to fail, such as planning to swim at 5 am if you are not a morning person.
- Have a backup plan – Other options when weather or life gets in the way, such as a Vasa SwimErg, Vasa Trainer, or Swim Cords (https://vasatrainer.com/blog/more-than-a-plan-b/ ).
- A workout library, such as those found on Vasatrainer.com or Trainer Day, can make getting in an effective workout in as little as 10-20 minutes.
- Be flexible – When there are periods when pool training is impossible due to closures of life logistics, access to open water and or dryland options can fill the gap effectively.
I have coached athletes who have used a Vasa SwimErg exclusively for many months, and they saw noticeable improvements upon returning to the pool. During the spring and summer of 2020, many of my athletes only did Vasa or swim cord workouts 3x per week for 10-15 min per session and saw significant improvements once they got back in the water.
Here is a case study of how your sustainable swim week may change at different times of the year.
Adjust the swim week based on seasons and the swimming-venue options available.
For example, the school where I work has a pool. I have access to a 50m pool within a 5-minute drive. I also have an open-water swimming venue around 10 minutes away.
This gives me plenty of access and options every week to ensure I’m getting in my regular swim training. Working on the school schedule varies throughout the year. Here is how I adjust based on available time.
Regular Sustainable Swim Workouts – School Week
Monday – long aerobic swim
Wednesday – 20 minutes of short intervals in the neighborhood pool after a quality run workout. When the pool is too cold in winter, 15 minutes of short intervals on the Vasa SwimErg.
Friday – 20 – 30 minutes strength endurance intervals on the SwimErg.
Saturday – 45-minute pool swim combination of speed and endurance
Sustainable Swim Workouts – Summer/vacation weeks
Increase swim volume to 4 days a week in the pool, with one short power-based ergometer session weekly.
Monday – long aerobic swim
Tuesday – 10 – 15 minutes short power-based intervals before the bike trainer session
Wednesday – 45-minute pool swim
Friday – 45-minute pool swim
Saturday – 60-minute pool swim
(when thunderstorms shorten or cancel a planned swim, I adjust by doing the same main set on the Vasa)
Minimal effective dose
Consistency is the key. What is the minimal effective dose to keep you moving in the right direction? For pool training, 20 minutes can yield a productive training session. Here are examples:
- 3-4 min easy swimming warmup – do as many 100s at a solid tempo effort with 15-second rest until to 20 min mark. This is an effective threshold set;
- 3-4 min easy swim warm up 16×50 with fins and paddles on a 1-minute send-off – Hold the best average pace. This is an excellent strength endurance set;
- 4 min race warm-up – 15 min time trial with a 1 min cooldown – This will give you a nice boost of threshold swimming and come close to simulating a sprint or Olympic distance race.
Combination swim workouts
One effective way to get in your swim training is to combine it with another workout. This saves time and energy. Here are some examples of my favorite combination workouts:
- Run workout, followed by a 20 min SwimErg session or an easy 20-min pool swim.
- Treadmill run workout followed by a swim session ( if you swim and have access to a treadmill at the same location)
- Long bike workout on the trainer with a 5-minute Vasa set every 20-30 minutes. This gives you a break off the bike and works on swim-to-bike transitions.
As you build your Sustainable Swim Week, consider the following three questions.
- Are you enjoying your swim training?
- Are you thriving or surviving in the swim during workouts and races?
- Is your current training week sustainable?
With some forethought and creativity, you can design a sustainable swim week that works for you and boosts your enjoyment and performance in the water.
About Tim Crowley
Tim Crowley is a well-respected coach and we are privileged to have him as a vital part of the Vasa community. He has contributed useful dryland for swimmers’ workout and technique videos, which you can find in our Video Library.
Head Strength & Conditioning Coach at Montverde Academy
Author: High-Performance Aging & The Powerful Triathlete