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How Do You Train For Long-Distance Swimming?

Long-distance open-water swimming is a demanding sport that requires athletes to possess both physical endurance and mental fortitude. Training for a long-distance swimming or triathlon event takes dedication, discipline, and a strategic approach to increase strength, build endurance, improve technique, and prevent common swimming injuries.

gif of long distance swimming at a lake

Setting Goals and Planning Your Training

Before embarking on a long-distance swimming training program, it is important to set clear goals and establish a training plan. Determine the distance of the event you are training for and your current level of fitness and swimming ability. This will help you create a training plan tailored to your needs and goals.

When planning your training, consider factors such as the frequency of your workouts, the duration of each session, and the focus areas of your training. To improve your overall performance in long-distance swimming, it is important to incorporate a mix of swim sessions, strength training, and recovery exercises.

Building Endurance for Open Water Swimming

Endurance is key in long-distance open-water swimming, as athletes must swim for extended periods without rest. To build endurance in the pool or open water, it is important to incorporate long swim sessions into your training program. Start by swimming at a moderate pace for a set distance, gradually increasing the length of your swims.

Interval training is also an effective way to improve endurance in long-distance swimming. This involves swimming at a high intensity for a short period, followed by rest or lower-intensity swimming. Interval training helps to increase cardiovascular fitness, improve stamina, and build endurance in the water.

However, getting to the pool or open water to practice swimming is not always convenient and sometimes impossible due to scheduling, pool availability, and inclement weather. Because of those factors, many swimmers and triathletes rely on swim-specific dryland training ergometers, such as Vasa SwimErgs and Vasa Trainers, for dryland strength and injury prevention.

Improving Freestyle Technique and Efficiency

In addition to building endurance, improving your Freestyle technique and efficiency for long-distance swimming is important. A strong and efficient stroke will help you conserve energy and swim faster over long distances. Work on aspects such as maintaining a long, taut bodyline, stroke path, and kick technique to improve your overall stroke mechanics.

Certain drills can improve technique and efficiency in the water. Incorporate drills such as sculling, catch-up, and single-arm swimming into your training sessions to focus on specific aspects of your stroke. Swimming some intervals while using a pull buoy and a swimmer’s snorkel allows you to focus on your stroke path, high-elbow catch, and powerful pulling without the variables of flutter kicking and side-breathing.

Swim training on a SwimErg also allows a similar training effect, with the added benefit of monitoring your performance data with the power meter.  Practicing these drills regularly will help you develop better swimming habits and improve your overall performance in long-distance swimming. 2012 USA Olympic Open Water swimmer Alex Meyer, trained regularly on the Vasa SwimErg for years leading up to the Olympics. He had an epiphany one day in training:

“I had this epiphany moment one day during practice where I didn’t feel like I was swimming very well. I imagined myself training on the Vasa SwimErg. As a result, I kept my elbow a little bit higher and tried to hold more water and push all the way through.  Doing that really helped my stroke in the reverse way. Normally when you’re on the Vasa SwimErg, you’re thinking about trying to mimic your stroke in the pool. But this was the opposite of that. I was in the pool and imagining myself doing a workout on a Vasa.  That just goes to show how well dryland swim-specific training on the Vasa and swimming in the pool complement each other really well.”

Strength Training for Long-Distance Swimming

Dryland strength training is crucial for stronger, better long-distance swimming. The right swimming dryland exercises help improve power, speed, and endurance in the water and prevent injury. Incorporate exercises such as pull-ups, planks, leg squats, and internal/external shoulder rotations into your training program to strengthen your muscles and improve your overall performance.

dryland strength training

Swim-specific resistance training equipment, such as Vasa swim trainers, improves strength and power in the water. Vasa SwimErgs air fan resistance simulates the feeling of pulling through water, allowing you to build strength and endurance while improving your freestyle technique.  It’s a convenient, time-effective way to train at home or in the gym without always swimming long distances in the pool or open water. Incorporating Vasa swim trainers into your training program can help you become stronger, better, and faster in long-distance swimming.

Nutrition and Recovery

Proper nutrition and recovery are essential components of long-distance swimming training. Eating a balanced diet rich in carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats will provide you with the energy and nutrients needed to fuel your workouts and aid in recovery. Staying hydrated and refueling your body with nutrients before and after each training session promotes muscle recovery and improves overall performance.

Incorporating rest days into your training program prevents overtraining and promotes recovery. Allow your body time to rest and repair to avoid burnout and injury. Stretching, foam rolling, and massage can also help to alleviate muscle soreness and improve flexibility, which is important for long-distance swimming.

Mental Preparation and Visualization

Long-distance open-water swimming requires mental toughness and a strong mindset to overcome physical fatigue and mental barriers. Mental preparation and visualization techniques can help you prepare for these challenges and improve your overall performance in the water.

Practice visualization techniques before races and training sessions to imagine yourself swimming confidently and successfully. Focus on positive thoughts and reinforce your goals to build confidence and belief in your abilities. Stay calm, focused, and composed during races to maintain a steady pace and conserve energy for the swim duration.

The Importance of Consistency and Patience

Training for long-distance swimming is a gradual process that requires consistency and patience to see improvements over time. Stay committed to your training program, follow your goals, and trust the process to achieve long-term success in the water. Celebrate your progress, no matter how small, and stay motivated to reach your full potential in long-distance swimming.

Take the Next Step with Vasa

If you want to improve your strength, endurance, and performance in open-water or triathlon swimming, consider incorporating Vasa swim trainers into your training program. Vasa products are designed to provide a lifetime of reliable, functional service and empower athletes to get stronger, better, and faster in sports, fitness, and injury rehab.

With Vasa swim trainers, you can build strength and power in the water, improve technique and efficiency, and enhance your overall performance in long-distance swimming. Explore Vasa’s range of products and training resources to take your swimming to the next level and achieve your goals in the water.

Remember, quality costs less with Vasa. Invest in your training and equip yourself with the tools to succeed in long-distance swimming. Start training smarter, not harder, with Vasa swim trainers and unlock your full potential in the water.

Be sure to check out the groundbreaking book, Triathlon Freestyle Simplified, co-written by Vasa’s founder, Rob Sleamaker, M.S.

The no-nonsense training methods and swim technique instructions are vital for all triathletes, open-water swimmers, and swim coaches. This book will help you simplify how to improve your swim training and freestyle technique so you can “find your Freestyle” for stronger, confident long-distance swimming in the open water.