While we’ve focused on how to sustain your skills over time, it’s important to remember that you’re still TRAINING. As with any type of training, there are better and worse ways of getting it done. The training rules below apply for when you are aiming to improve the distance over which you can execute skills. When your goals differ, the rules may change as well. When focused on extending your skill, stay locked in with these.
Volume trumps speed. When extending your skill, the focus is on accumulating volume and increasing the repetition distance. While it can be tempting to try to swim hard or fast, this is secondary to increasing the distance over which you can swim superbly. For now, the goal is to swim longer distances with excellent skills. It doesn’t matter how fast you swim!
Although this can be a tough concept to accept, it’s critical to understand and execute if you aim to learn to sustain your skills. While swimming faster may feel good in the short-term, it may compromise your ability to learn to execute great skills for extended periods of time. You’ll get too tired, too fast. While this is counter-intuitive for most, the single mistake that will undo your progress more than any other during this phase is swimming too fast. SLOW DOWN during your endurance work!
Repetition distance trumps volume. While volume will help you improve your ability to sustain excellent skills, you want to give priority to extending the repetition distance. Remember that the goal is to swim longer distances. If you have to choose, you’re better off using slightly longer distances, even if that means you’ll have to swim a slightly lower volume. With time, you’ll be able to execute both.
Keep rest periods short. The goal here is to establish endurance adaptations. Specifically, you want to develop the ability to sustain your skills over large distances. To do so, you’ll want to limit your rest periods. Doing so will help to create the physical and technical changes required to sustain excellent skills for extended periods of time. As importantly, keeping rest periods short will force you to slow down. This will help you execute your skills with better precision, as well as put more pressure on the important physical systems.
Scale distances appropriately. Regardless of how far you’d like to swim, be disciplined with how far you should swim. The rule of thumb is simple- if you can’t sustain your skills, it’s too far. If you’re not sure, it’s much more effective to swim too short than it is to swim too long. Always err on the side of caution. If you’re working on two separate skills, you may find that you can sustain those skills for different lengths of time. Be sure to choose the appropriate distance when working on the appropriate skills.
When in doubt, slow down! If you’re struggling with any of the recommendations above, you’re probably swimming too fast. Be patient, take your time, and slow down. If you think you may need to shorten the distances, you just may be swimming too fast. If you need to extend the rest periods, you just may be swimming too fast. When working on your sustained swimming, the speed is much less important than the quality of swimming and the distances involved. You’ll get plenty of speed when working on your speed.
Skills come first. It can be exciting to see your repetition distances and total volumes increase. It can be so exciting that you begin to really push forward with these numbers, sacrificing your skills along the way. Remember the purpose of this entire process- creating technical change that lasts. To make that change, you need to be disciplined and swim in a way that reinforces your skills. If you can maintain your skills, you need to slow down, swim for shorter distance, or take more rest. Skills come first!
When designing your training with the intent of extending your skill, the key concepts are controlled speed and patient progression. The goal is to be able to swim longer, and the best way to facilitate that process is with controlled swimming. That will allow you to build your endurance, and do so in a manner that allows for excellent execution of your technical skills.
Build It Up
If you want your skills to hold up, you need to build up a resiliency to distance and endurance. Great skills that can’t be sustained for more than 60 seconds won’t be of much use to anyone. You need to make a focused effort on improving your sustainability, and that only comes from working towards longer distances and higher volumes. The effort is well worth it. It allows you to create the foundation for racing over extended periods, all with the confidence that your skills are bulletproof.
FASTER. EASIER. BETTER.