Do you feel like you've hit a plateau in your swim training – neither going faster or slower despite attempts to improve your fitness and technique?
During her first pregnancy, former professional triathlete and champion swimmer Jodie Swallow-Cunnama took to swimming in the leisure lane rather than with her competitive swim squad. From there, she observed how age-groupers normally train for swimming.
She said, "One of the major things of swimming in public lanes I've seen is that people tend to just swim. It surprised me quite a lot because as a junior swimmer I swam with a squad. We were constantly changing pace in our sets: we have a set time where you work and swim hard or easy, and you rest after. You recover and then push off again.
Pace changes, recovery, and time at the wall helps stimulate and keep you entertained while swimming several kilometres a day, but it also helps progress. Cunnama says, "People tend to not rest when they swim on their own. They just swim up and down for a continuous period, they don't vary their pace... They begin fairly well but they only maintain that pace for three or four lengths, and then the pace drops and the technique goes."
She suggests structuring sessions when swimming on your own, even if not with a squad. "You just need to go faster and rest a bit longer. My guidelines would be probably 15 seconds rest on the hundreds – say, if you swim a 1:50 for 100 to go off at 2:05 base. Try to begin with six 100s, then move that up to two sets of six 100s and end up with three sets of six 100s."
In the end, the only way to get faster is to swim faster. Cunnama recommends, "My biggest tip to someone who's a 1:40 pace swimmer to move up to that masters swim pace of 1:30 so you can join in with masters is that you need to practice that higher pace. It's higher than you would do in a race and just stimulates that threshold that you're always trying to target in aerobic training."