Improving your technique alone may improve your speed quite a bit at first, but in order to see long-term improvement, you need a good workout plan. Workouts should be fun and should focus on a variety of key areas. Some coaches recommend a rotation, switching between technique, sprinting, distance and interval training. It's also best to train with a wide range of strokes, which will recruit more of your body's muscles, improving your overall strength as a swimmer.
As with any training, you should begin your water workouts with a warm-up swim and end with a cool-down swim. Usually 200 to 500 meters each, depending on your workout that day.
Technique-focused workouts entail a mix of long, medium and short sessions, and alternate a variety of stroke or kick exercises in succession. Generally, plans rotate between freestyle and the butterfly, backstroke and breaststroke. During kick exercises, try switching from using a kickboard to not using a kickboard and back again.
Sprint workouts, conversely, are all about short and medium-length swims. Speeds change during each heat; the first run might alternate between slow and medium, the second between medium and fast and so on. During the fastest laps, the ratio of sprints to fast strokes should be about 3:1, with a brief rest between the fast laps and the full-on sprints.
Distance workouts usually use a forward crawl (freestyle) stroke. Sometimes, swimmers will kick with a board and fins during the kick sections of the workout, then switch to a pull buoy and paddles for the pull sections. These allow the swimmer to focus on particular areas he or she wishes to strengthen. If endurance is your goal, cross-training (running and biking) can also improve your conditioning while helping to prevent injuries stemming from too much swimming.
Interval training shares much in common with sprint training, but each set switches more frequently between speeds. For example, if a sprint set alternates between medium and fast in a sprint workout, an interval set might switch between slow and fast.
Many swimmers, especially triathletes, feel that they have to put thousands of yards behind them daily or risk losing their conditioning. Although this can be useful in certain cases, the lack of recovery time can also leave you fatigued and prone to injury. You might get more bang for your buck by improving your cardiovascular efficiency: Instead of swimming slowly for long distances, swim shorter, faster sessions with shorter breaks. This can help you meet your speed goals.
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