Thursday, May 01, 2008

How to Build Speed and Finish Fast

It's common to see swimmers who start out fast for a lap or two and then plod along for the rest of their workout. It's no small wonder a lot of people give up swimming. What's fun about doing something that just gets worse as you spend more time doing it? What amazes me are the regulars in the pool who do this. I think they should know better.

I figured out a long time ago, that I enjoyed swimming laps more if I built my speed over the time of the workout. This has been reinforced as I've aged, as going fast right from the start isn't as easy as it once was. Now I can ease into the workout and if everything is going well, I'll be able to cruise along at a good, fast pace in the last half of the workout.

I explain my approach below using a mile swim to demonstrate.

I start out with some easy strokes for 400 meters - breathing every other stroke, stretching to my fullest length, making sure I keep a straight line nose to toes. For the next 400 meters I add some time between breaths. I breathe every fifth stroke, alternating sides. Throughout this 1/4 mile my body is building its strength up, my muscles are getting warm and I can feel it. There is a natural tendency to speed up because, in all honestly, I want to breathe by the time I get to the five count. The muscles are working up to strength too with this added pace. The last half mile I maintain the pace but breathe every third stroke, alternating sides. This additional oxygen helps me to crank up my speed further. I can generally shave an extra five seconds off a lap with this added oxygen.

I encourage you to try this speed building approach. You might find the need to breathe more often than I. That's ok. Do what works for you but spend enough time in the pool to let your endorphins kick in. Just don't blow it all out in the first few laps. Just take it slow and ease into your workout. You'll finish faster. And because you are finishing on a high, I can almost promise you'll feel better about coming back the next time.


  1. Hi,
    Did you got any advices and for 12 YO kids? We can swim over 4km daily without risc for our growth?

  2. I'm unaware of any unhealthy growth issues related to swimming. That said, I have read (I don't recall where) that heavy exercise in the teen years may impact development for some kids - but not in a bad way. My understanding is that there may be some delays in some development if one is a heavy exerciser, but that all development catches up to normal once a more normal exercise routine is resumed. Look at ballet dancers, gymnasts and other young dedicated athletes as examples (yes, ballet is a sport). Seems to me that development into an adult body can only make you slower (due to body fat, curves that can trap water, etc.). Skinny kids rule in the pool! (Note, I am not a licensed coach or nutritionist. I suggest asking one or more of these and maybe a medical professional if you are concerned.) Good luck! Thanks for reading my blog.

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