It’s a generally heald belief that long-slow-distance running, does 1 thing very well: it makes you slow. In fact, the extension is generally true, that the more LSD running you do, the slower you get, unless you’re specifically doing complementatry speed work to keep the tempo up. The same is true of swimming: just logging long distances in the pool with no thoughts to tempo, technique, pace, etc. will make you slower and slower over time.
You’ll read again and again how the best use of time in the pool is focused workouts: some tempo, some drills, some long, etc. I’ve adopted this recently. Mondays are kick days (because my kick sucks and needs specific focus). Tuesdays and Thursdays are easy/recovery/technique-focus days, where I’ll do a solid hour but focusing on streamlining, catch and pull body and arm position, kick connection, paddle work, etc. Fridays are tempo days where I try to spend a lot of the workout near critical speed and really get my heart rate cranked. Finally, Wednesdays are my long-swim days, but even these days are not just mindless kilometer after kilometer: I breakup the workout into segments and each of these segments will have a sub-focus of tempo, technique, drills, kick, etc. The great news is that it’s working for me.
This morning, while I was in the pool, I was pondering this and how it relates to Open Water swimming. I realized that when it’s cold out and I’m in the pool, I’m very focused on tempo, and pace. I’m measuring my splits and pushing for improvement. In the past; however, when I got outside, I’d just swim for time or for distance, but I’d only measure it in the totality of the workout. Its not surprising then, that my swim pace suffered when I got outside. All the months of hard work in the pool destroyed by the lack of marked distances outside and the lack of my new-found understanding.
Obviously, with current technology (specifically the Garmin 910xt which I own and open water swim with), there is no excuse to lose my pool swim mentality when I get into open water. The GPS will track distances for me and I can set alarms to go off every 400m (or whatever) and track my pace and effort to keep up the intensity and not lose all that I’m gaining.
Hurray for those moments of clarity!
Now if only May would get here so I can put this to practice