To get the most from your workout and to feel strong at the end of a competitive swim, you need to be in control of your pace. Varying your pace while training will add spice to your practice sessions and help you swim at maximum efficiency when competing.
To work on pacing, remember the following:
* Your goal is to start comfortably and pick up speed as your race, set or workout progresses. Many swimmers start too hard and are exhausted long before they need to be.
* Your workout pace won’t be as fast as your race pace. Adrenaline in the beginning of a meet or the draft of fellow swimmers in an open water swim make competition times faster.
* Pacing can be best measured in the pool by a pace clock. If you’re preparing for an open water swim, you can pace yourself by counting your strokes (per lap), taking your heart rate (per minute) or simply sensing the amount of physical energy you’re expending. Each should increase in rate or intensity during your workout, leaving your best effort for last.
* Open water: If you’re training in a pool for a one-mile, open water swim, swim 200 yards eight times with 15 to 30 seconds between each repetition. (You can vary your workout by swimming 100 yards 16 times or 50 yards 32 times.) Go easy on the first few repetitions in each set, then drop your times so your fastest time is on the last repetition in the series. Of course, open water pacing is slower than in a pool because you don’t have the advantage of pushing off a wall every 25 yards. A 50-meter course more closely simulates open water swimming. If you have access to one, then it’s best to use it.
* Indoor Competitions: Train for a 100-yard race by swimming a 4 x 25-yard set one or two times a week. Swim the first lap at about 90 percent of your maximum speed, then drop your times with each consecutive lap. Rest five to 10 seconds between laps. The total time less your rest time should be close to your race pace.
* Swimming workouts: Swim 6 x 100-yard sets with 30 seconds rest between each 100-yard repetition. Drop your times between the first and third 100, then repeat the pattern between the fourth and sixth. Your slowest times should be on the first and fourth 100s, your fastest on the third and sixth.
It’ll take some practice to drop your times during a set; you’ll have to make a conscious effort to start slowly, so you have somewhere to drop to. If your times aren’t dropping right away, try holding them steady and either increase the repetitions in each set or decrease the rest time between repetitions. Any combination will improve your fitness level.