For access to all of our training, gear, and race coverage, plus exclusive training plans, FinisherPix photos, event discounts, and GPS apps, sign up for Outside+.
Have you ever trained the swim harder and longer, only to make little or no progress? Scheduling a short technique-focused block is a worthy time investment, and now is the best time to make it happen. Consider a ‘swimcation,’ a one week technique-focused block with the goal of making one or more lasting changes in your stroke.
We enlisted the help of Megan Melgaard, Olympic trials qualifier and open water expert, to give us some general tips for structuring a swimcation week.
Kick off with a video analysis of your stroke from an experienced coach. Your second best option is to have a friend record a video of your swim. Even if you don’t have someone to analyze your video, it can still be helpful for visualization. Often, what we think we’re doing isn’t actually what we’re doing. This will help you identify the best area of opportunity for your focus.
1. Focus on frequency
Think technique, not yardage. According to Melgaard, even a 20 minute practice session is a worthwhile investment of time “Try not to do tons of yardage,” she says. “Just like with a run technique change, the idea is to practice frequently in small doses.”
2. Have a plan
Check out the example plan below. If you can even make one lasting change in your stroke, it will pay dividends for the season.
3. Practice fresh
Practice skills when you’re fresh, not when you’re exhausted after a key run or bike.
4. Work the movement then implement
Melgaard recommends a set of 12 x 100 with each 100 split into 50 drill, 50 stroke. During the second half of the 100 you’ll think only about one specific change.
Address these three common issues for big gains in efficiency:
Common issues are ‘sinking legs,’ ‘swimming uphill,’ and hips swinging from side to side. Focus on activating the core, proper head position (focus the gaze down), leg position in relation to the surface (heels should breach the surface of the water when kicking), and rotation (shoulder and hip should rotate in line).
Drill it! Pull with a buoy in between the ankles. Engage core to keep muscles activated and body streamlined. Add a snorkel to maintain proper head position.
Common issues include holding the breath and exhaling when the mouth is out of the water. Instead, you should be exhaling out of your nose and mouth while your face is in the water (i.e. entering and exiting). Also, watch out for pressing the arm (opposite to the breathing side) down while breathing. The arm should stay extended while in the breathing position to create lift and stability rather than pressing down which creates drag.
Drill it! One-arm drill with a kickboard, Superman catch-up.
More Fluid Swimming
Common issues not feeling or engaging with the water, or sending it in the wrong direction. “Sometimes people are trying so hard, that they forget that they are working with water. They need to be fluid and aware of where they are sending the water,” Melgaard says. “See Newton’s Second Law!”
Drill it! Practice ‘feeling’ drills like treading water, sculling, and doggie-paddle.
• Test set: 1 x 500 or other appropriate distance for time
• 5 x 50 odd easy, even choice
• Additional yardage as desired
• 12 x 100
• 1-3: 50 Superman catch-up/50 swim
• 4-6: 50 accelerated catch-up/50 swim
• 7-9: 50 focus element/50 swim
• 10-12: 50 build/ 50 swim
For mid-distance training/form and technique:
• 400 keep focused on form
• 300 (50 drill/ 50 swim)
• 200 (75 swim/ 25 drill)
• 100 swim
• 1500-2000 straight, thinking about form and a different focus element every 200 to 500
• Repeat test from session 1