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Combos for Endurance

The appropriate combination of technical exercises and full stroke swimming will make a major impact on how well you are able to sustain your skills over progressively longer distances. By using technical exercises and regular swimming simultaneously, you’ll maintain your sense of what great skills feel like, and it will be more likely that you’ll be able to ensure that those skills show up in your swimming. You’ll need to focus on executing your technical exercises for longer distances, and incorporating those exercises into longer swims.

It’s important to be conservative with the distances you choose to implement. You don’t need to do 400m of the same technical exercises without taking a break. However, you can certainly perform these exercises longer than 25m, and with time, you can work towards performing technical exercises for up to 200m. You can also use multiple exercises in a circuit fashion with little rest between each exercise. This will have a similar impact. Regardless of the distances you choose to employ, you’ll want to integrate these exercises with your full stroke swimming.

Here’s how.

Combo Option #1- Pre-Set. With this strategy, you’ll perform all of your technical exercises prior to performing any of your longer repetitions. The goal is to really groove your skills prior to performing the longer work. The more you can ingrain the FEEL of how you want to swim, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to retain that feel during longer effort. The advantage of using this strategy is that you’ll get a concentrated dose of skill work. The downside is that there will be an extended period of time where you’ll have no technical refresher as you perform the longer swims.

Sample Set

4x75 w/30 seconds rest between; chosen technical exercise

5x300 w/30 seconds rest between; full stroke freestyle


4x [25 w/10 seconds rest; technical exercise #1

[25 w/10 seconds rest; technical exercise #2

[25 w/10 seconds rest; technical exercise #3

5x300 w/30 seconds rest between; full stroke freestyle

Combo Option #2. Pre-Swim. As the longer phases necessarily consists of longer swims, you can perform 1-2 repetition of a technical exercises prior to your longer swim. For instance, you may perform 1x50 of a skill exercises, then move right into a 400 freestyle. Upon completion of the 400 freestyle, you’d take a short break, perform 2x25 again, then move into the next longer swim. This way, you’d get exposure to the technical exercises prior to each long swim. If you experience any technical degradation during the extended effort, you’d have the opportunity to remind yourself of the sensations and feel you’re aiming to create as you move through the water. By constantly reinforcing the skills you’re aiming to sustain, you’re much more likely to do so.

Sample Set

Repeat 5x

50 w/30 seconds rest between; chosen technical exercise

1x300 w/30 seconds rest between; full stroke freestyle

Combo Option #3. Intra-Swim. With this strategy, you’re executing your technical exercises and full stroke swimming throughout the course of the repetition. For instance, you may alternate between the two by 25 or 50, or you could alternate 25 meters of the exercises with 75 meters of full stroke swimming. The idea is that by switching back and forth, you’re much more likely to sustain excellent skills. When first starting with this strategy, keep the proportion of technical exercises relatively high, between 25-50%. With practice, you can greatly reduce that number so that you’re swimming full stroke freestyle for extended periods of time.

Sample Set

5x400 w/30 seconds rest between; performed as 25 technical exercise/75 full stroke freestyle

Regardless of the version you use, skill combinations work. They help you retain a great sense of how well you’re executing your skills, all while patiently building the endurance and sustainability that will help to make those same skills bulletproof. They serve a potent reminder of how to swim well, and including these exercises helps to prevent you from defaulting to your old ways of swimming.

Of course, developing endurance and sustainability is not just about technical expertise. Physical development matters as well. In the next article, I’ll lay out the training rules you’ll want to follow to ensure that you’re setting yourself up to develop the technical and physical tools to sustain your skills throughout the duration of any race you choose.



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