Swim tips from Lionel Padial #1

Pace your Sea swims

Getting your pace right in a sea swim is crucial to achieving the outcome you want, and can prove very difficult for relatively inexperienced and experienced swimmers alike. Good swimming coaches spend a fair chunk of training time encouraging their swimmers to develop a feel for their most effective swim pace so that it is second nature come competition time.

Here are a few ideas to help you get the most from your swims:

1) Practise – swim and time yourself for each of four reps of – 50 metres for beginners / 200 for intermediates – and give yourself a 15 second rest in between each rep. Aim for a repeatable and sustainable pace, a pace at which you feel in control of your stroke, and your breathing. Sighting every 6-12 strokes will make this experiment more accurate. Adjust your pace up or down till you find that zone where it feels strong yet controlled. Once you have a time for your reps try and swim those times repeatedly taking note of how it feels. The more you practise this pace the more you will be able to find it in your races.

2) Warm up – A five-minute swim will get your aerobic system up and running so that you can start faster in the race and reduce the chances of you feeling wrecked at the first marker. It will also help you find your stroke, rhythm and pace. Doing a shortened rep or two of your race pace swims after five or so minutes of warming up will make it easier for you to latch straight into that pace both mentally and physically once the race starts.

3) Start slower – With all the race-start adrenalin the first one hundred metres or so can feel easy but if you do not hold back you will be hit by a wave of oxygen debt and find yourself either having to slow right down to get it back together or thrashing your way round swimming in-effectively.

Aim for a starting pace that feels steady if not “easy”, definitely not fast – this is only for experienced sea swimmers who are fit enough to recover whilst maintaining form and pace.

4) Finish stronger – Gradually ramp up your pace as you approach approx. 150 metres from the finish or alternatively (depending on what suits your physical make-up best?) aim to swim at a faster steady pace throughout aiming to run out of steam at the finish line.

5) Evaluate your race – When you get home think back over how you paced your race and decide how you might improve it next time then plan how you might achieve it next time.

Remember – Swimming faster is less about maximum effort and more about focus / concentration / discipline and stroke precision. Yes you do need to work hard but just like anything in life there is a point of breakdown. In water we often don’t notice the breakdown as they are subtle and we cannot see them. We have to feel the extra leaning on the arms or long stalls in the stroke when we breathe for too long or notice our hips, legs and feet dragging behinds us (yes, even in a wetsuit) when we lift our heads too high out of the water.

Generally speaking a strong yet controlled stroke is close to your most effective stroke. Once it feels ragged – IT IS – at that point regardless of how much you are thrashing yourself you will more than likely be going slower and worse still re-patterning your stroke to be more in-effective. Even worse again it is rarely enjoyable!

Swim well, have fun!


PS – If you enjoyed this article and would like to watch swim video clips or read more about swimming please go to the “Oneflow coaching” facebook page or website – www.oneflow.co.nz