Swim Test

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Swim TestA few weeks ago I participated in an open water “swim fest” with a one mile “fun” swim on Saturday and then on Sunday a one mile race followed immediately by a two mile race. I have never participated in an event with such a format, so decided to treat all three as an “experiment,” one which you should consider performing yourself.

For the mile fun swim, I did just that: I went very easy, focused on perfect form, and just enjoyed the water. I focused on bilateral breathing and perfect form with a shallow catch and high elbow pull and recovery. If I felt that any of those were breaking down, I slowed down. However, I did have my watch on me, and while I did not care what time I got, I made sure I recorded both time and distance (my watch has a GPS feature that works fairly well for open water swims) for the experimental part.

The next day, I raced the mile and went all out. I forgot completely about the two mile and raced as if I was only doing the mile. Like the fun swim before, I made sure I recorded my time and distance. I emerged from the water exhausted with no energy left for the two mile, which is what I wanted. Even though I felt drained, I ate an Amrita bar, put my wet suit back on, and got ready for the two mile. I then went as hard as I could for the whole two miles recording both time and distance.

The purpose of this little experiment was to see:

1.    How fast could I go when there was no pressure and I focused on form
2.    How fast could I go when I focused solely on effort
3.    The difference between the two
4.    How fast I could go when I was exhausted
5.    The difference between all three.

My results surprised me, I went only 2 minutes faster in the race swim than I did in the fun swim. Moreover, my pace for the two mile, was only 3 minutes slower per mile. My results show that I have a strong endurance base since I did not slow down drastically from the mile to the two mile.
However, they also show that when racing I should focus on form over effort. When I disregard my form and instead try to go all out, my form breaks down, and although I will go faster, the energy expended is not worth the time savings. Based on these results, when I swam the following weekend at an Olympic distance tri, I focused strictly on form and let effort take a back seat. While I felt I was going “hard,” I did not let my effort affect my form. I emerged from the water with a 3 minute PR.

Since the experiment I have been focusing on holding good form during my hard efforts. I know that if I try to muscle my way through it, I will be burning a lot of energy for a marginal gain in time—time that I can easily make up on the bike with a fraction of the expense.

I highly recommend that you do a similar experiment to see how efficient you are at swimming fast. If you are like me, you may need to focus on your efficiency before effort.

Swim well
Coach Chris and Kev

Words of Wisdom:
You must be willing to sacrifice whom you are today, for whom you want to be tomorrow.-Unknown

Workout of the week: Here is a test that you can do on yourself:

Day 1: Swim one mile  without looking at time or even caring about time. Just swim as efficiently as possible.
Day 2: Swim one mile again put this time focus on effort and throw form out the window

Now compare your times. Are you at the point where you can swim quickly while still holding your form?

One thought on “Swim Test

  • Jess says:

    I have noticed this over the last few years with my swimming. I can often swim faster when I slow down and concentrate rather than try to go all out.
    Very important in races where getting out of the water in first place doesn’t mean anything!!

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