Swim Faster By Training Faster?
A lot of swim training mythology comes from trying to use age group coaching techniques and methodologies for kids training for pool races (generally sprints and controlled sprints), and applying them to triathlon swim training.
While there is overlap, the focus for triathlon swimming training needs to be different.
A triathlete who has worked through the drills and done a good job in mastering her stroke technique is now looking for a way to get faster for her upcoming Olympic distance triathlon.
Is this best accomplished through more work on doing sprints (25’s, 50’s, and 100’s) with lots of rest, or by doing repeat sets of 100’s and 200’s on an interval?
While there is a place for sprints even when training for a distance race like a 1-mile swim, your focus is better off on the interval training. By building your aerobic system through repeats on an achievable interval (i.e. 100’s with 5-10 seconds rest), you will actually make the ability to attain faster swim race splits easier than if you concentrated mostly on sprints or anaerobic work.
Now, having said that, you can intelligently incorporate some sprinting into your swim training and get some pretty awesome results with just the occasional sprint set.
An example of this is Tabata workouts- i.e. doing a set of 50’s where the first 3/4ths of the 50 is an all-out sprint, the last 1/4th is easy, and you take about 10-20 seconds rest. Start with just a couple of these and work your way up to about 8.
A little goes a long way here!
So the order I recommend is master technique, build your endurance, then incorporate sprints for a faster freestyle.