Five Great Reasons to Ramp Up Winter Swim Training

Pamela Rogers, CCAC, CCTC, Sarasota Sharks Swim Team

1. By logging winter swim hours, you can reduce the risk of injury when the triathlon and open water seasons begin.

You will be aquatically fit and prepared if you train in winter. By incorporating a combination of good skills, endurance, anaerobic threshold, and recovery training, you can avoid waiting for swim preparation when the ponds, lakes, bays, and ocean are warm enough for outdoor swimming. Plus, no one wants nagging shoulder pain from punching up yardage too quickly in the late spring and summer. Become prepared now

2. You can improve technique in the indoor pool setting.

One of the best ways to improve your swimming is by getting one on one coaching to make stroke improvements particular to your needs. It’s much easier for videotaping, evaluating, learning new skills, and improving weak areas when swimming indoors. Making consistent and permanent changes takes time, so start in the winter. Take advantage of Justin Torrellas’ expertise (or another coach you trust) and get lessons from him/her in the winter. It’s motivating to improve and learn, and good technique makes a big difference.

3. You can breathe fresh life into your training and try new workout strategies.

For example, you can work on race pace in a controlled setting. Here’s one method:

Work on open water pace by timing yourself on a set of 5 x 100 where you try to hold the same pace per 100 repeats. Do this during many workouts so that you actually can feel what your sustainable pace is. Of course, based on your heart rate and speed, you can improve your pace as your fitness improves. Your interval will depend on your ability, and if you test your lactate threshold, you can set your pace for a variety of energy systems training.

4. You CAN work on open water techniques in the pool.

Why wait? Here are some ideas to incorporate open water skills:

  • Work on sighting by looking up for your coach or a spot on the wall of the building. Press down with your hand and arm during the catch phase to lift your gaze without wasting energy.
  • Swim a segment of the practice with 3 people across in a lane to simulate “traffic.”
  • Swim with a group of 4 or 5 people in your lane and practice drafting.
  • Wear your wetsuit and set up a mock transition station to improve swim to bike efficiency
  • Practice bilateral (alternate) breathing—try breathing every 5 and 7 too– and sighting at race pace.
  • Use a two beat kick in practice if you use one during a longer open water swim.

5. You have time.

A great reason to spend some time at the pool is that in the winter, you are spending less time outside on the bike and on the track, trails, and roads. It’s the off-season for triathlon and open water races, so it’s the perfect time to work on your swimming. The water is warm and there are training groups at the Barnstable Y, Willy’s, and at the Woodlands. Other local pools include Mashpee Fitness Center, Mass Maritime Academy, Chatham Health and Swim Club, and Sandwich Aquatic Center, whenever it reopens. You can likely find time for putting in some swimming miles, and it’s time to focus on finding and getting to the pool.

Please contact me if you have questions or need help.

Pamela Rogers

Former NCAA Div. 1 Head Swimming Coach, Men and Women

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