Faster Swim Times

Yes this is another one of those...I am doing ok..but want to get better threads.

I am entering my first tri (a sprint) in May and I really want to be get my 500m swim time down. So if you are a shark in the swim part of the triathlon I would like to hear from you, particularly if you were a late developer rather than a child swimming prodigy.

I'm past the novice stage of swimming and on a good week I train three times a week with some technique coaching. As soon as I could swim 750m without drowning (which was back in October) I managed 10.30 for the 500m, now I am around 9.30 and I really want to get this time down to something a bit more competitive, like 8.30 or lower. Can this be done over the next few months or am I being unrealistic?

I can go pretty quickly over 50m (40 seconds) but I use so much energy that I couldn't sustain that for any length of time. I suspect most of my improvement from here is going to come through better technique but can this be achieved in a short amount of time. Any similar experiences appreciated.


  • An outboard motor?

  • I apologise.

    To increase speed I've been working on improving strength using a pull buoy and just going for it until I'm wasted. Wouldn't exactly call myself a 'shark'. More of a guppy.
    But my times have improved.
  • Thanks for your constructive comments Guppy. That's just got me absolutely fired up for a monster session down at the pool.
  • If you can do that for 50m but not too many sessions then you have a couple of things to work on.

    Firstly technique as you tire, this gets exponentially worse as you break your stroke down so work on this as often as you can.

    Secondly you need to be able to keep a 100m time constant for 500m. Best way, do some sets.

    Try 10 X 50 off 1.10 and aim to do this is 1 min so you have 10 secs rest.
    This is only part of a set mind you, you have to build a whole session round this sort of stuff, do some drills etc.
    Then build up to 20 times.
    Once this is easy enough for you, go to 75m sets and do the same but change the time, obviously.
    Then eventually you will move to sets of 100m. keeping them constant, at speed and with good technique is your goal and you have May to do it, so don't worry too much.

    And if you have trouble building sets read 220 from last month and this month and pick a couple off Robin Brew.

    And I fit your non-child prodigy bucket.
  • I am sure there are real swimmers on here that may have better ideas tho ;-0
  • You might get down to that time by May, you might not but I wouldn't get too hung up about it. I swam reasonably strongly from my schooldays but it took me 'til I was 40 to realise I was doing it all wrong. It took me a couple of years of loads of technique work to get to a respectable 400m time and still feel fresh for the bike. The good thing is, I can still see it improving. You seem to be doing the right sort of thing - three sessions with a good coach sounds fine. The key is to incorporate lots of drills to isolate particular parts of the stroke and I'm sure your coach encourages this. I reckon for the short distances you're planning to do, a main set of half an hour is plenty with half hour warm up and drills beforehand. Then a swim down to finish - approximates to about 2-2.5K. But I guess your coach gets you to do something similar?
    The times will come down but I reckon the best time to really make inroads into your swim will be next winter when the pressure of racing is off - what's the big hurry?
    I personally wouldn't get too used to using pull buoys and the like - they have their place but funnily enough you're not allowed to race with them.
  • Firstly, you have guessed correctly, getting your speed down is all going to be about technique, but with the times you are currently swimming, knocoking 5 or 10 seconds off your 100's is very feasible as I expect you are already quite fit.

    Rose is right, make sure your regular swim session is a lot more than 500m, this will ensure you're not stuffed when you get out of the pool. Working interval sets will give you more of an idea of your pace, and how much it decreases as you get tired.

    Using a pull buoy is worthwhile for extra strength, and I also find that if I'm doing 20 100's it is so dull that I have to alternate pull and swim just so my brain doesn't go into spasm. Kick sets are also really useful, start off sticking the odd 50 of fc kick into your session, then make it 100m between each set, build up so that 3 or 400 m kick is ok for you, and really concentrate on your technique at least for half of each length of your kick sets, you may find that by improving your kick your body aligns better in the water making you more streamline, and using your legs becomes second nature which will impact on your pace, its surprising how many people don't bother to kick because they just forget and concentrate on using their arms to drag them through.

    I agree with Danny in that you can't race with pull puoys and floats, however using them as a swim aid rather than a crutch can really assist you to concentrate on individual aspects of your stroke. Think of swimming like piano playing, with each piece you learn you break it down, practicing one hand at a time until you can put it all together without thinking (and without sounding like my neighbours son).
  • I find with flippers a pull buoy my wet suit and a large outboard I go faster
    beyond that go to a swimming club, I still suck real bad but can do the 1.9 k for a half Ironman thanks to proper coaching
  • I'd recommend 3 elements to put into each swimming session:

    Drills as suggested by Danny

    Sets over a shorter distance (50m) @ 80ish% effort, about 20 seconds recovery, trying to keep each time consistant.

    5 x 200m, working hard on even lengths, and easier (but not slow) on the odd lengths. 30 - 40 seconds rest between. The idea of this session is to encourage a strong middle 200m of your race.

    Best of luck with the training.
  • ((((Moosey!))))

  • Thanks for your advice and suggested sessions. I'm going to build in some of the 50m/100m (and possibly 200m) intervals into my training over the next few weeks.

    The only attempt I've previously made at intervals was 50m repeats. I managed about 8 or so in around 45-50 seconds, but I was taking about 45 seconds rest between each. It sounds like I was probably doing these too quickly, doing too few repeats, and taking way too much rest!

    I've only recently got a coach and its mainly for technique work rather than fitness. He's got me doing lots of drills to improve things. It seems that I don't really have a high elbow action and my arm swings quite wide and also I'm underreaching and not entering the water perfectly straight - too wide and going across the centre line, and I'm not rotating enough (so plent to go on).

    I've been trying to think about all these points in all my sessions and this has inevitably slowed me down and reduced the distance I was doing which was up to about 2km a session - but I don't want to keep swimming with my old technique as I am concerned it will keep reinforcing the bad habits.

    Thanks again.

  • Keep with the technique training - the pace will come... And to some extent the technique will come with increased fittness...

    Another good way of improving your stroke is to attempt to cover a length with as few strokes as possible.
    With each arm pull, try pulling that handful of water as far as possible - pulling it from in front of you, pushing it all the way towards your hips before your arm comes out of the water for the next stroke- it's this pull in the stroke which produces the speed, so it's important to maximise.

    It's also good to use as much as the arm as a paddle as possible - why just use the hand when you've got a forearm that will help.
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