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Old 06-04-2015
giersbergen giersbergen is offline
Junior Member
Join Date: Jun 2015
Posts: 1
Default How do I train to go faster


My first posting here, so a little about myself and a question.

Swimming a fast mile is my goal. I'm gradually getting my times down. Just this week I managed to knock off 60 secs off my personal best (wearing jammers instead of shorts helped!)

I'm 52 years old, 5'11" and weigh just over 250lb. Never a swimmer even at school but I adopted TI since February 2014 and whilst before I would nearly black-out after 2 lengths of front crawl, I can do a mile now without any bother at all. I use a Poolmate lap counter watch and swim in a 25 metre pool. For a mile I swim 64 lengths and just ignore the additional 9 metres to make a proper 1609m mile!

I don't do tumble-turns (or 'flip-turns' as you call them in the US). I'm working on them, but I normally swim in busy lanes at a public pool so I'll probably never be able to use them.

As well as the exercises I do swim sets of short sprints. Sometimes though I just do my favourite routine: 1 x 800m, 1 x 400m, 1 x 200m, 1 x 100m 1 x 50m and these invariably produce new PB's, sometimes 2 in the same session.

I used to try to swim a mile every day but my times didn't lower and I just ended-up tired. I followed advice to switch to sprint practise to get my overall speed up, and so I only swim the mile (1600m) once-a-week.

That advice worked. Since switching to sprinting my mile times have come down a lot in the last few months.

But I think I can do better in some areas to get the speed up. Except I don't know where. My best times, all set in the last fortnight, are below;

Best time time for 100m
1 mile 30.57 1.56
800m 15.05 1.53
400m 7.18 1.49
200m 3.25 1.42
100m 1.38 1.38
50m 0.45 1.30

Other than losing some weight (250lb and being obese is great for buoyancy but not for speed!) are there any suggestions on what distances/practises I should be concentrating on pursuing to improve my overall time for the mile?

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Old 06-08-2015
Tom Pamperin Tom Pamperin is offline
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Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 712
Tom Pamperin

Originally Posted by giersbergen View Post
are there any suggestions on what distances/practises I should be concentrating on pursuing to improve my overall time for the mile?
Welcome--sounds like you're off to a good start judging from your times. To get faster, here are a few ideas:

1) Make practicing technique (balance, streamline, precise body positions and motions, smoothness, lack of splashing, etc) your main priority. You will gain far more speed doing this than you will by focusing on fitness and working "hard" at your swimming. Smooth is fast!

2) Speed depends on two variables: your stroke length, or how many strokes it takes you to swim one length (SPL), and your stroke rate (SR). Improve one (lower SPL or higher SR), or both, and you'll be faster.

3) Generally, speed comes from swimming shorter faster repeats with longer rests (e.g. 10 X 50m or 5 x 100m with 2:00-3:00 rest between repeats).Endurance comes from swimming longer, slower repeats with less rest (e.g. 5 x 200m with :30 rest between repeats, or a pyramid like 275m-250-225-200-175-150-125-100-75-50-25 with :10 rest between each repeat (that last one is a broken mile set I've been doing lately). I do some of each type of training every week, usually focusing more on one than on the other but including a bit of both each session.

But really, ALL speed comes from consciously and mindfully manipulating SPL and SR. To begin, make sure you are swimming at an efficient range of strokes per length based on your height/wingspan, and make doing that your first priority if you can't do it now--that's where you'll find your biggest gains. Coach Mat has a great introduction to this idea here:

Then organize much/most of your practice by experimenting with different combinations of stroke length and stroke rate. A tempo trainer (TT) can be incredibly useful to work toward a faster stroke rate (lots of good threads on this forum about using a tempo trainer).

Once you have a good range of SPL that you can swim comfortably, you can do sets like this without a TT to practice gears and pacing:

7 x 50m at 13 SPL, 14 SPL, 15 SPL, 16 SPL, 15 SPL, 14 SPL, 13 SPL

Your times will get faster each time you add a stroke, and you'll keep some of that speed as you descend the pyramid back down to longer strokes.

On longer repeats, I'll often pace myself by choosing different SPL for different segments. For example, on a 400 swim, I might do this:

100m at 14, 14, 14, 14 SPL
100m at 14, 14, 15, 15 SPL
100m at 15, 15, 15, 15 SPL
100m at 15, 15, 16, 16 SPL

This will give me negative splits (faster at the end), which is generally the fastest way to pace yourself.

It's really ALL about manipulating SPL and tempo when you are looking to get faster. Enjoy the journey!

Last edited by Tom Pamperin : 06-08-2015 at 02:13 AM.
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Old 06-08-2015
terry terry is offline
Head Coach
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 2,305
terry has disabled reputation
Default How to swim a faster mile

Welcome from me as well. Tom has given you guidance as good as you will find anywhere. If you went to a coach at your local pool, I don't think you would receive suggestions as helpful as those Tom has given.

I will add a couple of suggestions
1) Focus on your 1500m time, rather than 1600m. Why? Because this is what's called the 'metric' mile and is an officially recognized racing distance, which will give you far more opportunities to compare your results--and progress--with others. The 100m difference is negligible so your 'true mile' pace will likely be the same in the end. In 25y pools, the metric mile is 1650y. Either 1500m or 1650y are conducted at all important meets, including Masters.
2) Swim the full distance far less frequently, perhaps once a month at most. You will progress far more steadily if the bulk of your training is broken into distances no greater than 1/3 to 1/4--but generally much less--of your goal distance.
You can break up 1500m into 3 x 500, or 3 x 400 + 1 x 300.

Even better would be
5 x 300
2 rounds of (5 x 150)

Best of all would be
3 rounds of 5 x 100, with an easy (Perfect!) 50 between rounds. Click here for an example of me doing this exact set yesterday.

And finally, Tom's first suggestion was the one that will make the biggest and most immediate difference. Reduce energy waste so your current 100m pace becomes so easy, you can then hold it for 200, 300, 500 and eventually 1500m.

For that I suggest our Self Coaching Toolkit
Terry Laughlin
Head Coach & Chief Executive Optimist

May your laps be as happy as mine.

My TI Story
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Old 06-08-2015
Tom Pamperin Tom Pamperin is offline
Senior Member
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 712
Tom Pamperin

I'll just add that I've been using TI materials for self-coaching for about 10 years off and on--great stuff. Most of the ideas in my first reply were taken from Terry and other coaches, who really know what they're doing.

Not just the technique stuff, but the whole concept of how to organize your training for specific purposes, so you know exactly what goal you are trying to achieve with every lap. I love feeling like I know what I'm doing!

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Old 02-15-2016
Posts: n/a

Good Try keep on practicing, practice can make things perfect
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Old 05-05-2016
Posts: n/a

This thread is helped me a lot. Thank you so much for sharing
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