Is Endurance Nation Correct When It Comes To Swimming?

Endurance Nation posted an article on their site on November 19th titled: Why Swimming Year-Round Can Be Hazardous To Your A Race.  It is an enlightening article and one that all triathletes regardless of their level should read.  For those of us that are not swimmers we dread going to the pool, and especially this time of the year in the United States when the weather is not conducive to the idea of getting into a pool.  I know for me that swimming was a lost cause the moment that Ironman Texas was over.  I had zero desire to hit the water three to four days per week.  As a matter of fact it got to the point where I was barely swimming at all.  I would force myself to the pool and get in 1500 yards before calling it a day.  I had no motivation, not that there was much for running and biking either.

Five months post Ironman Texas and now I can see myself getting into the pool on a more regular basis and that is what got me to thinking about this article.  Most athletes consider the winter months to be their off-season and are just not motivated to get going.  You have the holidays and all the cake and cookies, huge meals and alcohol thwarting the best laid plans.  The temperatures below your age and your bed sounds so much better.  For me, the training season began three weeks ago which would be right around Thanksgiving.  That means that I am training on a regular schedule throughout the holidays making that the focus and not the huge slice of pecan pie.

Yesterday I posted about a new swim training cycle that I am starting.  I am going to the pool Monday and Tuesday morning as well as Friday evening.  My plan is to swim for 30-45 minutes and get out.  Monday will be purely recovery will very little intensity.  Tuesday’s intensity will pick up and then on Friday it will be back to recovery as I prepare for the huge weekend of run volume.  Why 30-45 minutes?  It goes back to the Endurance Nation article.  In the article you read about the amount of time it takes to swim, not the actual swimming, but the time to drive, change, swim, change and drive.  Those minutes add up and I do not want to feel beholden to 2 hours of training for a simple swim.

Right now my mind can process 30-45 minutes of swimming because on the easy days of running I am going 45 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes.  My easy bike spins are an hour and my strength/core sessions are 30 minutes at most.  This is breaking it down into manageable pieces for me.  Even with that setup though I can see the time-wasting away as I leave the house at 4:45am to get to the Y by 4:55am.  The Y opens at 5:00am on the dot and I am in the water no later than 5:05am.  After 40 minutes of swimming, changing and driving back home it is 6:15am.  That is 1 hour and 30 minutes for a 40 minute swim.  Luckily for me, these are not Ironman focused swim sessions and purely recovery so they are needed but the amount of time wasted can add up.

When Ironman Chattanooga specific training does start-up I will have to juggle my schedule to fit in the 1 hour and 1 hour 30 minute swim sessions.  I think those longer sessions will be few and far between as I have to be home in time to get Chico off to school.  This means that in the 1 hour I have the intensity will be through the roof and I will have to be prepared for that.  How do I prepare for that?  By doing what I am doing now and going to the pool 3 times per week.  When IMTN training starts I do not want to be behind the swim eight ball.  These three days per week for the foreseeable future will help me acclimate to the water again and allow me to not fight the water but instead be friends with it.

So while I agree with the Endurance Nation article in that swimming year round can be hazardous to your A race I also believe that in certain circumstances it is necessary.  I took time off from swimming but now I am back at it and the Ironman specific training has not started.  I am getting a head start on that training cycle while also allowing my body to recover from the pounding of hours and hours and miles and miles of running.

Is Endurance Nation Correct Regarding Swimming In Your Opinion?


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  1. Steph says:

    Hmmm. I think that the article is valid in a lot of ways but I do think the title is misleading. I definitely agree that even with hard swim training, the gains you will get in an actual race are relatively small, especially for a fast swimmer such as myself.
    I don’t agree that 12 weeks is enough to reach peak swimming shape, as he suggests, though. A normal swim season would last 18-20 weeks minimum, and the gains we would make usually added up to at least 7-8 seconds per 100 at tapered race day. Is it enough for Ironman? Probably. I don’t think it’s necessarily hazardous to swim extra…just not as beneficial as maybe a focused running season.

    • Jason Bahamundi says:

      I think the time lost with swimming is the main point of their article, at least by what I am reading. Instead of spending an hour driving and changing for that 1 hour swim during the off-season, spend it riding your bike or running. You will gain more from that then the 1 hour swim on that day.

      That being said I need all the help I can get in swimming so getting to the pool and working on form is just as important for me as working on fitness.

  2. I think training hard year round is harmful to your motivation. Mentally we all need a small break.

    • Jason Bahamundi says:

      I agree with that. Having completed 3 Ironman races in 12 months my training year round+ was intense and hard. Once that final race was finished I could feel my body collapse and wave the white flag. Now that the off-season is over the fire is back and I am ready to chase down the 50 mile dream as well as an improved time at IMTN.

  3. Jeff Irvin says:

    The article makes valid points. And I have said many times, to you and all my other IM buddies, that I hate the time lost driving to and from the gym to swim. In my case, with the traffic around here, for me to do a 3500m workout it is about a 3hr time commitment. That is around 60mi I could log on the bike in the same time. As age groupers with full time jobs and family and friends we need to decide how to spend out limited free time. If this means my IM swim is going to be 10minutes slower then so be it. BUT the title really doesn’t jive with what the article is saying. We all know it would be extremely beneficial to swim year round and pick up volume and intensity in the build and peak phases of training. Specificity is king and doing more swimming will make you better, that really isnt even debatable.

    • Jason Bahamundi says:

      This is exactly why I am ‘restricting’ myself to 3 swims per week and they are occurring at 5am on Mon/Tue and 6:30pm on Friday. I am not getting on my bike at that time so it works for me but otherwise I am very restricted in the time I can use for swimming.

  4. DRog says:

    it just depends on the individual. maybe for some it is hazardous to their A race. For me its way more of a benefit, and nothing helps my swim fitness like swim volume through consistent continuous swimming. get in there!

    • Jason Bahamundi says:

      Brother – you will be proud. I have swam twice this week and plan on going back tomorrow for another set. Slowly easing my way back into the water and soon enough I am sure I will be putting in 10k weeks.

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