Getting Back Into The Pool: How To Get Into Condition

There are numerous reasons for taking the plunge and starting a Swimming Training regime. When getting back into the pool, you will have two major hurdles to overcome before you can complete your first ‘K’ without stopping.

Addressing the ‘mental’ hurdle of making yourself start a new regime and sticking-to-it is going to be totally up to you. It is only once you get back into the water you’ll be very aware of the next hurdle, and that is Lactic Acid. If you have ever jumped into the pool after a long absence from the water or never swum laps before, you will very quickly learn all about your Lactic Acid threshold.

Fear not, as I will guide you through building up your Lactate tolerance by use of Conditioning Training.

Conditioning Training or continuous exercise training is a long steady exercise regime of 20 minutes or more, without rest periods. Unlike training to run long distance; where you can alternate between walking, jogging and running; approaching a long distance swim is different.

There are two approaches to swimming 1K without stopping. The first approach is to get into the pool and force yourself to finish the 20 laps (Olympic size pool), non-stop and bear the pain. I find this “no pain, no gain” approach to be very painful, and from my own experience pain does not equate to an enjoyable experience. I have found that if one enjoys an experience and can set small achievable goals, they are more likely to repeat the experience.

My approach to completing a 1k swim nonstop is going to be incremental. As with most Aerobic training exercises the intensity stays constant and does not increase to a higher level (the energy output would cause the body to fatigue quickly). Instead, we’re aiming to steadily increase our overall distance and build up our resistance to Lactic Acid (that burning sensation you feel when you swim and you are not in Condition). Lactic Acid fatigues and inhibits performance. Each training session will increase the swimmer’s Lactic Acid threshold. As the number of laps swum increases the swimmer can train to better tolerate lactate and increase their lactate threshold, the end result is an ongoing improvement in performance.

When you start this training regime you’ll be aiming for 20 laps, at least three times a week. Experienced swimmers can take as little as two weeks to get into Condition, after which they can swim any number of laps without having to stop. As a beginner, we’d need to be more realistic and set a goal of one to three months. Each stage of the training schedule is at your own pace. Remember, if you don’t enjoy it you’ll be less likely to stay with it. Also, goals should be achievable, pliable and accountable.

Equipment: You’ll need the usual pool attire such as a swimming cap to keep your hair out of your face and creating drag, goggles to keep your eyes from going red and so you can see other swimmers, a water bottle to ensure you stay hydrated, a kickboard and a pair of fins (flippers). I prefer to start off wearing fins because they give you the correct buoyance, they’ll help you stay in the water longer and, if you are like me and have only a two beat kick, they’ll get you using your legs more because it is your arms that will be doing most of the work, so they will help with fatigue.

Tip: Long fins are easier to swim in than short fins. If you want to train yourself out of relying on your fins, be prepared to cut them an inch shorter each week so you become less reliant on them.

Stage One: Swim one lap of the pool, rest 30 seconds at the end. Swim second lap of the pool, rest 30 seconds at the end. Repeat until you have completed 6 laps, resting 30 seconds after each lap. The 30 second rest is required to assist muscle and respiratory recovery. The second part of stage one includes 6 laps of nonstop kick using a kickboard; mix it up to include breaststroke, backstroke and freestyle kick. Kick will get you using different muscles, assist with buoyance and give your arms a rest. The third part of stage one is 2 laps of freestyle stopping 30 seconds at each end, 2 laps of backstroke stopping 30 seconds at each end, finished with 2 laps of breaststroke stopping 30 seconds at each end.

Tip: Remove fins when doing breaststroke. If you can breaststroke wearing a pair of fins you aren’t doing it correctly.

Stage Two: When you are ready, move onto doing the same routine as outlined in stage one, except this time you’re swimming two laps at a time (100mtr) then having your 30 second break. That is, three sets of 2 laps with a 30 second break between each set, making a total of 6 laps, followed by 8 laps of kick, finishing with three sets of 2 laps freestyle, backstroke and breaststroke.

Stage Three: This stage will include pushing through the pain barrier a little. Commit to finishing all 6 laps nonstop. Rest one minute, followed by 8 laps kick, finishing with 6 laps nonstop (except to remove those fins) freestyle, backstroke and breaststroke.