General Guidelines

The following training advice is aimed at novice swimmers of any age and to Masters/lap swimmers who already swim regularly for fitness.

Get your stroke right first

20kms is a long way with a bad stroke – problems can arise that you never knew about before (can also occur during pre-race training). Even if you are doing a duo or team, your level of training can be enough to cause shoulder problems. Ask an experienced swimmer or coach to look at your stroke before you increase your workload. In addition, beware of the use of swim paddles until you are strong and fit.

When do I start?

Solos and duos: If you already swim, continue your normal workload until September/October. If you’re unfit, start doing some light work in June/July/August.

Teams: Can probably wait until October… depending on background fitness.

How much should I do?

Don’t over train early. You’re making a major change to your normal lifestyle, and this is hard to maintain for too long. Make sure you build slowly… By late December, aim to reach:

Solos – 25km per week
Duos – 20km per week
Teams – 15km per week

Duos need to do nearly as much training as solos. Many people have found a duo swim to be just as taxing as a solo swim, and, in addition, if your partner gets sick or tired, you may need to swim more than half the race yourself.

How many times per week and how far per session?

All training needs to revolve somewhat around personal preference, to fit in with lifestyle, and existing base fitness. As a guide:

Until November: 3-4 sessions, average 4km per session
November – February: 5-6 sessions, average 4-5km per session

Until November: 3-4 sessions, average 3km per session
November – February: 5 sessions, average 3.5-4.5km per session

Until November: 3 sessions, average 2-3km per session
November – February: 3-4 sessions, average 3-4km per session

What type of training do I need to do?

The following is a general guide of how to structure a training session. Sample programmes are included below.

Solos – for a typical 4.5km session
Warm Up – 800-1000m
Main Endurance Set – 2000-2500m
Kick/Drills – 0-500m
Other Strokes – 300m
Sprints – 400m
Cool Down – 300-500m

Duos – for a typical 4.0km session
Warm Up – 500-800m
Main Endurance Set – 1600-2200m
Kick/Drills – 0-400m
Other Strokes – 300m
Sprints – 400m
Cool Down – 300-500m

Teams – for a typical 3.0-3.5km session
Warm Up – 400-500m
Main Endurance Set – 1500-2000m
Kick/Drills – 0-300m
Other Strokes – 300m
Sprints – 400m
Cool Down – 200-300m

Other training tips

Main Endurance Set – does not necessarily mean long distances. This can be a set of 100s, e.g. 15 x 100m, with short rests between each.

Kick – is great for open water swimming and is often neglected. Even if you only do a ‘2-beat’ (stabilising) kick, you have a better chance of maintaining a good body position in choppy water if you have strengthened your legs.

Other Strokes – It is important to do small amounts of other strokes (breaststroke, backstroke, and even butterfly) to rest your freestyle muscles/joints. Butterfly is also good to ‘stress’ the body in short bursts – try doing a freestyle set where the last 25m of each 100m is butterfly. This will replicate body stress through coping with rough water etc. in the open water.

Sprints – Don’t neglect your sprinting totally – it helps keep you vibrant and helps avoid that sluggish feeling. It is important to develop all types of body fitness and energy systems in order to cope with long, open water races.

Hypoxic training – Good for learning to swim when getting tired. It trains your breathing system to cope with less oxygen than it is used to. Instead of breathing every 2 or 3 strokes, do some training swims where you only breathe every 4-5 strokes, or every 6-7 strokes.

Train with someone! It is much easier to swim in a group, either a structured swim squad or a group of friends. There are many such squads and groups operating at all pools around Perth. You’re sure to find one with other swimmers at your level with similar goals.

Ocean swimming – Although you can do most of your training in the pool, it is important to practice your swimming in the varying conditions of the open water. There are many open water swimming races throughout the summer – at least one each weekend. Enter some of these, or at the very least, find a friend to have an ocean swim with at least once a week throughout January and February.

Tapering – In the second last week before the race, drop your training down by about 20%, both in the number of sessions and distance per session. In the last week before the race, only swim when and how you truly feel like it. Your total kilometres for the last week needs only be about half the amount you have been averaging previously. Don’t swim on the Friday before the race, and possibly not even the Thursday if you don’t feel like it. You will NOT lose any fitness – you will actually sharpen up your body and make sure you feel fresh and eager on race day.

Log Book – Keep a ‘diary’ of your swimming training, including your total kilometres. This is a great way to keep track of your progress and something you can refer back to.