Somewhat like the answer to the question,’how long is a piece of string?’ The amount of training you need to do is based on what your goal is, how long your event is, how well you currently swim, how fit you currently are. Lets take each of these one at a time.
What your goal is.
If you are aiming to achieve a specific time or finish in a certain place you need to break down that goal into specifics. If you want to come in the top 25% what time has that been over the last few years of results….swim nerds eat your heart out. If you want to achieve a certain time you need to calculate what that means in terms of pace. For example: One hour around the Jetty? Swimming straight with no current or unfavourable weather conditions, thats a pace of 1:35 per 100m. What is your current CSS. How different is it to 1:35 pace? When you know that you know what you are aiming for. If you have a goal make it specific, then you can break down ways to achieve that. If you are a long way off that goal you have a lot of work to do do achieve it and will need to train more often.
How long your event is.
If you are aiming to swim to Rottnest, you can read more here. If you are wanting to swim 10K or less it is advisable, and should be achievable that you swim your race distance, or close to that in a single training session prior to the event. If you aren’t up to that yet you need to build your training distance each week. Its advisable to not increase distance by more than 10% a week and to have a recovery week ever 3 or 4 weeks to consolidate the build up in distance and let your body recover.
For example: You currently swim 2k a session 3 times a week. Total weekly distance = 6km.Lets call this week 1. Week 2 6.6km total, week 3 7.26km, Week 4 (recovery week) 6km, week 5 8km etc. This cycle of gradually increasing distance and allowing a week to recover, every 3 or 4 weeks will help you keep in good condition – don’t go too hard too soon.
How well you currently swim.
If you already have great technique and have a CSS sub 1.45/100m you won’t need to do as much work on your stroke as those that are slower. However its still a good idea to spend one session a week focussing on your technique both for stroke and also open water skills…do you really swim straight? Swimming off course can add 10, 20, 30% to your distance. Thats an extra 360m,720m or 1.08km. WOW! Lets work on swimming in a straight line no matter how good you are!
If you are slower its worth working on your stroke and you will likely benefit in fitness from a good technique session too. Please don’t make changes to your stroke less than 4 weeks out from your event. You really need to cement any technique changes down before you build your distance.
How fit you currently are.
Is your goal within your current ability? Maintaining fitness is then all you need to do and finding a balance amongst everything you already do is most important. If you are also running, riding, paddling then you would get away with just 2 swim sessions a week if the distance isn’t too far. If you want to improve on your current ability, to have more fun at your event, be fitter, stronger, smarter, your goal is to swim 3 or more times a week. Again based on how the rest of your week fits together.
I am a big believer in a rest day, or two or three and a week where you just back off on things before upping the anti again. I realise I have just given a politician answer and been very vague, however you need to think about all of those things that I have mentioned. Where are you now? Where do you want to get to? Lets make a plan and get there together. After all, its always more fun with others.
As a guide
1 x’s per week – good for variety, will take a long time for genuine improvement
2 x’s per week – Enables you to keep more feel for the water and will bring about slow steady changes
3 x’s per week – A minimum if you are training for an event and want to do more than finish, unless finishing that distance is already a big step from now
4 + times – now you are behaving like a person who is nuts for swimming – tell me your goal!