US Masters Swimming defines long-distance swimming as any pool event of more than 1,650 yards, or an event of one hour or more. Because of the distance and duration demands of a long-distance swim event, adequate training is imperative to avoid injury, burnout, and fatigue. Chrissie Novak, a swim coach based in Austin, Texas, says variety in swim training is key to improving form, technique, endurance, and speed. She also recommends training with a coached group, if possible, for proper guidance and balance.
A ladder workout builds aerobic capacity and endurance by incrementally increasing distances. Determine how far you want to swim during a specific workout, then break it into smaller intervals that build and descend throughout the set. For instance, if you want to cover 800 total yards, the ladder would look like this: 50 yards, 100 yards, 150 yards, 200 yards, 150 yards, 100 yards, 50 yards. Determine your pace, and rest adequately in between each interval. For long-distance swimmers, the total distance covered may be much longer.
In a pyramid workout, your interval distances decrease, but you increase how many sets you swim at those intervals as you aim to build speed endurance, swimming faster as the total distance declines. For example, you would start with one 400-yard interval, then rest. The next set would be two 300-yard sets, followed by three 300-yard sets. Swim coach Terry Laughlin notes that distance swimmers succeed by maintaining a moderately fast pace for a long time — an accomplishment built on the kind of economy training of the pyramid workout.
Long Swim Intervals
In addition to building economy and speed, it is also important to build endurance and mental strength with long interval swimming. In doing so, you learn internal pacing, improve breath control, and increase muscular endurance. An example of a long interval workout is four sets of 2,000 yards, in which you follow the first 2,000 with long rest. The goal is to maintain pace through every set, or even make the last set faster than the first — preparing mentally for a strong finish on race day.
Long Distance Straight Swim
One of your most important sessions will be swimming 6,000, 7,000, or 8,000 yards straight. Whether you're training in a pool or in open water, this endurance test focuses on even pacing, mental tenacity, and race planning. The goal is to swim consistently with minimal nutrition breaks. This workout puts the swimmer in race-like conditions, and the proper mindset.