Masters Training: Too Slow, Too Fast

By Wayne Goldsmith

BRISBANE, Qld, Australia, April 15. ONE of the most important decisions to make about training is how fast/how hard the training needs to be. The intensity level of the session is the key to achieving the goal of the session.

A common mistake made by many Masters swimmers is to do their SLOW WORK TOO FAST and FAST WORK TOO SLOW.

The reason behind this error often lies in the lifestyle of the Masters swimmer. Masters swimmers usually have limited time for training owing to work, study, family and other commitments so they like to come to the pool, train for an hour and leave feeling fatigued and believing they have done a real workout, i.e. they want to feel tired.

For most Masters swimmers, this means they are doing the majority of their training at or close to what might be termed threshhold, as it is the fastest possible speed they can maintain for the duration of the training time available.

While this may seem to be a good training strategy and it may appear that the swimmer is working hard, in reality it is an inappropriate intensity level for most Masters swimmers as it does not really develop the five key elements of competitive swimming or T.E.S.S.T:

· TECHNIQUE – Good technique, long strokes.

· ENDURANCE – The ability to sustain high speed throughout the race and be “fatigue resistant”.

· SKILLS – Breathing, timing, feel – swimming fundamentals.

· STARTS – Fast, strong, powerful, explosive and with great streamlining.

· TURNS – Aggressive, fast, powerful and with great streamlining.

Swimming at the appropriate speeds and intensity levels allows the swimmer the opportunity to develop these elements. Always swimming at threshold tends to reinforce poor skills and inefficient technique as the body is constantly under pressure and fatigue and only serves to compromise racing success.

Successful competitive swimming is the ability to maintain good technique and excellent skills at high speed when fatigued and when experiencing race pressures. Achieving this requires a balanced program which focuses on the development of all the elements of competitive swimming, not just the ability to swim at threshold.

Sorting out this training zone stuff:

There have been a lot of things written about training zones and training intensity levels but the majority are too complicated for the reality of everyday Masters swimming.

ZONE PACE % SPEED Feels Like??
1 – RECOVERY SLOW, EASY, RELAXED 60 – 65% Maximum Easy. Comfortable.
2 – ENDURANCE STEADY, RELAXED AND RHYTMIC 65 – 75% Maximum Comfortable to moderate effort.
3 – SPEED DEVELOPMENT MAXIMUM SPEED WITH MINIMUM EFFORT 100% Maximum Speed but over very short distances Fast but with control.

Training sets with these training zones include:

1 – RECOVERY 3 x 400 Easy at 65% speed with 30 seconds rest between each 400
2 – ENDURANCE 10 x 300 Freestyle at 75% moderate pace with 45 seconds rest between each 300
3 – SPEED DEVELOPMENT 10 x 20 meters at 100% maximum speed
4 – RACE PACE SPECIFIC 4 x (4 x 50 on 1:30) holding target 200 meter race pace. Two minutes rest between each set of 4.


1. Masters swimmers should take time to develop a balanced training program using the T.E.S.S.T. principles – TECHNIQUE – ENDURANCE – SKILLS – STARTS – TURNS.

2. The intensity of training is the key to the whole thing – masters swimmers should have a strong understanding of training intensity and how it applies to their training program – remember: understanding PACE makes a great RACE!

3. Keep training zones simple – the four basic zones outlined here will help you achieve your competition goals.

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Author: Archive Team


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