Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid of Distance Swimming

Distance swimming can be intimidating to swimmers who primarily swim the sprint or stroke events. They are always the last to leave in practice, spend almost no time on the wall, and spend all their time in practice with their own thoughts. While not everyone can or should train distance all the time, here are some benefits of incorporating a distance practice into your routine. 


If you normally swim strokes for most of your main sets, your muscles may be broken down or overused. Since each stroke uses different muscle groups, a distance-freestyle set can help diversify muscle use and development. Even incorporating one distance workout may help give your primary stroke muscles time to recover and prevent overuse. 

Stroke Efficiency and Technique 

For sprint freestylers, distance swimming can leave room to make stroke changes. Since distance swimming has a comparatively slower stroke rate, there is ample time to train stroke adjustments. Distance training also favors efficient strokes due to sustaining energy for a long period of time. The more efficient the stroke, the more energy is contributed toward a faster pace. Training distance can help not only sprint freestylers, but also stroke swimmers to find greater efficiency. 

Race Plan

Distance swimming works the aerobic realm compared to anaerobic threshold for sprinting. The aerobic threshold is defined by an activity that uses large muscle groups sustained continuously. The anaerobic threshold for sprinting is defined by intense, short physical activity independent of using oxygen as an energy source. There is inconclusive research that shows aerobic endurance impacting shorter sprint races. However, in longer sprint races like the 200 freestyle, aerobic endurance can help with finishing a race through stroke efficiency and maintaining pace. 

Mental Challenge

Distance swimming is mentally challenging in a different way from shorter races. The challenge of completing a long-distance set can be a welcome change and less pressure than training for “on” events. A change of pace can help focus on other aspects of swimming, preventing burnout from training for the same events for sustained periods of time. Kieran Smith even trained in open water swimming to help his versatility because it is something that he enjoys. Perhaps you, too, might even grow to love and appreciate distance training. 

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of NSSS nor its staff.

By Ruth Beadle

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