How far should you swim?

I recommend a distance that will push your perceived (mental) endurance limits just a little. But not too far. Something you can do within the hour. Something between 500 and 2000 meters may be about right for many.

Some of you are training to achieve a longer distance you’ve never swam before, and in your mind right now you’ve regard some short distance as your limit. Start about where you think your limit is and in your next long swim go past this distance just a little. You can increase the distance gradually as your mind feels more confident from each swim.

Some of you are training for a distance you can already swim, but you’ve want to swim that distance in open-water (more challenging conditions), or at higher quality performance. (Some of you are preparing to take a qualifying swim test so you know you need to swim that distance at a certain speed). So, you may pick that test distance, then you can add variables that gradually increase the challenge on your systems over that full distance – you can set more complex Focal Point goals, set higher SPL goals, set higher Tempo goals, set variable Pace goals, etc.

Why Should You Do It?

Here are a few reasons why:

  • This is the easiest, safest, lowest pressure way to try longer distances. With solid TI skills in place you really may not have a distance limit any more (just add fuel), except for what remains in your mind.
  • You will become familiar with what happens to your body and after you swim past various ‘exhaustion points‘. Get to know what these changes feel like and learn how to respond to them so they no longer create negative experiences.
  • When you get tired, you need to swim even smarter and apply all you’ve been practicing with TI to keep going. It will push your brain to use your new skill much better than short distances (and abundant energy) will.
  • Such distance will no longer be ‘special’, it will just be normal. And you can feel proud that you are truly a distance-swimmer because this is what distance swimmers do!
  • You fall into a rhythm that you can only experience after 12 minutes of continuous swimming, and a deeper rhythm after 25 minutes, and an even rhythm after 45 minutes (times suggested by my own experience). You don’t know what you’re missing until you swim past those points and give your body and brain time to unify.
  • You get a substantial test of your increasing abilities, and a way to find out where your weak spots are when energy is no longer abundant. You can compare results – taking notes on your external objective performance and your internal subjective experience.

There are many more reasons to do this. You may even have some of your own that urge you to have a regular distance test swim like this. I would be glad to hear how you are using test swims and what your motivations are.