How to Build Swimming Endurance

Endurance helps you to do more, for longer. So, it makes sense that if you want to be a better swimmer, you need to build swimming endurance, aka, stamina. This applies to the beginner swimmer as much as the more experienced. 


Many swimmers out there can swim well and fast for short amounts of time, but fewer can swim well over a more extended period. They may not got at great speed, but they’re able to pace themselves and last far longer due to having swimming endurance. If you’re training for an event such as a triathlon, building your stamina is a vital part of your training programme. 

Triathlete swimming laps in wetsuit

Kristian Hogenhaug - BMC Pro Triathlon Team

All photos: James Mitchell Photography

What is Swimming Endurance?


It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or a professional swimmer, you need to build endurance to become a better swimmer in general. Whether you stick to swimming in a pool or head out into open water, endurance allows you to focus on proper technique and become a more technical swimmer. 


Not only will you be able to swim for longer, but swimming endurance/stamina means that you can swim faster over time too. Again, if you’re training for an event, you need to focus on building a swimming entrance as a central point. 


Many people wonder why you need endurance as a swimmer if you can stop and start at any point. But, whether you’re working towards an event or not, the ability to carry on means that you’re having a better workout and, in the end, you’re enjoying your sport far more. So, yes, you can work in short bursts and focus solely on speed, but if you want to achieve speed and swim for longer, endurance is critical. 


Of course, that also comes down to proper technique. When you swim incorrectly, you’re putting stress on muscles and perhaps involving muscle groups that shouldn’t be involved as much as they are being. The ZEN8 swim trainer can help in that regard, especially if you can’t get down to the water on any particular day. This bench tool helps you concentrate on technique and building core strength, focusing on improving propulsion in the water and proper positioning. 



Why Do People Become Tired When Swimming?


Aside from the fact that swimming is physical exercise and a good source of cardio, in particular, there are some other reasons why people may become tired when swimming. The first is a lack of stamina. Building swimming endurance will help to overcome that problem gradually. 


The temperature of the water you’re swimming in can also play a part. When you’re swimming in cold water, your body will naturally lose heat naturally quite quickly, which will lead to you feeling fatigued. You’re going to use more energy trying to stay at an optimum temperature, so it’s far better to focus upon water that isn’t quite so cold.


It may also be that you simply didn’t eat at the right time before taking to the water. The general rule of thumb is to eat a meal between two to four hours before you’re planning to swim, but you can reduce that to between an hour to two hours if it’s something light, such as a snack. 


How to Build Swimming Endurance 


Know that building swimming endurance will take a little time, but you’ll gradually see results. Continuing to practice using tools such as the ZEN8 swim trainer will allow you to get your technique right and build your muscles for when you are in the water. 


You should also make sure that you don’t rush your training pace but ensure that you remain consistent throughout. If you attempt to go too fast and too hard, you’re going to end up tired and possibly injured. If you have to sit out for a while because of an injury, you’re going to be back at square one when it comes to building stamina back up again. 


It’s far better to have the proper technique and go at a slow and consistent rate than to push it too fast and not have the proper technique to begin with. The correct technique allows you to save energy, so you get to swim for longer. 


Of course, you can slowly build up how long you swim for overtime, taking it in small increments as you feel like you’re becoming less fatigued at each step. Listen to your body and act accordingly - if you feel exhausted, stop and rest. If you feel like you can do a little more, give it a try. By listening to what your body is trying to tell you, you’ll cut down on the chances of an injury and slowly build up your endurance over time.

 

Triathlon Swim Training in pool

Patrik Nilsson - BMC Pro Triathlon Team

All photos: James Mitchell Photography

Be Strategic With Your Training 


It’s a good idea to sit down and look at your competitive swimming training programme and work out if you can swim further, with fewer repetitions. So, if you usually do eight sets of fifty, instead focus on doing four sets of a hundred. That means you’re swimming further but still doing the same amount of work. 


Stamina building isn’t about pushing yourself to your limits and doing more over a short period. It’s about adjusting your training programme so that you’re focusing upon distance instead of just swimming speed. Over time, you’ll find it easier to go further. You’re effectively cutting down on your breaks, which increases endurance far more effectively. 


Another option is to try adding some strength training alongside your swim training. By doing this, you’re strengthening core muscles and the other muscles involved in swimming. Building muscle mass is beneficial on many levels, but it also helps to increase energy levels. The more energy you have, the further you can swim without a break. That’s stamina building right there. 


When you’re not in the pool or out in open water, focus on some weight training. You can also use the ZEN8 to isolate specific muscle groups, especially the legs, arms, and core muscles. The back muscles should also be focused upon as these are used extensively during arm reaches and propulsion. 


The stronger your muscles, the more stress they’ll be able to handle without having to stop for a break. The same goes for your swimming fitness level.  


How Long Does it Take to Build Swim Endurance?


This is a common question. Of course, everyone wants to reach their goal quickly, but you need to give it time with building stamina. In this case, it’s a marathon and not a sprint. Remember, this is aerobic exercise, and you need to build up over time. 


Everyone is different, so there is no set amount of time to give here, but most people can expect to see a significant change in their stamina levels in around four months of stamina training. Of course, some people may see an improvement in a shorter amount of time, but probably no less than three months. 



Suppose you’re training for swimming events, perhaps even a triathlon. In that case, a set training programme may allow you to improve your swimming endurance in those three months, but this will also depend upon how much time you can spend in the pool and the strength training you do outside of it.

 

How Often Should I Swim as a Triathlete?

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