My club, the Hyack Swim Club, schedules ten workouts a week for Master swimmers using three pools. Unfortunately the program is split between four groups and scheduling conflicts/group demarcations means the most anyone can swim is three times a week. Obviously three hours a week isn’t enough to compete on so I schedule practices on my own at the Hyacks' main pool where I can train both long course and short course. For my first year I was quite content to just put in some meters for general conditioning purposes and so would dash off a workout on paper in a few minutes before heading off to the pool. Now that I’m looking for better times I figure a little more attention should be paid to the composition of my workouts and perforce have had to teach myself some up to date theory and training practices. I finally settled on Bill Sweetenham’s book ‘Championship Swim Training’ as my training guide and so far (this being my first month) I think I’ve made an excellent choice. I admit my first encounter with this book left me wondering if perhaps it's aimed at too high a caliber of swimmer for me to use, but since he does make regular references to masters I figure where it gets too much I can just slow it down and stretch it out. In his preface (yes, I’m the sort of guy who reads prefaces) he writes about the amount of work which is necessary for best results in swimming:
Swimming 8 Hours a WeekSon-of-a-bitch! That pretty well takes care of us masters. Thankfully I don’t need to be competitive as I would be absolutely delighted to just settle for holding one or two Masters world records, but still his suggested minimum hours for ‘competitive swimming’ floored me when I first read this. Remember this is only the time spent actually in the pool. Start adding in travel, dry land training, physiotherapy, and all the rest and you’re looking at effectively a full-time job equivalent. Seems he’s referring to world-class when he writes about being ‘competitive’. Regardless his attitude indicates how important and necessary training is to swimming your best. I’d love to know what he thinks of Dara Torres’ success, coming as it does from only ten hours in the pool a week.
This level offers participation, fun, involvement, and significant health benefits, but it is not competition swimming and never produces a competitive result.
Swimming 10 to 12 Hours a Week
This amount of swimming is too much training to be fun but not enough to produce a competitive result. The swimmers in this middle ground never feel good, and in time they become frustrated. We call this the competitive swimming twilight zone.
Swimming 18 to 24 Hours a Week
This level can be termed competitive swimming. Athletes in this program are committed and gain satisfaction by attaining improved competitive results.
Update: New information from a New York Times article dated November 18, 2007 about Torres' training program reveals she is only training ninety minutes a workout, making for an average of just 7½ hours training a week.