• Mark Durnford

How to pace your swim

Updated: Mar 30, 2020

How to pace yourself swim - So picture this – All the training and preparation has been completed, you’re feeling great about your swimming and about to start the race with one remaining thought………… How should I pace this swim? An experienced and tactical approach will be key to the success of your event, but often isn’t as straight forward as it may initially seem.

Depending on the event in question, there can be a number of influencing factors to deal with and as I’m often coaching triathletes, open water swimming is normally the most challenging scenario for getting the swim pacing correct. The last situation you want is to finish feeling as though you had a lot more to give, or equally be unable to finish due to going out far too quick.

Consider these points for your open water swimming events and how they will affect your pacing approach:

1. Water temperature. Sometimes when it is cold, it’s possible to react by setting out too fast in an attempt to warm up.

2. Surrounding swimmers – both amount of them along with their swim speed.

3. Route to follow within the course.

4. Visibility in the water.

5. Amount of sighting required and its toll on your energy levels.

6. Distance of the swim itself.

7. Technique and swimming fitness level.

8. If you’re wearing a wetsuit and its affect on technique / energy output.

9. Training / pacing preparation for the event.

10. Motivation / drive / frame of mind / energy levels on the day.

11. Awareness of distance covered and remaining amount when performing the swim.

It’s worth recognising these factors won’t necessarily have a negative affect and they can equally work in your favour.

Clearly, having more open water swimming experience will help dramatically, but nevertheless there’s still much that can be done to prepare in advance:

1. Acclimatise to water temperature by including open water swims into your training regime where possible.

2. Discover as much as you can about the event route and surroundings. Pre-visit if possible and visualise your approach and strategy on the day of the event. Highlight landmarks at certain distances so you can appraise your pace at those stages.

3. Encorporate sighting into your training sessions to become accustomed to the technique and additional energy requirement.

4. Ultimately, work on your pacing within your training sessions. Often best conducted in a pool environment whereby your distances can be easily calculated. As the swimmer, you will also be aware of how much distance is remaining in any given swim. If at all possible, have a swim coach record your split times at equal stages throughout each swim performed. You can then monitor progress and instantly feedback to the swimmer whilst reflecting on how you felt at that particular stage, highlighting opportunities for pace improvement.

5. Follow a SMART and structured training regime that will prepare you for specific distances within your up and coming events. Again it is worth seeking advice from an established swimming coach to individualise a specific plan but to get started there are many examples of these Structured Swimming Sessions to be found on the web.

By regularly doing this, you will begin to increase your pacing awareness and become a much more established and experienced swimmer. Hopefully not being intimidated by any swim distance posed, but instead understanding that a change of pace and approach is often all that is required.

For more guidance on how to perfect your Front Crawl technique and more download the series of swimming books by Mark Durnford.