Experience training primarily or exclusively in a current/resistance pool?

A couple years back, we sprung for one of the swim in place/current pools. Due to locale and family/time constraints its pretty much all I've swam in the past couple years except for a couple summer trips to the beach, play time at the swimclub with my son and waterparks.

I did some searching and mainly found articles talking about open water swimmers using such pools just as a supplement, to fine tune technique but not as their primary training pool. So I wonder if anybody here has experience training for long open water swims in such a pool? If so, results? experiences? recommendations/tips?

My main concern has to do with bad habits and/or unpreparedness.
A couple of issues off the top of my head:

  1. Setting a pace. One big obvious difference is that you don't set/control the pace yourself, you set the pool and it controls the pace. This is nice for just banging out a session, but I can imagine how not having experience setting your pace physically would be a weakness in a long swim event.

Just fooling around swimming at the swim club this summer, I noticed that without thinking that I fell back to using straight arm stroke instinctively and had to consciously force myself into using to using the elbow catch stroke which I usually swim with during training in my pool. I suspected it was just a matter of feeling slower in a pool with no current.

  1. Bad habits, streamlining. When swimming sessions against the current there is no immediate reward for being more streamlined or using less energy for the distance covered. If I do that, I can end up swimming past the current or getting out of the way of the current, so its actually a negative. I have noticed on occasion using bad technique just to get myself back into the flow. Obviously, that's no good.

  2. I really have no idea how "far" I'm swimming in order to know how prepared I'll be. I know how long I swam and how fast the pool says the current is, but that's not any real solid info.

I'll probably have more to say later... TIA

Comments

  • JenAJenA Charter Member

    I've never used a swim-in-place pool, but I would imagine that there would be a different kinaesthetic feeling. You would feel the water continually pushing at you, I'd imagine, and you'd be trying to "grab on" to moving water. I'd imagine it's a different experience than swimming open water where the water would be more "still". (Not actually still, but more still.)

    I'd guess it would be a good simulator for swimming against a ~1.5 knot tide, though!

    @IronMike might have something helpful to add regarding his experience swimming tethered.

  • IronMikeIronMike BostonCharter Member

    As @JenA mentioned, I've swum tethered A LOT. Too much in fact. For two years in Kyrgyzstan I swam tethered for all but about 10,000 meters of swims in a lap pool.

    To some of your points:
    As far as determining how far you've swum, who cares. I decided early on that I'd concentrate on "time horizontal" based on how long I thought my targeted race/swim would take me. For my successful Issyk Kul swim, I figured 5-6 hours, so I made sure that I had at least one week about a month out where I swam more than that. I barely made that, but still I did swim a 6+ hour week a month before the swim. I also made sure I had a few "long" swims in the bank too (2-3 hours at a time). This ended up working for me. My first Issyk Kul attempt failed, but not because I didn't have enough time horizontal. What I was lacking then was cold water time.
    Where the tethered swimming didn't help my swimming was in races. I did a 5K the middle summer of my 2 years in Kyrgyzstan. I had plenty of time horizontal for a 5K. But my speed had suffered. I still had the greatest 5K of my life in Croatia, at least based on how I felt, but it was also my slowest.
    I did manage to not get bored swimming tethered by coming up with "workouts." I'd warm up for 20 minutes, then do intervals by speeding up my stroke rate for 100 strokes, then back to my normal (55-60) for 100, then 90/90, 80/80....10/10 then back up. I forget now how many iterations of that would fill a 20-min block. Then I'd cool down for 20.
    Or I'd put the tempo trainer under my cap and do a swim concentrating on stroke rate, bumping up the beeper by a few every 10 min or so.

    Not sure how or if any of this will help in your current pool. Can you turn the current off? Somehow strap yourself to one end and swim tethered?

    Interestingly, and as an aside, I am back now at the pool I used to train when I first heard of this wonderful sport in 2009. I trained in this pool for my first 5K, 10K and most of the training for Swim the Suck. This pool is only 50 feet 4 inches long. (300 laps needed for 10,000 yards...actually 10,067 yards!) But it is so nice to be able to swim w/o velcro around my ankles!

    Please join the Lake Issyk Kul Swimming Federation on FB!

  • KarenTKarenT Charter Member

    @specsman - I do almost all of my training in a Fastlane pool (Endless Pool's cheaper and more temporary model - basically a big vinyl bag of water on a metal frame with a propulsion unit at one end). For the last two years, I've trained in the FP throughout autumn, winter and spring, slipping in the occasional trip to the Canary Islands if I can to do a bit of sea swimming. From June-August, I spend as much weekend time as I can swimming in lakes, topped up with FP swimming during the week. I prepared for the 2015 8 Bridges Hudson River Swim entirely in the FP (apart from a couple of weeks in the Canaries), and trained through to June this summer in the FP before hitting the lakes to prepare for a long swim in August. I haven't trained in a public pool since we got the FP three years ago. I aim for 10 hours / week as the foundation for a long swim throughout the winter, building up to 15 hours / week (ideally, but not always in practice) by April.

    I don't think you need to know how far you're going - focus on time and pace. But bear in mind that the pace on the monitor (in my pool at least) isn't a good reflection of pace in open water, and I find I need to train at a much higher FP pace than the long swim pace I'm aiming for. As for the problem of the steadiness of the pool's pace - use this to your advantage. If you're finding that focusing on your stroke sends you flying into the propulsion unit, or forces you to slip out of the current, then up the pace and work on keeping that good form over time. You'll acquire a sense of cadence that you then take to the open water. I also do a lot of speed intervals, as well as threshold sets in 30 minute chunks (after which the motor automatically stops) to force myself work at a sustained harder pace than the steady plod that I tend to slip into when I'm not concentrating in open water. You can also slow it right down to do technique drills. The longest swim I've done in it is 4 hours, and my training is mostly structured around 2 hour workouts, mostly to accommodate my work schedule. You have to be ready to push yourself in the absence of swim buddies chasing your toes or cheering you on. But I don't get bored in it, and never listen to music while I'm swimming - I find it distracting and don't want to become dependent on it in order to swim. I use a pool clock to structure my workouts.

    You do need to be aware of how it might impact on your stroke. i find that the circulation of the water in the FP pulls my legs downwards a bit, especially if I stop paying attention so this is something I have to work on - making sure I keep a good body position in the water. I've found this pays dividends once I get outside.

    Ultimately, if you want to do a long swim in open water, then at some point, you have to do some training in open water, but I've found the FP to be a fantastic alternative to the swimming pool, and the perfect solution to problems of working around difficult pool schedules. It's a complete privilege that I'm very lucky to have - no-one's ever in my way in a lane, and I can get a good workout pretty much whenever I choose (although it's quite noisy, so I restrict it to sociable hours so I don't upset the neighbours).

    Training in an endless pool (or similar) is definitely not a barrier to effective training; quite the opposite, I think.

    Francoevmotortuga
  • IronMike said:
    As far as determining how far you've swum, who cares.

    Fair enough, just it would be nice to know for reference sake.

    Not sure how or if any of this will help in your current pool. Can you turn the current off? Somehow strap yourself to one end and swim tethered?

    I hadn't considered it, but there are spots where I could attach a tether, I might have to experiment with one just to play around with streamlining.

  • KarenT said:

    But bear in mind that the pace on the monitor (in my pool at least) isn't a good reflection of pace in open >water, and I find I need to train at a much higher FP pace than the long swim pace I'm aiming for.

    Yes, I figured it wasn't nearly the same. (no way i'm swimming that fast for that long).

    As for the problem of the steadiness of the pool's pace - use this to your advantage. If you're finding that >focusing on your stroke sends you flying into the propulsion unit, or forces you to slip out of the current, then >up the pace and work on keeping that good form over time.

    Good point.

    You'll acquire a sense of cadence that you then take to the open water.

    Ok, that's what I was worried wouldn't happen.

    You have to be ready to push yourself in the absence of swim buddies chasing your toes or cheering you on.

    No problem there, I've always been a compete against myself type person.

    But I don't get bored in it, and never listen to music while I'm swimming - I find it distracting and don't want to >become dependent on it in order to swim. I use a pool clock to structure my workouts.

    Me neither, I call it my meditation time.

    Ultimately, if you want to do a long swim in open water, then at some point, you have to do some training in >open water,

    Yeah, and I do prefer that, but it'll be awhile and maybe not much of a chance before my next big swim.

    but I've found the FP to be a fantastic alternative to the swimming pool, and the perfect solution to problems >of working around difficult pool schedules. It's a complete privilege that I'm very lucky to have - no-one's ever >in my way in a lane, and I can get a good workout pretty much whenever I choose (although it's quite noisy, >so I restrict it to sociable hours so I don't upset the neighbours).

    Good to know. I also feel like its a complete privilege. We debated getting ours, we were house hunting for a bigger house at the time and decided to buy the pool instead (as if we bought the house we'd never be able to afford the pool). We ended up getting great deal on a floor model swimspa and its been probably one of our best decisions as it gets used by at least one member of our family pretty much every day of the week.

    Thanks all!

    IronMike
  • Just for reference purposes, my baseline workout is currently 1hour/day for 5 days a week. 30 minute sets of a single stroke at a current pace of 3mph. Its a pace I can do without getting winded or tired in crawl or breaststroke. Usually I'll do one day a week of sprint intervals: 5x 30 second sprint/30second rest, 5min cool down, 1 hour and sometimes I'll just do 30 minute sets of dolphin kick.

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