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by Terry Heggy

January 31, 2017

How tracking your workouts in a fitness log makes you a better swimmer

The Write Stuff

You don’t have to be a data junkie to be a great swimmer, but there are some compelling reasons to keep a fitness log. You can make notes on paper, create a spreadsheet, or use an online tool such as the free USMS multisport FLOG.

Advantages of recording your exercise accomplishments include:

  • The ability to review what worked and what didn’t throughout your season
  • The ability to correlate workout frequency and intensity with performance (or injury)
  • Motivation to pay attention to what you’re doing with your training, and an associated incentive to do more.

Successful swimming is part science and part art. Your written workout record provides data for the science component (analysis of workouts vs. results). You and your coach can use this data to fine-tune your training to get the best out of your season.

The art component is more about your personal connection with your training plan. Your FLOG can help you develop a beautiful relationship with your swim practices.

The Zen of Distance

The USMS Go the Distance program offers some sweet merchandise incentives as encouragement to swim more and record the yardage in your FLOG. It’s fun to push yourself to higher yardage and to compare your progress to other swimmers across the country. Other advantages of adding yardage include:

  • Feel for the water: Because swimming is a technical sport that consists of movements that aren’t found in other human activities, frequent water workouts are critical to maintain the kinesthetic senses required for maximum swimming efficiency.
  • Training specificity: Swimming muscle motions aren’t used much on dry land, so you need to work out in the water to stay in swimming shape. With more time in the water, you can also spend more time training for your specific events (sprinting, strokes, distance, etc.)
  • Additional competition options: Adding yardage might make you fit enough to consider adding some fun challenges you’ve skipped in the past. You might try the 1650 for the first time, a 1-hour swim challenge, or perhaps even an open water marathon swim.
  • More time with your swim team pals: The additional calories you burn might even justify an extra appetizer or tasty beverage when you go out with your buddies, too!

Monitor Your Mileage

As satisfying as it is to ramp up your mileage, don’t get trapped in the blind pursuit of yardage for the sake of yardage. When your coach tells you to avoid “junk yardage,” she means that you should make sure every stroke counts, and that each set has a purpose. Even when your training is strictly aerobic (slow and steady), you can work to improve your breathing, distance per stroke, streamlining, or pacing. And don’t forget to include race-pace work to ensure you’ll have speed when you need it.

Add distance gradually, and remember that rest and recovery are essential elements of training. If you’re hammering hard or pounding out the distance, you need to give your joints and muscles the opportunity to repair themselves. Some of this recovery can be done while you swim—by switching strokes, kicking, or doing drills. Stretching helps, too, as do dry-land exercises to strengthen the muscles that support the shoulders, etc.

Record peripheral details in your FLOG, too. Track how you felt, sets that made you proud, and when you first noticed that you were catching a cold. By analyzing the workouts that led up to a significant change in your health or performance, you can plan to do more of what works, and avoid those things that lead to breakdowns or negative attitudes.

The process of recording your workout also reminds you to pat yourself on the back for the hard work you’ve done, and starts you looking forward to your next swim practice. You might even think of FLOG as an acronym for “Fanatical Love Of swimminG!”


  • Technique and Training


  • GTD