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by Lee Carlson

January 1, 2007

Are you a beginning swimmer, fitness swimmer or a competitive swimmer rounding in shape? If so, here are 10 good reasons to take the 30-Minute Fitness Challenge.

10.  Thirty minutes of constant swimming is good minimum aerobic workout level. The 30-Minute swim will make you fitter. It will also confirm your fitness.

9.   Because you have been thinking about doing this for some time.

8.  Your teammates have talked about doing it and now is the time.

7.   Because we like to challenge ourselves.   (Can I go farther than last year?).

6.  The 30-Minute Fitness Challenge will set the stage for an hour, 3000- or 6000-yard . or the 5K/10K postal National Championships.   Swimming for 30 minutes continuously will bolster your confidence to progress to the others. 

5.    Because you’ll gain motivation from having someone check your distance and time to document your accomplishment.

4.    Because your coach started with a 10-minute swim, then a 20-minute swim preparing you to take the 30-Minute Fitness Challenge.

3.    Because you’d get a thrill from seeing your name and completed distance on the USMS website with other 30-Minute Fitness Challenge swimmers from around the country.

2.    Because you’d like to help your team gain recognition as a leader in 30-Minute Fitness Challenge participation.

1.    Because the real reason is its there.
Just do it. Visit to get started.

Simply do it; For $5 you get a certificate and your name and distance on the fitness page.  All you need is under the fitness tab.

The 30-minute swim from a seasoned swimmers perspective

Jan Kavadas has done the 30- minute swim most years.  She also completes the swim several times during the year.  She enjoys the event and cites the advantages of not being limited to a particular time during the year to complete the swim.  The lifeguard has certified Jan’s swimming continuous for 30-minutes and Jan has done this during a lap swim with one other person in the lane.  Jan has kept track of her distance on some of her swims and has compared this to previous times as she says “ to keep track of progress or aging”.  She also likes the cool “T” shirts available to purchase for $15 as part of the event.   (Jan is a long time PNA Board Member and USA Swimming Referee as well as a mid-70s swimmer who enjoys distance events)

From a coaches’ perspective the same benefits accrue to the fitness swimmer as to the competitor, although the health benefits may be more important to that individual than the performance, but they are intertwined. The key for the fitness swimmer, however, may be that it provides a concrete goal toward which to work and thus motivation to do more or do it faster.

For fitness swimmers, the tendency to swim the same distances at the same speed often leads to early stasis. (the cessation of improvement that occurs whenever the body has adapted to a given stimulus and is not exposed to a more demanding one.)    Setting a distance goal for the 30-minute swim can initiate an energized training regimen, which I would recommend should follow something like this, assuming a 3day/week program:

Day 1-Over distance, swimming perhaps up to double the target distance; this can still be broken into intervals, but they are longer ones on shorter rest; pace will be slower than or approaching goal pace; an example here for someone trying to swim a 1500 in 30 minutes would be a main set of 5 x 500 on 15seconds rest, trying to complete each 500 in 11:00 or less

Day 2-Tempo swimming, work up to 80% of distance at desired pace or slightly faster, broken into shorter repeats; this might involve a main set of 12 x 100 yards  @ 2:15, descending in groups of 4 to 1:45 for the 30-minute miler.

Day 3-Speed work, building up to about 40% of race distance at significantly faster than desired pace; for the 30-minute miler, this might involve a set such as 12 x 50 yards @ 1:15 trying to hold 50 or under

Anyone who has the mechanics to traverse the pool can build up to a 30-minute swim, but I would encourage the inexperienced individual to spend a minimum of 6-8 weeks preparing to make it a more satisfying experience and to take advantage of the impetus it gives to do more. For the less-experienced, the 10- and 20-minute swims are well-placed building blocks that will feel less intimidating and more attainable.

For the trained swimmer, however, the 30-minute swim is long enough that it is probably a reasonably good reflection of the person's anaerobic threshold speed. We use the build-up swims for the reasons mentioned above including the fact that they provide a relative comparison (if a person can swim almost as fast in a 20-minutes swim as he did in a 10-minute swim a month earlier, he has evidence that he is fitter). 

Swimming the 30-minute swim as a race confers several advantages including the following:

1.  Great endurance test

2.  Pacing practice

3.  Motivation/focus for training to improve endurance.

As far as endurance training, following are some of the physiological benefits:

1.  Central physiological adaptations

a.  Increased stroke volume and cardiac output

b.  Increased blood volume and hematocrit (red-blood cell number)

c.  Increased diameter/elasticity of arterial vessels including the coronary arteries.

2.  Fiber –specific adaptations

a.  Increased capillarization around working muscle fibers

b.  Increased number and size of mitochondria (organelle in which aerobic respiration occurs)

c.  Increased concentration of enzymes of aerobic respiration.

3.   All of these changes raise the maximal oxygen uptake as well as the anaerobic threshold (% of       maximal oxygen uptake that can be sustained indefinitely), meaning that the swimmer will

a.  Be able to swim at the same speed for longer

b.  Be able to swim faster than before at the same perception of effort.

4.  It can also be argued that distance work of this sort will also contribute to the swimmer’s developing a more efficient stroke by either

a.  Reducing resistance

b.  Increasing propulsive efficiency

This fourth benefit, however, is biomechanical and requires that the swimmer not only do the work but think about what he or she is doing and try to reduce drag and hold water more effectively.

(Neil Romney is the Coach of the North Whidbey Masters and recipient of the PNA Coach of the Year Award in 2005).