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by Matt Donovan

October 6, 2020

Adding easy swims to your workouts is crucial to swimming faster, swimming longer, and swimming happier

In your age-group swimming days, your coach might’ve done a version of macro cycle training that focused on volume in one week, speed the next, and recovery the next, over and over again until your season was over.

There are many reasons why top coaches don’t do this anymore. For one, if you’re sick or on vacation during volume week, you go almost two months without volume training.

The modern approach has coaches putting all elements of training into practice each day. Each element could be discussed at length, but this article will focus solely on the all-important recovery, which sometimes gets overlooked by coaches and swimmers who are focused on swimming more and swimming faster.

Here’s how to add recovery to your workouts.

Listen to your body—Your body will always be your best coach. If your knee is hurting, don’t kick today. If your back is bothering you, don’t kick using a kickboard. Listen to your body today, so you’re not out of the pool tomorrow.

Stop looking at the clock for approval—If you used to do 100s on 1:30 and now touch the wall on the first or second one at 1:28 with a high heart rate, then you know that’s not the correct interval for you. You should have at least five seconds rest with a controllable heart rate on nearly every set. If that’s not the case, change the interval or change the distance.

Get rid of garbage yardage—This is the most important thing to follow. I’m not saying you can’t do volume. What I’m saying is that you should do smart and productive volume. Add recovery swims inside your sets—10 x 100s pace can easily be done with odds being recovery, evens at pace or four at pace and one recovery, twice through.

Drills, drills, and more drills—Your easy swims can help enforce good habits. Because you aren’t focused on swimming fast, you can focus on your breathing pattern, head position, whatever. Recovery swimming should be mindful swimming. The more efficient you are in the water at practice, the more effective you’ll be on race day.

Cool-down is your warm-up for the following day—Never. Ever. Skip. Cool-down. This is the best in-water way to prepare your body for the next day’s workout. Use that cool-down to flush all the toxins out of your body, lower your heart rate, bring your core temperature back down, and clear your mind.

Take care of the big things—After each training session, be sure to hydrate, eat properly, stretch, and get a good night’s sleep. These items have just as much to do with your long-term success as any flip turn or lap you swim.

Give yourself more recovery as you age—The older you get, the more recovery you need. So instead of a stretch-out 50 between two hard sets, you might need to do a stretch-out 50 in between two hard 200s.

Recovery Swimming as Holistic Approach

You might use the pool as your de facto therapist. Sometimes I just jump in the pool and go without a plan other than a need to simply tune out for a while. There’s nothing wrong with that. Allow yourself this time and don’t think of it as a wasted swim. If it clears your head and makes you want to train harder the next time, then mission accomplished! Remember, your mind needs recovery too.


  • Technique and Training


  • Recovery