10 Benefits of Endless Pools Training for Channel Swimmers
1. Your time.
It takes under 10 minutes from getting out of bed to swimming. No driving back and forth from the pool or whatever.
2. The temperature.
You can set the temperature where you like. My personal favourite is 17 degrees C [about 63 F].
You can do cold water acclimatisation swims right at home. I often let the pool plunge down to 13 or 14 degrees [55-57 F], swim for an hour. When the pool is up at 19 degrees [66 F] it feels like a hot bath.
4. Less Faff.
Much less swim faff [British slang for 'wasting time'] than going out – I can be sitting watching TV, and think, "Screw it, I’m off for a swim."
5. Stoke focus.
Tuning your stroke in the Endless Pool is great. I try out new things all the time. The machine will give you instant feedback.
For example, if you set it to a steady pace and you give your new swim moves a go, bad ideas show up straight away. You get pushed backwards as your not catching as much water. Good swim moves are obvious as you end up needing to turn the current up.
6. Great swim experience.
The swim experience is great but really down to personal preference. To be clear, I love it.
7. Session planning.
Getting inventive mixing up training sessions. When you swim at a regular pool, it’s intuitive: write down a session plan and just go swim it. In an Endless Pool, it’s different: there are no lengths to count, no tumble turns and no good way to accurately measure the distance swam. [Our Fit@Home app can provide your swim the distance.]
All this aside, interval sessions in an Endless Pool can be very rewarding. I write up on the whiteboard the session and plough through it. Instead of saying 4 x 100 on 1:45 or whatever, you based the sets on stroke count. I know I do 75 strokes per 100m. So then the same 4 x 100 set translates to 4 x 75 strokes with the Endless Pool set to pace 1:30, taking 15 seconds rest between intervals.
I have a swim clock with a huge second hand on it like at the pool, so it’s easy to get the timing right. You can also just use your watch for the same. Actually, it is interesting to look at the distribution of results. When you swim well it comes in at 1 minute 30 or up a few seconds quicker. When the interval did not go so well you look at the watch after and you know because it read 1:33 or something. Nine times out of 10 its bang on 1 minute 30 seconds.
Spookily the number of strokes does not seem to change with intensity, I still do on average 75 strokes for 100 metres when plodding and when going full pelt. It is fair to say training in an Endless Pool really helps you get in tune with your swim cadence.
8. Weekly planning.
Varied training sessions over the week. I break up the sessions to keep the training balanced and interesting.
Typically I do 3 or 4 sessions a week. During the weekdays I will do a hard interval session taking up to 60 minutes, normally with my heart rate monitor so I can gauge and compare how hard I worked in the session. I then do a technique-focused session doing drills and maybe a bit of video recording for post-swim analysis.
At the weekend I do one long session over several hours trying to do more than the previous week. For example, yesterday I hit 5 hours, which beat my previous record of 4:15. I average between 5 and 10 hours a week; clearly, during the summer this will ramp up.
Testing feed plans for longer swims in an Endless Pool is great. I set all my warm feeds upon the decking beside the pool and stick to the same feed pattern I will use for the main event. Feed small amounts every 30 mins. CNP [brand of energy supplements] with hot orange squash. Hot 5-in-1 fruity energy drink from Nutrisport with electrolytes. Tinned mangoes. Flask of green tea with honey. Soft flapjack chopped into mouth size bits. Brill.
In the garage pool, I have complete control the lighting. This might seem like a trivial point, but this is a huge plus.
Sometimes you want full bright super white. Sometimes no lights at all, almost pitch black like a night swim.
I have also installed a bright, multicoloured LED light system. This shines directly into the water and totally changes the whole experience. I can set any colour to fit the mood of the swim. Dark red is really relaxing and almost makes you believe the water is warm. On the other end of the scale, the strobing multicolour setting is trippy as hell and awesome for fast intervals.