Endurance swimming… What happened?!

This weeks article was inspired by an e-mail one of my fellow coaches and past distance swimmer, present master swimmer sent me after I sent him the draft programme for our district meet and after he saw the standard.

Below is our wee rant and I would like to share it with you. I would love to hear your comments regarding the subject of ‘what has gone wrong with distance swimming.’


Hi SwimCoachStu,

You may not be interested and sorry for the rant but I am devastated at how poor the standard is (Distance swimming in the district). Are these really the best distance age group swimmers in the North of Scotland? Alison Hamilton went sub 9mins for 800f/c when she was 15 in 1982. Even I was doing a sub 17.30 1500m by 15. What has happened to endurance swimming?


Hi SwimCoachWright,

I am grateful for your ‘rant’ or rather point of fact. I share the same opinion and frustration.

They say coaches have gone away from swimmers swimming long-high volume distance, to more high performance endurance or ‘long-sprinting’ if you like.

From my running background and experiences, to be able to succeed in distance sport you need to do the time or the event ‘on your feet’, or indeed in the water. I think there are too many 30×50 set coaches and not enough straight 1500 coaches, if you get my drift. I think there is a wrong balance between general endurance and outweighed by specific endurance – although I don’t doubt its necessity. Although, on the flip-side I do believe excessive volume is wrong – overtraining occurs.

So to round my point off, although I have said I think there is too much of this long-sprinting/ high performance endurance business that avoids actually swimming the distance you will eventually race. I do think that the notion that endurance swimmers just need loads of distance is incorrect; they should be treated as thoroughbreds of the pool and that the coaches need to strike the correct balance of intensity and endurance with a high degree of technical precision and at the moment it looks to me as though there too much of former and not enough of the latter.

Now look what you have done! Apologies for continuing the rant.


Your point is well made. 75% of my sessions were split into distance swimmers and sprinters with completely different sessions. Each distance session involved pacing – 15 x 100m on your 1500 PB 100 split plus 20secs rest with a real emphasis on knowing how fast you were going. This would be coupled with lots of drills and distance per stroke and sculling and then a set high quality swim of 400m to 1500m. Every Friday morning was a time trial with a partner giving you every split. None of this is outdated or difficult. There are many bluefin swimmers who would be a great candidates for this sort of stuff. One I noticed as an example does 44 strokes per 50m with an 8 beat leg kick which is appalling – it should be 38 max and better at 36.

What do you think? Let us hear your opinions, ideas for improvements, arguments and comments.

Yours in swimming



2 thoughts on “Endurance swimming… What happened?!

  1. Not sure this meet does reflect the true picture. It is not a championships and many choose not to attend. It has been on the calendar for may e five years and until 2011 was a development meet. Many clubs still see it as that for all it is no longer graded.

    9 minutes is an impressive time for a 15 year old. According to the all time British rankings , which admittedly are not all time, rather 12 years or so, only 10 Scottish girls age 15 have gone under 9 minutes and only one this year. Three of those girls are from the North District, one of them last year and one the year before.

    In conclusion, I don’t think things are all that bad. Could be better maybe, but nothing has happened to distance swimming per se.

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