Strategies for Swimming a Half Mile

A consistent pace helps reduce fatigue when swimming a half mile.
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Swimming a half mile, or 800 meters, can be challenging, especially if you swim mainly for relaxation or fitness. In competitive swimming, 800 meters is classified as a distance for racing. Whether you swim a half mile in a pool or in an area of open water, the strategies for achieving the distance are similar. Conserving your strength so you can complete a swim of a half mile is the goal.

Stroke Counting

Stroke counting is an effective strategy for maintaining your pace while swimming long distances. A half mile is 32 laps in a 25-meter pool. Take a mental count of how many strokes you take in the first lap. Try to keep the same pace throughout the half mile to ensure an even swim that won't leave you too tired to finish. Even better, lengthen your strokes -- reach as far as you can during each stroke -- to reduce your stroke count. The longer and fewer strokes you take, the more efficient your swim will be, and you'll expend less energy.


Kicking harder and faster toward the end of a long-distance swim can help give you a strong, quick finish. Throughout the distance, however, conserving energy is a goal. The crossover kick can help save energy while relaxing your lower body. Complete one kick cycle as usual -- each leg kicks down in turn and then back up. After the initial kick cycle, complete another kick cycle but with your ankles crossed. This kick is called a crossover kick, and it is a common freestyle kick used by distance swimmers.


Sprinters often breathe minimally during short races to save time, but this technique is not an option for half milers. Breathe frequently during swims of this length to ensure that your body gets a steady supply of oxygen. Breathing more often early in the race is a strategy that can give you an energy burst later in the race. This advantage occurs because oxygen functions on a time delay of sorts, explains E.W. Maglischo, author of "Swimming Fastest." The oxygen you take in early in your swim is what gives your muscles a boost later on. Waiting until the midpoint of the distance or beyond to breathe frequently can increase fatigue because the oxygen will not be available in time. Distance swimmers also tend to breathe bilaterally -- on both sides -- to instill a smoother stroke with less risk of muscle tension on the dominant side of the body. Instead of breathing on the same side every time, alternate breaths from the left and right with each stroke cycle.


Cognitive strategies called associative and dissociative thinking can help some swimmers reach the last lap or the winners podium more easily. Associative thinking involves maintaining an "accurate awareness" of your body as you swim, according to "The Sports Journal." During each stroke, focus on your movement, your breathing and whether you feel discomfort or pain. For some swimmers, associative thinking helps them achieve their goal because they keep track of every move. For others, dissociation is more useful. Dissociative thinking is purposely not thinking about the athletic task at hand. Forcing yourself to focus on other thoughts can be a distraction that contributes to less perceived fatigue and pain. Try applying both techniques during your swims to decide which is most effective for you.

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