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I cycle a lot, I run a bit, and I swim once per week. I have been training once per week for 5 months now. When I started, I could barely swim a length of freestyle. Now I can swim a lap with ease.

However, I am struggling to swim more than a single lap without stopping at one end. Now I know what you're all thinking: form and efficiency. I don't think this is the primary reason for my poor swimming performance, as I have focused on efficient form from day 1, and have had others verify that my freestyle technique is smooth.

My question is, is swimming fitness that much different to cycling and running fitness? Is this normal, and why is this the case?

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What have you been doing to better your swimming fitness? I found the conventional methods I applied to running did not apply with swimming - IE: I would do 400m intervals on the track that might follow a pattern of 65 seconds of running with 90 seconds of rest/light jogging. 90 seconds between swimming intervals is an eternity. –  ngramsky Jun 10 at 5:34
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Also have you considered your breathing along with your technique? –  BackInShapeBuddy Jun 10 at 6:41
    
Yes, this is a completely different kind of movement. Especially running and swimming can be considered as complementary types of exercise. –  tsykora Jun 10 at 8:56
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More than the movement or muscles involved, swimming dictates your breathing rhythm which can greatly affect your endurance if you're not doing it right. –  zeFrenchy Jun 10 at 10:28
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Who are the "others" that say your technique is good? What was your swimming background before starting? Training once a week for 5 months means you've swum about 20 times. It takes much, much longer than that to get proficient at swimming, as swimming is very heavily technique dominated. My bet is on an inefficient kick and poor breathing technique. –  JohnP Jun 10 at 16:39

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Swimming fitness is a little different because your arms are the predominant power source and your breathing is controlled instead of natural. If you are having trouble with a length, however, the dominant issue is likely to be efficiency. Form drag, friction, rotational drag, etc. will nearly stop you outright if you are not balanced and smooth. According to wikipedia, resistance is exponentially related to velocity and is also related to surface area, so good technique is essential. I suggest instruction.

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If your technique is good, then breathing is nearly as natural as it is for running or other sports. –  JohnP Jun 10 at 16:40

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