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generally the more you play basketball, the better you'll be at basketball
the more you run, the better you'll be at running
the more you swim, the better you'll be at swimming
the more you pedal, the stronger/better you'll be at pedaling.

so naturally to be great at cycling, it takes lots of cycling...not substituting for other things.

the exception is that if you're feeling worn out of it mentally, need a break from year-round biking, or just feeling like the training on a bike is becoming a chore instead of something you look forward to....then yea, swimming would be a good option because its aerobic and you'll use your legs.
 

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It's good cross training to do during your base. As long as you are getting a workout, that's what matters. You should still put as much time on your bike as possible though. Ned Overend cross country skied during the winters and he seemed to do alright come race time.
 

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Swimming is a great off season cross training activity. Easy impact and just about 0 recovery time needed. You could swim 2x a day easy. Swimming will help you on the bike from a cardio standpoint. Buy some fins and and you'll get a decent workout with your legs.

Make sure to have a workout. Swimming lap after lap staring at a black line will kill you. Swim 400 as a warm up, do some drills, then start swimming 50's, 100's up to 500's. Be sure to get a good cool down as well. Swimming workouts makes it a totally different experience.
 

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Ned is a genetic freak but yes, he skis, swims, lifts weights, does core work... Do whatever you want in the winter. It'll make you a better athlete and a more interesting person.
 

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I was a competitive swimmer in jr and sr high school and started swimming again @ 31yrs old after a nasty mtb crash. During that winter I swam 2 to 3 days a week and rode the trainer 3 days. When spring rolled around I had lost about 20lbs and was amazed by my endurance. I did a 25 mile sport race and at no time did feel any upper body fatigue.
Altough I don't race xc anymore(race occasional DH), I still swim during the winter or when the weather is bad.
I'm fortunate that I had the skills and knowledge to get the most out my time in the water.
If you do not have any competitive experience you should try to hook up with a masters team or a triathlete just to get some pointers and an idea of how to structure workouts. If done right, you can get alot benefits during a hour long workout. At the least, use a watch to time your self.
 

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Winter 2008 I started swimming for triathlons. At first I thought I lost a lung. I've never felt my heart rate get so high. After a couple of months I was swimming two miles. Then race season started. My mountain bike race performance was unbelievable. I won TT series and third in points series. I believe the single largest factor was swimming.

Didn't do so hot in the tris. Although last year I swam a 10 minute 1/2 mile during sprint tri's. I do great on the bike as well. My running......much room for improvement. :(
 
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