Archives for the month of: March, 2014

This week we will be doing a main set of 100s where I will be asking you to swim at 5s faster than your 400m race pace and also 5s slower than your 400m race pace.  The recoveries will be short – but with some extra rests thrown in to help you get your breath back.  The aim of a long set like this is to help you work on swimming fast and relaxed.  You will need to relax as much as possible on the slower 100s to make sure you are fresh enough to swim the fast ones at the right pace.

So how do we swim fast and relaxed?  I don’t think there are hard and fast rules for this as some swimmers can swim fast and relaxed with a long, slow stroke whereas others can swim all day at a good pace with a much higher stroke rate.  The key is finding what works for you and some good things to think about are:

  • Am I using my legs too much?  Your legs consume lots of oxygen, because of the larger muscles, so you rarely see good distance swimmers using their legs much except at the start in a triathlon or the end of a pool race.  You do need to make sure, though, that they are near the surface of the water and part of a streamlined body position so don’t neglect them too much!
  • Am I as streamlined as I can be?  This is especially true when pushing off from each turn – with your head looking back and down – and setting yourself up in a streamlined position to start each length.
  • Am I making full use of each underwater pull?  I think most of us can benefit from focusing most on the back end of the underwater pull and making sure you push all the way through until your thumb brushes past your thigh.

For some inspiration on swimming fast and relaxed try looking at the videos below of Sun Yang and Janet Evans, the current mens 1500m and womens masters 40-44 age group 800m world record holders.  They both have very different strokes and techniques but you can see how fast and relaxed they are swimming while still averaging about 58s/100m for Sun Yang and 1:07/100m for Janet Evans age 39!

See you Saturday!

Rob

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Well done to everyone who did the time trials last week.  We will now be going back to regular pre-season training in the Saturday sessions for the next 8 weeks or so before we do some more time trials in May.  The main aim of the sessions will be to get ready for racing quickly at the start of the triathlon season in May and doing another set of time trials then will be a good measure of progress over this block of sessions.

Hopefully you learnt from the time trials three main things – how good your pace judgement currently is, how fast you are relative to previous time trials and what your current 400m race pace is.  These are good to know when training as the pace to swim some of my sets will be defined in terms of your 400m race pace.  Of course, I know everyone checks their pace all the time in my sessions but if you do occasionally forget I will try and remind you by sometimes asking what pace per 100 you’ve been swimming…

Whether you were pleased or disappointed with your time trial time last week I think it is important to think about why you swam the time you did so you can focus on what is most likely to help you improve next time.  If you are only doing 1 swimming session a week at present then improving your swimming fitness is likely to be a good way to improve.  However, if you are already doing 3 sessions or more per week already then the biggest improvement may well come by improving your technique.  You need to have a good technique when swimming slowly, as a good base to build on, but also to be able to maintain a good technique when swimming at race pace and when you are tired.

There are lots of things you can try to see what helps.  Asking for feedback from coaches or fellow swimmers is one and you can measure the effect of different changes during sets by making an adjustment and seeing the effect on your 100m pace.  One thing I often see going wrong when people try and swim fast is that they rush the underwater catch, by trying too hard to rip their hands through the water, and so drop their elbows and slip water.  Instead, some people find it more useful to think about keeping the catch slow and just squeezing the water harder during the pull and making sure you keep squeezing all the way to the end of each pull.  What works is likely to be different for all of us but I do think it is good to experiment with different things to see what works for you.

See you Saturday!

Rob

This week we will be doing a 400m time trial after an extended warm-up and if we have time possibly some shorter time trials over 200m and 100m as well.  In preparation for this I’d like you to think about a couple of things – how to warm-up effectively and also how to get the most out of the time trial.

In the warm-up for the time trial the most important thing I’d like everyone to think about is making sure you do some race pace swimming alongside the usual steadier-paced swims.  The distances we will be doing at race pace in the warm-up will be short so you don’t need to worry about tiring yourself out and I think it is really valuable to get used to swimming at race speed before you try and race.  Your technique often changes when you try and swim fast so focus on swimming fast and efficiently in the warm-up.

The biggest benefit for time trials, in my view, is the opportunity to get some good objective feedback about your swimming pace and fitness at the moment.  I think we can learn the most from a time trial, like most other things we do, with a simple “plan, do, review” approach.  Plan your time trial in terms of how hard you want to swim each of the four quarters.  This doesn’t have to be more than a “go out hard and hang on” or “swim the second half faster” type plan if you don’t want it to be!  Then “Do” the time trial as best you can – using any nerves and your competitors efforts to get the best out your swim.  And finally “review” your performance, both with the objective feedback from the clock (especially your race splits which I will send out) as well as thinking about what you did well and what could have done better.  Did you stick to the plan?  Did you chase other competitors too much and suffer later in the swim?  Did you swim too much within yourself and not give yourself chance to swim a good time by swimming the first half too slowly?

I hope you all will do a personal best in the time trial on Saturday but I know that is very unlikely.  I, for one, am less swimming fit than I have been for previous time trials so know that a good time is unlikely.  However, I do think it is realistic to expect everyone to learn something useful from the time trial – be it confirmation that they are in good swimming form at the moment or just learning a bit more about how to pace a 400m race at an even pace to get the best possible time.

See you Saturday!

Rob

This week we will increase the intensity a bit more in preparation for time trials next week.  Hence, the main set this week will consist of just a few repetitions of 300m with long recoveries.  You should try and push each 300m hard and be hanging on by the time you hit the last 25m.  Like last week, if you feel the lactic acid building up before the last length then you are going too hard, too soon.  Similarly, if you are not starting to tie up by the last length you are going too slowly.  However, doing longer repetitions at this intensity is good for improving your VO2 max which should benefit you when we get into full race pace swimming.

As we do more faster paced swims I think it is really important to do “active recovery” after swimming hard.  This is a really good way of keeping the blood flowing and getting rid of any lactic acid build-up before the next set.  Last week I got you all to swim a 100 IM as an active recovery after the main set, which I think some of you thought was me just being cruel!  This week there will also be some more active recovery swims and I think it is important to start these straight after a hard swim.  You can swim as slowly as you like but getting started quickly is really important and will also help relieve some of the congestion at the end of each lane with the large numbers we are currently getting each week.

See you Saturday!

Rob

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