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We will be doing some more fast-paced, USRPT 50s this week where the target is to swim at a faster pace than you can sustain for the whole set without missing some out.  Remember, leave 5s intervals between swimmers and take your times for every 50.  As soon as your time drops by 1s or more miss the next one out and take the extra recovery.

We will be continuing with a mix of fast and speed endurance sets for the remainder of September to help you keep your race speed going until the end of the season.  From October we will drop back to more technique and steady-paced aerobic swimming as the first part of winter training.

If you like numbers, are enjoyed the Swim Smooth Olympic analysis video I posted last week, then you may also be interested in the follow-up analysis Paul Newsome has published on stroke rates and stroke lengths from the Olympics, which you can find here.  The trade-off between stroke length and stroke rate is particularly important and is one of the reasons we measure both of these when we do the 400m time trials throughout the winter.  This is a theme I will return to again when we get into the Winter training.

See you Saturday!

Rob

Yes, it’s that time of year already for the fun and frolics of the CTC Saturday Christmas Swim.  This year’s theme is called “Clarklemas Heroes” as it’s a fusion of our favourite elements from previous Christmas Swims and the Will Clarke hard/easy 50s main set we’ve enjoying swimming before.  And we need some heroes to do the session, too!  We’re keeping with tradition and making it the longest distance session of the year but with the added seasonal spice of some faster paced 50s to add to the fun.  Also, both the 7am and 8am sessions will be the same so to fit it all in the timings for sessions on Saturday will be adjusted as follows:

  • The 7am session will start at 7am promptly at 7am and finish at 8:05am
  • The 8am session will start at 8:05am promptly and finish at 9:10am

To make it successful there are four things, like last year, that I would like you to do:

  1. Arrive promptly and don’t faff or add any extra rest into the set, otherwise it won’t fit in the time available.  If you are really struggling and can’t make every turnaround just miss out a 50 and join in on the next one.
  2. Pace yourself.  It is the longest session we have done this year, and everyone that comes regularly should be fit enough to complete it, but plan on swimming the second half faster than the first half so go out at a steady pace.
  3. Technique, technique, technique.  When you are finding it tough, or even when you are not, please do try and focus on swimming with good technique and doing as perfect a stroke as you can.  Try and stay relaxed when you think about your technique.  You should swim as efficiently as possible, keeping those elbows high at the catch, breathing out all the time underwater and maintaining a good body position.  It will require some mental effort to do this as well as physical effort.
  4. Smile and enjoy it!

See you Saturday,

Rob

Now it is December we will be doing some work on the leg kick to complete the work on body position and pull that we’ve been doing the last two months.  I’ve saved legs till last as they are less important for good swimming in triathlon than the pull and body position that we have been focusing most of our time on so far.  However, legs contribute about 10% to your overall propulsion, which is worth having, and having a poor leg kick will actually increase drag and mean you have to work much harder than necessary.  It is also really important for stroke tempo and reducing over-gliding.

We will be doing some kick this week as well as a usual longer aerobic main set on full stroke.  In these sets I’d like you to think about the following:

  • When kicking try and keep your legs straight, with toes pointed, and kick from the hips. Your knees will naturally flex a bit when you do this but you should resist letting this happen as it almost always results in excessive bending of the knee which just increases drag and slows you down.
  • A great way to check your legs is when kicking on your back without a float, but always remember:
    • Never, ever, kick on your back with your arms by your sides – always keep your arms above your head in a streamlined position
    • Keep your knees under the water at all time – the only part of your legs to break the surface should be your feet
  • When doing full stroke your legs set the tempo for your arms. Hence, a great way to avoid over-reaching on your pull is to focus on keeping a steady tempo with your legs which will make it impossible to pause on your arms stroke.  A pause in your arm stroke is almost always accompanied by a pause in your leg kick.

We will also be doing some sprints at the end of the session this week and this is another great opportunity to work on your legs.  Again, the legs set the tempo for your stroke so focusing on a really fast, hard leg kick will naturally increase your stroke rate without you feeling the need to rip your arms through the water and start slipping water.

See you Saturday!

Rob

Most people have started the race season now so the emphasis of the Saturday Swimming sessions will now shift to maintaining your swim speed rather than the build-up in speed and intensity we have been doing over the last few months.  There won’t be much specific technique work – the race season is not a good time to start making big changes in your technique – and we will come back to that in the Autumn.  However, as always, I would like everyone to think about technique in every session to make sure you are getting the most from your swimming especially as you swim the faster sets.  Think only about little tweaks to hold into your technique, though, rather than contemplating any big changes.

With most of us aiming for our top performances in races at different times of the season it is important to make sure you are your own coach and adjust the quantity or effort of each session according to your race plan for the season.  I have written about being your own coach before and you can read some of my thoughts on this here, with points 1 and 3 being the most relevant at the moment.

One comment I would like to make is about tapering for races.  Tapering down training before a big race will usually help you get your best performance but I would suggest being wary of trying to taper for too many races in a season.  You will normally only have one or two main races in the season and it is for these races you really need to taper fully to get your best performance.  Other races, if being used as part of your build-up for the main races, should not typically require much tapering and you can pretty much train through them.  So I would suggest being beware of trap of taking it easy before too many races in the season when actually you may get more of a benefit by keeping the training level high and using a race as a high-intensity training session.  But as you are all good at being your own coach and I am sure not many of you will fall into that trap!

See you Saturday!

Rob

PS  I will be here this week but away on holiday on 31st May so will leave some sessions in the box for you to do then.  I am trying to arrange a stand-in coach but that may not be possible as the Juniors are also short of coaches next week.  So, if you are first to arrive at the pool please put the sessions out along with the lane ropes and floats.

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

During this week’s session I would like everyone to focus on swimming efficiently.  To help with this we will all be doing a set of 50s golf stroke.  Golf stroke, as most of you will remember, is when you count your strokes for 50 and add it to the time it takes you to swim each 50.  So if you take 45 strokes per 50 and 45 seconds per 50 then your golf stroke is 90.  The thing I really like about golf stroke is that your golf stroke is a pretty good measure of your stroke efficiency and you can use it to test out how changes to your stroke affect your efficiency.  The first 50 we will do in the session will be for you to swim a normal steady-pace 50 to remind you of your usual “golf stroke”.  Then we will do some different drills for you to test the effect of the different drills on your golf stroke.

One of the drills we will be doing is quick catch.  I know many of you find it hard to “get it” with this one but it is one of my favourites as I think it can really help you focus on a strong catch with your hand.  This helps you reduce the likelihood of slipping water by dropping your elbows and reduces the tendency to over-reach for the catch and cause snaking with your hips.  If you do this correctly you should feel a surge of power as you lock onto the water at the start of the stroke.  If you don’t feel this, try slowing down the catch and feel for it more with a slight sculling motion.  It is more important to get a strong catch than a quick catch – but many people achieve this by thinking about getting a “quick” catch.  For those of you that need a reminder of this drill please watch again the Dave Scott video I have sent round before:

The main set this week will be quite a long set of 100s with a fairly short rest.  I will also aim to disrupt your rhythm a bit by throwing in a few IMs for fun.  When doing this set, and any long main set we do, please do try and aim to relax as much as possible by swimming efficiently.  Often it can feel stressful when you are trying to “make the turn-round” and you then tense up, swim less efficiently and swim slower over the set.  Instead, try to keep as relaxed as possible and focus on keeping your stroke relaxed and efficient.  Don’t worry about not having much rest – if you are swimming efficiently and relaxed you won’t need it!

See you all Saturday,

Rob

We are going to be doing some “slow arm recovery” drills during Saturday’s session when we focus on distance-per-stroke, so check out the following video again if you have forgotten what it is:

The other topic I wanted to mention is that I think it is important that everyone thinks about being their own swimming coach to complement the coaching that you get from others and myself.  By that I mean 3 main things:

1. Adjust sessions to your needs, where appropriate

2. Do some research about what you can do to improve your own stroke

3. Ask for feedback about your swimming

You may need to adjust the swimming sessions you do for many different reasons.  Before a big race you may need to take it easy and reduce how hard you swim a session or similarly if you have recently been injured and are getting back into it.  Also, if the lane gets crowded you may need to adjust either the gaps between swimmers or the rest intervals to make sure you can all still swim properly for each repetition in the set.  I do also make mistakes sometimes in setting the turnarounds so if you and your lane are doing an aerobic pace set and getting either less than 5s rest or more than 15s then adjust the turnaround accordingly, but trying to stick to the pattern of the set to keep the lane together.

I think you can learn a lot about good swimming by watching good swimmers – especially at events like the Olympics where there is good underwater cameras.  For example, see:

(thanks to Tim for this!).  Most of us could improve our strokes a lot by picking out some of the key things in top swimmers strokes that make them fast – typically the strong underwater stroke and excellent streamlining and body position.

Finally, do ask me, other coaches or fellow swimmers for feedback.  One of the hardest things is knowing what we look like sometimes and asking someone to give you some feedback can be really valuable.  You should be able to build up a picture of what is most important for you to work on in your swimming so if you are trying to improve ask for feedback to see if you think it is working.

This Saturday I want to focus on a good body position in all the sets we do – from the warm up all the way to the warm down. The most common fault I see in the pool on Saturday mornings in a loss of streamlining with the head being held too high in the water. A high head pushes your hips down in the water reducing streamlining, slowing you down and making you work harder for the same speed. For a better head position see the following video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYt8x_7uL48 (with thanks to John Woollatt for pointing me at this video)

This video also has the bonus of showing the high elbow catch really well that I keep banging on about week-after-week!

To help work on a good body position I would like everyone to work on good streamlining off the wall. Why should triathletes bother about streamlining off the wall when they are training for open water races with no walls to push off? I believe good streamlining off the wall is really important because if you get that correct, with your head in the right position at the start of each length, you will find it much easier to maintain good body position for more of each and every length. And as an added benefit you will swim 3m less per 100m as you go an extra 1m off every turn for no extra effort!

Watch the following video and fast forward to 1:38:

Almost everyone that swims on a Saturday morning pushes off the wall like the guy shown from 1:38 in the video. We will be practising swimming more like the guy at the start of the video so now watch that part of the video and come along on Saturday prepared to practise your streamlining from the very first length of the warm up!

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