One of the continual challenges for us as coaches is getting our swimmers ready for the rigors of a 200 race. This race is viewed by most world class swimmers as a "long" sprint in that it rarely takes longer than two minutes. It combines the elements of speed found in the 50 and 100 distances with a touch of endurance required as well, perhaps not the same measure as needed for a 400 or 500 but definitely something more than the 100.
If you look at the splits for the fastest swimmers you will see that all the laps are swum at virtually the same speed with the only difference being the first lap is faster due to the dive. So how do we get our swimmers to accept the notion and then be able to pull it off?
The answer to the first is education; we have them look at splits from the top swims in major competitions and then compare their own splits to find room for improvement. The answer to the second lies in the training for this swim. We have some success recently by tweaking the way we view a 200 swim. Since it is short course season here in California we are focusing on 200 yard swims but the same concept holds true for 200 meter long course except that you would adjust the training set below accordingly.
We swim the 200 by focusing on the three 50 yard segments that occur between the first and last lap. A set we did Saturday that works on the twin concepts of keeping those 3 x 50 times the same while keeping your "head" in the swim looks like this.
We took the goal time for the 200 and broke it into even 50 splits as follows (remember that we got these ratios by looking at the fastest swimmers in the world): the first 100 is two seconds faster than the 2nd 100. If you were swimming a 2:00 race you would be out in 59.0 and back in 1:01.0. The individual 50's would be 28.5, then 30.5, 30.5, 30.5. Conversely a 1:38 200 looks like this - out in 48.0, back in 50.0 with 50's that are 23.0, 25.0,25.0, 25.0. In our set each swimmer knows their goal time and has the splits figured out. The percentages below were set arbitrarily with the only goal being to keep all three 50's exactly the same, foot touch, preferably to the 10th of a second (at least that is the goal).
3x50/1 at 80% effort defined as race pace + 3.0 seconds
Easy 100 snorkel swim to regroup strokes
3x50/1 at 85% = race pace + 2.5 seconds
Easy 100 snorkel
3x50/1 at 90% = race pace + 2.0 seconds
Easy 100 snorkel
It is very easy for the swimmers to swim faster than the suggested times. We asked them to adhere to the times for consistency of effort with them occasionally commenting that it did require a touch more effort to keep the times the same. This is what happens in the race.
Then we went to the blocks and dove a 25 foot touch at race pace on the .30 interval followed by 3x50/1 foot touch at race pace followed by a 25 hand touch last lap. In a sense it is a broken 200 but we did not time the opening or closing 25's. All we were after was the 3 x 50 at race pace and for them to feel what the effort needed was like to achieve the times desired.
The entire workout was about 4500 yards with 450 at sub max effort and 200 at max effort. We are 21 days from our December shave meet. We will do this same set next Saturday which is 14 days from the meet. On this kind of set we are really fussy about details and the swimmers are focusing on the tasks while mindful of the results. Our mantra is stroke technique first during warm-ups, race composition during the set and finally goal times. We find that if the swimmer stays on point, that is, on task, the times will take care of themselves. These sets tend to build a ton of confidence since they know that they can stay sharp with their focus for 2 minutes +/- depending on the swim.
You can also do this for the strokes which have a variance for the splits and IM's as well. On the IM's the 50's are fly/back, back/breast, breast/free.
Anyone out there have a favorite set of similar nature, or any set for that matter? We will share around the coaching and swimming community. Thanks for checking in!