Sunday, February 22, 2009

Set Ideas

We were thinking about some simple sets, tossing around ideas...that's what we do a lot of here at Swim Coach Direct - we toss around ideas. Some are better than others, some work very well, some OK and some need a lot of refinement. This process mirrors a lot of life's general experiences.

Swim coaching is amazing in that there are so many ways to get the job done. What works for one swimmer or one coach simply won't do the trick for another. Finding the proper fit is what it is all about, seems to us anyway!

With that in mind here is a set that worked for us recently and why. Give it a try or perhaps it will spark some good ideas and cause a light to go on for you. Let us know what you think; we are all in this game together.

Learning to swim a 100 free correctly is a matter of putting together 4 laps (we're talking yards here) properly. We learn how this is done by watching the fastest swimmers in the world to see how they construct their swims. In general the delta (the difference between the first 50 and the second 50) is 1.8 seconds. The speed of the 1st 50 is no more than 1 second slower than your fastest 50 flat start time. So, if you swim a 35.0 for the 50 free when you race a 100 free you would go out in 36.0 and come home on the 2nd 50 in 37.8. This would give you a time of 1:13.8 for your 100 free.

To train for this here is a set that works well for our swimmers.

After a 30-40 minute warm-up:
Main set
Swim 4x50 at 80%. All the times are the same. The interval is such that you get about 10 seconds rest. Then swim an easy 100 recovery swim. Then swim 4x50 at 85% on the same interval. You will get a little more rest because you are swimming faster. Swim an easy 100. Then swim 4x50 at 90% on the same interval which means that you are now getting a little more rest.

Swim a couple or three hundred easy.

Now swim 2x50 on the same interval you were using above. Make certain the second 50 is faster than the first. Do this set of 2 at 80%. The times will be very close but the 2nd 50 is a tad faster than the 1st one. Swim an easy 100. Follow the progression below using the same interval all the way through to conclusion.
2x50/ 85% 2nd one faster than the 1st. Easy 100.

2x50/80% 2nd faster than the 1st. Easy 100.
2x50/90% as above. Easy 100.

2x50/80% as above. Easy 100.
2x50/95% as above. Easy 100.

Loosen well...let us know what you think. Remember the value of sharing ideas!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Swim a Faster 100 in 6 Weeks

If you wanted to improve your 100 time 2 seconds - doesn't matter which stroke - and you had six days a week to train with say 2 hours per day and the meet was in 6 weeks, how would you use the time?

Let's throw into the mix the following items (you can add in any that you feel are relevant and discard any of ours):

  • Dry land
  • Stroke technique
  • Aerobic training
  • Anaerobic training
  • Pulling
  • Kicking
  • Start work
  • Turn work
  • Nutrition
  • Visualization

Remember you have 6 days per week for 6 weeks at 2 hours per day for a total of 72 hours. Out of this resource you want a 2 second improvement, or about .03 improvement per hour of training.

We suggest you prioritize the list of items. This will require you to make decisions about what you think is more important. Is kicking more important than pulling? Is anaerobic more important than aerobic? Once you have sorted out your priorities you can begin devising your training system. And since most of us have other obligations and workouts get missed you can constantly reshuffle so you are using your time wisely as opposed to using it up.

The variables as we see it are the amount of time available to train and the goal of the training. The process is simple and fairly constant.

Any comments? Let us know how it goes for you!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

What's the Answer?

As swimming coaches we have been asked all week about our reaction to the Michael Phelps story and his subsequent disciplinary action handed down by USA Swimming.

We have been asked; "Do you think it is fair?" "Do you think he made a mistake?" "Do you think the discipline is just a slap on the wrist, or is it meaningful?" The list goes on but you get the drift.

While we have answers to those questions what we would really rather know is the answers to these questions?

Does the new suit technology really make swimmers that much faster?

If the answer is yes, so what? So did goggles; fancy lane lines; deeper pools. So long as everyone has access then what's the difference?

How does CoreControl really work?

If a swimmer's event takes 2 minutes why does that swimmer need to swim for 2 hours per day, let alone 3 or 4 hours per day?

Is it more important to have 12 and unders learning to swim their strokes correctly before they begin training?

If a swimmer simply does not connect during workouts is it better to have him/her leave or stay and do things improperly?

Is Matt Fitzgerald (Brain Training for Runners) right about his science? If so, how do we in swimming adapt the principles to our training?

As a coach, would you rather have a team of racehorses or sled dogs? Do you train your team accordingly?

Have you looked at training schedules for racehorses or sled dogs?

If you have starting blocks at your pool do you go off them every day? If not, why not since the fastest part of the swim is from the blocks or at least it ought to be - correct?

What is the most important part of a coaching clinic...the prepared speeches or the chatter at lunch?

And finally...if you have read this far, what question would you like to ask us? Let us know. We will answer all of them!

Making Adjustments

The Pessimist complains about the wind...The Optimist expects it to change...

The Realist adjusts the sails...

We are not certain when we first saw this William Arthur Ward quote but we liked it then and it floated to the top of a pile of papers in the office this week and we still like it.

In swimming (indeed all sports and life in general) we see all kinds of folks - both as swimmers and as coaches. When we look at those who seem to be having all the fun, you know, the ones who are having success on a fairly regular and consistent basis...well, we see the realists.

We all have to deal with "wind", usually on a daily basis. The trick is what we do with it. The above pretty much outlines the three responses: 1 - complain, 2 - hope for things to get better, 3 - figure out a way to deal with the situation and then act on your plan.

So this week, when you get tossed a "curve ball" figure out what you are going to do with it. Complaining doesn't fix anything, nor does hope. What is needed is a plan and then implementation. And if your plan goes awry, make a new one. Keep working on the solution. Get help if you need it but keep working toward a better course of action...adjust your sails!

Have fun and let us know how it goes for you...

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Bounce

One of the things we have been doing with a lot of success lately is working "The Bounce". We define the bounce as the lift we get after an exceptional performance.

It is really very simple. When a swimmer has a good swim at a meet we talk about what went right and how that made the difference. It could be something that led to a fast time or the execution of a skill we have been working on in training that produced the desired positive result, regardless of the time. Either way, we identify the result as a bounce in performance level. By acknowledging it we validate the entire process.

We talk about what the swim used to look like, how we have worked on the skill to make the change we want and then recognize the desired result as proof positive of the progress being made.

We even take it so far as to recognize a good repeat during a set and then encourage the swimmer to put another one right behind it. This builds their confidence during the set and gets them to expect more from themselves. Intrinsic motivation is the best kind, believe us on this one!

Frank Busch, Coach at Arizona, talks about how if you put a few good repeats together you have a good set. Put a few sets together you have a good workout; a few workouts gets you a good week; a few weeks gets you a can see where this goes.

We just had a really clear example of this. We finished our fall training block with some excellent results in our December shave meet. We bounced off that into a fine 4-5 week training block with a local meet in mid January. We swam very well at that meet with many of our swimmers showing better technique and more accurate splitting. We then talked about why they were able to do these things. This further empowered them for the last two weeks. We had a workout on Saturday that was spectacular. They knew it was coming and then they delivered. We will talk about the process again at our team meeting to raise everyone's awareness of just how well they are doing.

Tiger Woods is famous for his "Long Term Success Cycle". Picture a circle and at 12 is "You Feel Confident". At 4 is "You Take Inspired Action" and at 8 is "You Achieve Success". It is a process that feeds on itself. The key is the part where you need to take inspired action.

That action can be the smallest thing, like a short set on an interval you have never done short as 2x100. When you achieve it, you acknowledge it and bounce of it to the next step. Give this a whirl in your training and you will see the results for yourself.

All comments and feedback are welcome. Have a great week!