Sunday, August 14, 2011

Training vs. Racing

Every now and then we ponder the question of what is more important for a competitive swimmer, training or racing?

At first glance it seems obvious that each is very important and that without one the other has very little meaning. Upon further reflection we believe that racing is actually much more important than training.

In terms of competitive sports we cannot think of a sport where this is not the case. Games, matches, races – it matters not what the sport is, what counts in competitive action is the competition.

Without competition, there is no feedback on the training being performed. An athlete might be in excellent condition but without the race or game she doesn’t have any way to measure the effectiveness of her training.

He might be training wonderfully but his skills may not be useful for the competition. How often can a quarterback throw passes in practice but when in the game, the speed of the action confuses him and his passes are no longer accurate.

We just finished our summer of swim racing and had many excellent competitive efforts. We also had some that fell short of the mark, especially when compared to the training we had seen. So obviously we as coaches and they as swimmers missed something. Without the meet at the end when everything was “on the line”, we would have not known that we were missing our target.

This is not a bad thing by any means. It is very valuable since none of the swimmers in question had their final career swim last week. The learning continues and the opportunities for redemption are there for the taking. It is up to the coaches and the athletes to work together with honest assessment on both sides with the common goal being resolution of the shortcomings.

There is a continuous loop running; training, race, evaluate. You can step into the cycle at either the training or racing step but evaluation cannot take place without the racing.

One could almost make the case that a swimmer would be better served racing 20 days a month and training 2 or 3 days a month…though we don’t think that will ever happen. What we did learn this summer from some of our college swimmers was that they believe they didn’t race nearly enough after their college season ended, in either February or March. Many waited until late June to race and they all said it was a mistake.

Maybe a better cycle would be to train for 3 or 4 days, rest a day, then race for a day…sounds like the NFL. The NBA plays 82 games without half as many practices once the season begins. MLB plays 162 games with virtually no workouts.

So, what do you think? How often should a swimmer race? What kind of ratio would be most beneficial when you consider training vs. racing?

And, do you think a non-competitive swimmer would benefit by entering a race now and then, either in the pool or open water? Let us know and have a great finish to your summer!

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